Lopez hoping to move back up in White Sox's rotation
In 2018, it looked like Reynaldo Lopez was the key piece in the trade that sent outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox to the Nationals.
Lucas Giolito also came over from Washington in the deal, as did promising pitching prospect Dane Dunning.
Lopez made an immediate impact two years ago, his first full season in a major-league starting rotation.
While Giolito was also navigating his first full year and wound up posting the highest ERA (6.13) in baseball during the 2018 season, Lopez led the Sox in quality starts (32) and was second with 188⅔ innings pitched and 151 strikeouts.
Giolito altered his mechanics after the dismal year and also worked on his mental makeup.
It paid off big.
In 2019, Giolito took a big step up and went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA while finishing seventh in American League Cy Young Award voting.
Lopez took a big step back.
"Last year was a year of too many ups and downs," Lopez said through a translator before spring training was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic on March 12.
Lopez stayed healthy in 2019, making 33 starts and logging 184 innings.
But something was way off with his performance, and the 26-year-old righty had the second-highest ERA (5.38) in the majors while going 10-15.
The poor showing dropped Lopez to No. 5 on the White Sox's starting depth chart, behind Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Dylan Cease.
Before play was halted, Lopez admitted mental lapses caused him to drop to the bottom of the rotation.
"Sometimes I made a bad pitch and then I couldn't get rid of it," Lopez said. "That thought in my mind was always there, or a bad outing that I couldn't get rid of for the next outing. It was always something, when something bad happened, bad thoughts kept on my mind.
"That was the reason why I struggled last year and wasn't able to be consistent, obviously. But this year I can say it's going to be different. I learned from that and I know what I need to in order to keep my consistency."
If baseball is able to come back and play an abbreviated season, Lopez will try to get back to the pitcher he was two years ago.
"He's still a young kid, and there's still going to be development at the big-league level," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "Sometimes these guys don't climb progressively with each and every start or each and every month. There's setbacks and there needs to be adjustments, not just from the mechanical side, which is probably what plagued Lopey more than anything in the first half, but sometimes from the approach and preparation side.
"He's learning. Lopey's going to be better for it, and you're going to see not only the improvement in terms of the mechanical adjustments but also from the approach."