Reynaldo Lopez won’t hold anything back.
We saw it after a mistake cost him a quality start in his last outing against the Royals, Lopez slamming his pink glove (a tribute to his newborn daughter) against the dugout wall.
And we heard it after a poorly played series by the White Sox in Clevelend when Lopez, 24, quietly but boldly said his team played “like clowns,” himself included.
Lopez is an important part of the Sox rebuild, and while he has made enough strides to establish himself as their best young pitcher, there are more steps to take, including a healthy, strong finish in his first second half as a major leaguer. That begins with a start against the Mariners Sunday in Seattle.
Aside from having the best right arm among the Sox’ young starters, Lopez has also exhibited commendable intangibles, including a loathing for getting beat, a willingness to ask questions, to study video and quickly absorb input from pitching coach Don Cooper.
“He’s not afraid,’’ Cooper said. “He’s attacking, he’s competing and he’s learning. He’s [112 2/3] innings into the process of his first full season and is trying like hell to do what he has to do to take the bulk of the games to the finish line.’’
When Lopez dropped the clown quote, his teammates wore it. For what it’s worth, they actually played better after that, winning four of their next six games.
What did Cooper think of a young pitcher speaking out?
“I thought he wasn’t lying,” Cooper said. “Listen, your record tells you where you are. Our record as a team isn’t what we want it to be. But we’re going through a rebuilding year. We knew as an organization that this would be a tough time.’’
Lopez will have his tough moments, and he had one digesting Royals All-Star catcher Sal Perez’ home run on a fastball with two outs in the eighth inning of a 5-0 loss last Saturday. It made no difference in the game’s outcome, but still. He shook off catcher Kevan Smith’s call for a changeup, his best secondary pitch, Cooper says, and threw a fastball.
“It was my mistake. I was stubborn to throw that pitch and I paid for it,’’ Lopez said.
“I wanted a fastball. Of course he was ready for a fastball and he hit it.”
Live and learn. That’s what 2018 is all about for these Sox.
“The difference between a good game and a horse[bleep] game might be one, two, three or four pitches, do you or don’t you make them at a certain moment,’’ Cooper said. “Even though he pitched well, that one last mistake turned his line into one that looked like he didn’t.
“So you can’t be asleep at the wheel. You have to commit and make those pitches.’’
What to work on in his last 12 or 13 starts of the season?
“His changeup is a dynamite pitch; so he has to improve the breaking balls,’’ Cooper said. “We’re trying to be adept at throwing the curve for a strike middle-away to lefties, trying to get a good, solid slider down and away to righties for strikes and expanding after that. Commanding the fastball to all four quadrants and elevating fastballs.
“Right now, I’m good with where he’s at, I think he’s doing fine. But, dot, dot, dot, we’ve got about 12, 13 more starts to continue the learning curve.’’
Cooper says the same could be said for every young pitcher on the Sox staff.
“We’re making deposits in their banks for the future,’’ he said. “Rebuilding year, that’s where my head is at and take advantage of every moment we have the rest of the year to lay that good foundation for the future.’’