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Heralded rookie Reynaldo Lopez dandy in Sox debut

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez throws against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: OTKNH101

Kevan Smith barely could wait to put on his catcher’s gear and signal for a first-pitch fastball from right-hander Reynaldo Lopez.

‘‘He’s fun to catch,’’ Smith said before Lopez made his White Sox debut Friday. ‘‘He attacks hitters. You’re going to see him go right

after guys.’’

Lopez, 23, wasted little time in showing the raw talent that makes him one of the top pitching prospects on the Sox. He hit 97 mph with his first pitch and struck out five of the first eight batters he faced against the Royals.

By the end of his outing, Lopez had limited the Royals to two runs and four hits in six innings in the Sox’ 6-3 victory. He walked three and struck out six.

‘‘I feel proud to be here,’’ Lopez said through an interpreter. ‘‘This is the reward for all the work I put in for my career. I’m just glad to be here. I was ready for this outing.’’

Lopez got a no-decision after leaving the game with the score tied 2-2. Rookie left-hander Aaron Bummer earned his first career victory after the Sox, who won their fourth game in a row, broke the tie with four runs in the seventh.

Adam Engel drove in the go-ahead run with his second triple of the night. He became the first Sox player to hit two triples in a game since Alejandro De Aza did it on Aug. 16, 2011.

Engel scored on a headfirst slide when Yolmer Sanchez laid down a sacrifice bunt in front of the pitcher’s mound moments later. Tim Anderson followed with a two-run home run into the left-field bleachers to break open the game.

But the biggest reason for optimism was Lopez’s debut for the Sox about eight months after they acquired him from the Nationals with fellow pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning for outfielder Adam Eaton. Lopez had appeared in 11 games (six starts) with the Nationals last season, going 5-3 with a 4.91 ERA.

Against the Royals, Lopez relied on a mix of fastballs, sliders and changeups to keep hitters off-balance. In the first, he whiffed leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield with an 86 mph slider. Next, he sat down Lorenzo Cain with a 98 mph fastball.

‘‘He looked comfortable,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘He didn’t look very nervous, to be honest. He looked like he was in the right place.’’

In the second, Lopez pitched around a one-out walk to strike out the side. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, when Mike Moustakas connected for the first of his two solo homers against him.

Those blasts were the only blemishes for Lopez, who threw 68 strikes on 102 pitches.

‘‘I think the key was my focus,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘I was able to command all my pitches. The changeup was very good, the fastball. I commanded the strike zone in and out.’’

Teammates who played with Lopez at Class AAA Charlotte were not surprised by his success.

‘‘He’s got all the talent in the world,’’ said reliever Brad Goldberg, who spent several months with Lopez in the minors. ‘‘He’s got the full complement: The heater is upper 90s, really underrated changeup and the breaking ball is devastating at times. It’s all there.’’

Before taking the mound, Lopez sat with his head down in front of his locker. He wore earbuds and scrolled through Instagram on his phone.

‘‘He’s a pretty quiet guy,’’ Goldberg said. ‘‘He doesn’t cause problems. He just keeps to himself and gets his work in.’’

And gets hitters out.

Follow me on Twitter @tcmusick.


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