Reynaldo Lopez has been challenged by Ivan Nova.
And it has nothing to do with pitching, which, incidentally, both White Sox right-handers have turned around for the better since the All-Star break.
Nova, 32, is encouraging Lopez, a 25-year-old fellow Spanish-speaking Dominican, to do media interviews in English. Lopez can speak English in one-on-one conversations with reporters, but he’s not as confident in front of groups.
“He can do it, and it’s important that he does,” Nova said. “You can express what you need to with [the media], and you can make more money with appearances. It’s going to help in a lot of different ways.”
Lopez can make some money right now on a deal Nova made with him. Nova has offered $300 if Lopez does a postgame interview in English without a translator. But he has to peel $100 out of his wallet if he needs Sox translator Billy Russo.
So far, Lopez is down $300. Maybe he’ll recoup the loss after his next start Saturday against the Athletics.
“Yeah, I can do it,” Lopez said. “Sometimes I’m afraid to say something wrong or bad, and guys start laughing at me.”
That is reason No. 1 why Spanish-speaking players who have some command of English use a translator.
“The fear is there for every one of them,” Russo said.
Lopez is able to laugh about his hesitancy, but in the big picture, being uncomfortable with English is no laughing matter, Nova said. As a young Yankee, Nova was pushed by Robinson Cano to do interviews in English.
“I’m not going to lie; it’s not comfortable,” Nova said. “But it’s important for us to learn the language because we live here. We spend most of our time here.’’
Whereas Dominican and Venezuelan players are taught English in school and exposed to it in the minor leagues, Cuban players such as Jose Abreu who come straight from that nation are not. So it’s harder for some.
But it’s worth the effort, Nova said.
“When you see Big Papi [David Ortiz] taking charge of the whole team,” Nova said. “When the marathon [bombing] in Boston happened, getting on the microphone in front of everybody, that’s big, man.”
Big for the Sox of late is the pitching of Nova and Lopez. Nova has a 2.79 ERA in his last six starts, Lopez a 2.56 mark in his last five.
“The first half was terrible,” Lopez said — in English. “I was thinking too much about too many things, and it made me lose my focus.”
ATHLETICS AT SOX
Friday: Mike Fiers (10-3, 3.46 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (1-2, 5.72), 2:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 720-AM
Saturday: Tanner Roark (1-0, 1.80) vs. Reynaldo Lopez (6-9, 5.41), 6:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 720-AM
Sunday: Chris Bassitt (7-5, 3.80) vs. Lucas Giolito (12-5, 3.44), 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM