White Sox right-hander Reynaldo Lopez says he’ll be in better frame of mind in 2020
Time with team psychologist was beneficial, Lopez said. “It will be very good for me,” he said.
Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez is one of the high-ceiling commodities in the White Sox’ starting rotation on whom the upcoming season, shortened as it might be, depends greatly.
Lopez has shown flashes of greatness, joining the Sox’ all-time list for strikeouts in a game with 14 against the Tigers last April, but he also has been ordinary or worse. The bad starts were attributed to things going on in his brain, not the big arm that delivers very good stuff.
So Lopez sought out team psychologist Jeff Fishbein after last season. Lopez thinks he’s on to something and can’t wait to bring a new mindset to the mound when big-league games begin July 24.
‘‘Sometimes as players we are struggling on thoughts, especially nervous thoughts when something goes wrong,’’ Lopez said through a translator Tuesday. ‘‘And for players, that’s one of the bigger challenges: Get over it, keep moving forward. It’s not always easy.’’
Lopez said he used to think the most important element to performing well was his physical talent.
‘‘I was wrong,’’ he said. ‘‘That was one of the reasons I kept failing. I wasn’t prepared mentally to face those situations, to face those thoughts.’’
Sessions with Fishbein already have helped Lopez ‘‘because now I know how to deal with different situations. Now I know how to be prepared for different situations, and that’s a big difference for me. I’m a better player because my mind is stronger and prepared for situations. It will be very good for me.’’
There wasn’t much very good about last season for Lopez, who finished with a 5.38 ERA — and it took eight innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts against the Tigers in his last start to get the ERA that low.
In 2018, he was what the Sox thought he could be after acquiring him with fellow right-handers Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning from the Nationals for outfielder Adam Eaton. He had a 1.78 ERA in five starts in April and a 1.13 ERA in his final six starts. He was 7-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 188 innings that season and hasn’t missed a start in two seasons with the Sox, scoring points for reliability.
But the Sox were never really sure what they were going to get when Lopez took the mound last season.
‘‘I’m really hopeful we can expect a nice little bounce-back from him,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘We just take it one day at a time, but he’s looked very good, and the conversations with him have been solid. He’s carrying himself very well. He’s very calm.’’
Lopez allowed 35 home runs last season, which he attributed to ‘‘hesitating’’ or not believing in the pitch he was about to throw. Again, stuff in his head.
Still, that doesn’t mean Lopez isn’t paying attention to his pitching arsenal, too.
‘‘You can see he’s focused on his mechanics, he’s focused on certain tweaks, on certain things that they want him to work on here,’’ said veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who was teammates with Lopez on the Nationals. ‘‘When I had him with Washington, he was the same way: very observant, ready to work, threw very hard.’’
Perhaps Lopez can put it all together in the abbreviated 60-game season. Perhaps his time with Fishbein and being around two new veterans in the rotation, Gonzalez and left-hander Dallas Keuchel, will help.
‘‘Something Keuchel told me during our time in Arizona was don’t think about the hitter, don’t think about who is in the batter’s box,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘Just try to execute, try to keep your focus on every pitch, on my catcher. That was good advice, and that’s something that’s going to help me.
‘‘In the end, the conclusion is, ‘Be confident in myself.’ ’’