GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez needs to bounce back and be more like the pitcher he was in 2018 — the best in the White Sox’ rotation — than the one who posted 5.38 and 6.49 ERAs the last two seasons.
Lopez needs that to earn a spot as a reliever in 2021. But if his first outing of the spring was an indication of where he’s headed, he will push left-hander Carlos Rodon for the No. 5 starter’s role.
A tightened-up arm swing strongly suggested by new pitching coach Ethan Katz produced good results for Lopez in the offseason, and they were on display in his first Cactus League appearance Saturday. He pitched two perfect innings with one strikeout against the Indians.
‘‘I felt good with all my pitches,” Lopez said through a translator. ‘‘I’ve been feeling good since I got here.’’
Lopez, 27, worked exclusively from the stretch, which Katz suggested as a way to keep him in line with home plate.
‘‘With the new arm action, all my pitches are better,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘They’re going to have better action, more life, especially my fastball. I’ve been more consistent with it. But all my pitches are going to be better.’’
Manager Tony La Russa has been impressed with Lopez all spring.
‘‘He’s impressed everybody,’’ La Russa said.
Rodon throws live BP
Rodon threw three innings of live batting practice and might get his first start in a few days, La Russa said. The Sox re-signed Rodon, who is healthy after battling elbow and shoulder injuries, after non-tendering him and are eyeing him to pitch at the back of the rotation.
‘‘Since he [re-]signed, he’s looked at a ton of tape,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘[He and Katz] worked together. Since he showed up here, the ball’s around the plate, stuff looked good to me, breaking ball was sharp. I’m looking forward to seeing him in a game. So far, he’s looking good.’’
Stone bullish on Cease
With Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn, the top three-fifths of the Sox’ rotation is covered. And presumed No. 4 starter Dylan Cease has Cy Young-caliber stuff, as Keuchel put it.
‘‘I believe Dylan is going to take a few steps forward,’’ Sox broadcaster and former Cy Young winner Steve Stone said. ‘‘He’s a smart guy, and Ethan Katz will be the best thing to ever happen to him. They’ll be able to speak the same language and relate.’’
Cease, 25, also will benefit from having Giolito, Keuchel and Lynn around for 162 games, Stone said.
Cease posted a 4.01 ERA last season, featuring upper-90s velocity and sharp breaking stuff. His command was elusive, though, and he couldn’t be trusted to start Game 3 of the American League wild-card series against the Athletics.
‘‘His stuff is all there,’’ Stone said. ‘‘But even the power pitcher has to learn a little finesse, when to use the big fastball and when to back off a little bit. Lucas did a great job of that, and Dylan will be able to do the same thing. He has a very good chance to be a really good starting pitcher. All the pieces are in place. The rest is up to Dylan.”
Cease, who hasn’t appeared in a spring game yet, pitched three innings of live batting practice Friday. La Russa said he was excellent.