Jiménez hits milestone amid López's struggles

September 22nd, 2019

DETROIT -- There was a moment in the second inning of Detroit’s 6-3 victory over the White Sox on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park when Rick Renteria walked forcefully to the mound to meet with Reynaldo López.

A manager talking to a struggling pitcher is not out of the ordinary. But keep in mind Renteria, with his arm in a heavy-looking sling, has not made a mound visit since having his right rotator cuff repaired on Sept. 6. There was clearly a purpose with this message, delivered by Renteria up close and personal to López’s face.

“[I was] concerned and just making sure he was OK,” Renteria said. “That’s a young man who has some pretty good stuff and I wanted to make sure he was aware that he was actually pitching today.

“I wasn’t raising my voice or anything. It was serious, but more than anything just making sure, ‘Hey listen, you’ve got good stuff. You have the ability of performing. It doesn’t look like at this particular time you are very focused in doing your job.’ That’s all. Just wanted to make sure he was OK, and make sure he gets down to it and gets his job done.’”

Renteria knew something was off with López on his first pitch of the game to Victor Reyes, which was a 90.7 mph fastball. He also noticed his breaking ball down around 75 mph, according to Statcast.

“It’s kind of his body language and how he carries himself and sometimes you notice right away,” Renteria said. “He’s 95 to 97 and 98 or 99 sometimes. So first and foremost my concern is, is he OK? That’s my first reaction.

“Then I see a 93 or 94, and a 95 and I go ‘OK, it’s not health.’ He’s doing good. It’s just more we’ve got to get him on track and see if we can get him to focus and really give himself a chance to continue to trust the stuff he has and just keep pushing him. That’s all it was.”

López finished with five runs allowed over four innings, raising his ERA to a disappointing 5.57 for the season. As for the conversation with his manager, through interpreter Billy Russo, López said Renteria asked him if he felt good and he told him “Yes.”

When pressed for more about the focus issue, Lopez pointed to the two-run first-inning homer from Jeimer Candelario and three hits allowed among the first six hitters as an issue weighing on his mind.

“What can I say?” López said. “I was a little frustrated in the first inning because of how things were unfolding. But then I battled and tried to finish as many innings as I can.”

While López struggled, Eloy Jiménez reached a milestone with a two-run home run in the first off of Matthew Boyd for his 30th of the season. Jiménez joined José Abreu (36 in 2014) and Ron Kittle (35 in 1983) as the only White Sox rookies to reach 30 in a season, and became the youngest player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. Jiménez also extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games.

Jiménez had set a preseason goal of 30 home runs, and the slugger smiled and decided to refrain when asked what goal he might set for 2020.

“I hit 22 last year in [416] at-bats, and I said, ‘Here we have more games, so I said I want to hit 30,’” Jiménez said. “It means a lot. As a rookie, you just want to be on the book and today I made it and I feel really happy for that.”

There are seven games remaining for Jiménez to increase his 2019 totals. There’s one more start for López to exit a troublesome ’19 on a high note, an important step for López as the White Sox move out of this end of the beginning rebuild phase.

“The direction we are going as an organization, it’s on them to start showing us they should be here as we continue to move forward because we are not going to be in perpetuity just developing, no,” Renteria said. “It’s time for us to start taking the next phase and step to winning.”

“It was a bad season, a season in which I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know,” López said. “I will recap this season as a learning experience, a learning season, and I’m going to apply it for next season. Hopefully next season is that much better.”