In My Words: Experience elevates Lopez

Young right-hander says Minor Leagues helped him hone in on focus

August 20th, 2017

Making my debut with the Chicago White Sox was something I was striving for since the day I joined the organization. I also think the fans were waiting and excited for that moment. The day I pitched for the very first time with Chicago at Guaranteed Rate Field against the Kansas City Royals was special.

I was proud of myself that night because of all the work I put in since Spring Training and during my time with Triple-A Charlotte; it made all the work worth it. I finally received the opportunity to play at the highest level, and I knew I could do a good job -- that night and in the future. However, I'm not overconfident. When I received the news about my promotion from Triple-A, I told myself I have to continue working hard and giving my best.

:: Chicago White Sox: In My Words ::

With that mindset, I went out and made my debut with the White Sox (a 6-3 win over the Royals on Aug. 11). I think I made a very good first impression, which was one of my goals. That night, I pitched six innings with six strikeouts. In fact, I struck out the first batter of the game, but I wasn't trying to punch him out. I just threw a changeup to induce a groundball, but I ended up striking him out. That strikeout gave me more confidence.

The best part of the day was my experience with the fans. They let me know from the beginning how much they loved me, and that I have their support. From the moment when I left the dugout to start my warm-ups, the fans started to chant my name: "López! López! López!" They were like that the whole game, and with every pitch, every strikeout and every out. That made me excited. It was beautiful.

That support from the fans helped me to be motivated and focused during the game. I really hope it will always be that way with the fans. They will motivate me to be a successful pitcher at this level, and I want to bring them joy and happiness.

I know a lot of people and a lot of fans wanted to see me pitch in the Majors with the White Sox a long time ago. They posted messages on my Instagram asking me when I would pitch in Chicago. Honestly, I thought I could pitch in the big leagues at the beginning of the season. I had a very good Spring Training, but the team made the decision to send me to the Minor Leagues. I used that decision as motivation to be a better and more developed pitcher. Now, I understand it was the best decision.

In the Minors, with the help of pitching coach Steve McCatty, I improved a lot, even though in the beginning things didn't go well. McCatty was always telling me to be more focused, and that I couldn't lose my concentration just because of an umpire's call. Being focused was the most important element I was missing on my path to reach and establish myself in the big leagues. He told me I wasn't missing anything mechanically. He also told me to throw every pitch with a purpose and not just throw it to throw it. Now, I'm a better pitcher because I have more focus on the game, I possess a better mindset, and I have a better understanding about how to execute my plan.

Obviously, there were moments when I was a little bit frustrated because I wanted to be here. At the same time, I understood that it was part of the process.

This process is not done yet. At this level, there is still more to learn. There are many things that you just don't learn in the minors. Last year, when I made my MLB debut with the Washington Nationals, I thought the key to success at this level was to throw your pitches down in the strike zone.

One day, I asked Max Scherzer why he misses with pitches up in the zone. His response impressed me: "No, I don't miss with those pitches. I throw them with a purpose. You have to change batter's eyes. You can't just throw down or just throw up. A pitcher has to break the batter's view and perception of the strike zone."

My learning experience last year in the big leagues, along with the work and improvement in Charlotte this year, has made the biggest difference from my debut with the Nationals and my first start with the White Sox. Now, I have more experience, and I'm a better pitcher.