GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez recalls the people that helped him fulfill his big league dream, he thinks about his grandparents, his mother and the coaches that have shaped his life.
He's also quick to thank his agent, his friends and cousins back home in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, for all of their support. He's especially grateful for La Morena and Pamela, the two beautiful, but sometimes ornery cows that set him on the track to stardom.
"I was 5 or 6, playing baseball using a milk carton for a glove and no shoes and my grandfather didn't like that," Lopez said in Spanish. "So, one day, he buys me a glove, cleats and balls, and everybody, especially Grandma, wondered where he got the money. He sold his cows so I could play baseball. Believe that? I remember her being so mad because he spent all the money on me and didn't give her a penny and him [just continuing to tell] her that he wanted a better future for me."
La Morena and Pamela would be proud. The White Sox hope Lopez will be a horse in the rotation, and on Thursday, he took the first step of 2018 with his first spring bullpen session. Lopez's goal for '18 is to rack up 200 strikeouts and pitch 200 innings.
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For now, Lopez slots in the rotation behind veteran James Shields and Lucas Giolito. Carson Fulmer, Miguel Gonzalez and newly acquired Hector Santiago are also competing for spots.
"He's a very gifted young man and his bullpen went really well," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "It looked like he was hitting his spots consistently and he's just working. We are looking for all of these guys to have more consistency and maintain consistency through the course of the season and not try to get outside of themselves."
Last season, Lopez went 3-3 with a 4.72 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He was slowed by a right oblique in August and said his fear of tweaking his right side again kept him from feeling comfortable on the mound.
"That's the past and I'm completely healthy now," Lopez, 24, said in Spanish. "Overall, last year was a great experience and I feel like I learned a lot. I know it's going to make this year even better because I'm better."
The right-hander spent the offseason working on a slider, and he's proud that his changeup can induce soft contact while also striking out hitters on both sides of the plate. The fastball remains his primary pitch, but he hopes to keep hitters off balance with his curveball.
"He did a nice job for us when we called him up and he continued to improve," Renteria said. "Obviously, he has a very good arm. We want him to be able to pitch more efficiently and pitch deeper into games."
As for La Morena and Pamela, Lopez said he hoped they lived long and fruitful lives. He fondly remembers the days when the pair would chase him around his grandfather's lot.
"I was able to buy my family a house and that was one of the proudest days of my life," Lopez said. "They are so happy with my career. But they don't want the cows back. I told my grandfather I would buy him some, but he told me not to worry because he's too old to take care of them."