Lopez said mental lapses were what caused him to drop to the bottom of the White Sox's rotation, Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald reports. Lopez said a bad pitch or outing would linger, and he couldn't shake it easily. That led to the league's second-worst ERA (5.38) among starters and a 10-15 record. After being one of the steadiest pitchers on the staff in 2018, Lopez entered 2020 spring training as the projected fifth starter behind Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Dylan Cease. While the right-hander feels his approach and preparation need to be better in 2020, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn thought the pitcher's issues stemmed more from mechanics. "Sometimes these guys don't climb progressively with each and every start or each and every month," said Hahn. "There's setbacks and there needs to be adjustments, not just from the mechanical side, which is probably what plagued Lopey more than anything in the first half, but sometimes from the approach and preparation side." If mechanical adjustments lead to improved results, then that may be the elixir that improves Lopez's mental preparedness.
Lopez allowed five hits and struck out five over 4.1 scoreless innings in Sunday's spring game against the Padres. Lopez looked sharp and worked around five singles during his second Cactus League start. He introduced a new wrinkle, throwing two sliders at varying speeds, a suggestion from new catcher Yasmani Grandal, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. The catcher cited Lopez's fastball command and use of several pitches in the outing.
Lopez allowed one run on three hits and three walks while striking out three over three innings in Tuesday's spring game against Oakland. Lopez fell behind hitters and needed 61 pitches (31 strikes) to get through three innings. He was able to battle through wavering command and limit the damage. Lopez's 2019 looks bad in total (5.38 ERA), but he was better in the second half and looks to build off that.
Lopez is expected to start the spring training opener against the Angels on Feb. 22, Scott Merkin of MLB.com reports. Lopez is tentatively slotted third in the starting rotation, but will get the first call this spring, as staff ace Lucas Giolito is dealing with a minor rib injury and will miss the first few Cactus League games. Lopez experienced a dropoff in 2019 relative to 2018, giving up more hits and home runs in fewer innings, but there are some advanced metrics that indicate he pitched better than his 5.38 ERA.
Lopez (10-15) allowed one run on five hits with one walk and nine strikeouts across eight innings to earn a victory against the Tigers on Saturday. The 25-year-old was able to end the season on a good note, bouncing back from yielding 16 runs in his last three outings. Lopez was feast or famine in September, yielding either five runs or just one run in every start this month. Lopez ends the 2019 season with a 10-15 record, 5.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 184 innings.
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