One week in, White Sox remain all about pitchers and catchers

For those who wanted to see Reynaldo López’s reworked arm action in motion, Cleveland’s spring training setup was in no mood to oblige. The third untelevised/unstreamed game of the last four cost White Sox fans an opportunity to see López open his shot at redemption.

Instead, you’ll have to take his line for it. López retired all six batters he faced, one by strikeout, as the White Sox won their first spring training game in seven tries.

If that doesn’t suffice, you can also try taking his word for it:

“As soon as he was hired, (Katz) reached out to me,” López said. “He had some ideas, he had some videos from the last couple of years. He showed me the videos, and he told me that I was tipping my pitches, that was one of the problems. I was leaving my arm behind my body. … Then we tried to correct all those little things and also to shorten my arm swing. That was why we started working on the change with my arm action.

If that doesn’t suffice, you’ll can try taking Lucas Giolito’s word for it.

‘‘I watched [Lopez’s] first bullpen in camp, and I was like: ‘Oh, my God, your arm action. You cleaned it up,’ ’’ Giolito said. “His curveball is back. The curveball he had back with the Washington Nationals [when he and Giolito were teammates], like, there it is. OK.’’

And if that doesn’t suffice, there’s plenty of spring left to wait and see for ourselves.

It shouldn’t suffice, mostly because the conversation around López has generally shied away from the question of whether his stuff is adequate. Two years ago, López lacked a go-to secondary pitch. Last year, López hurt his shoulder early and lost a couple ticks. He’s pushed the topic toward mentality and focus over that time. There’s short-term comfort there, in that focus is something one has the power to address. That just means it doesn’t really work as a recurring theme over months and years.

In that sense, I welcome his mechanics to the conversation, even if I’m on guard against them being used for the similar purpose of papering over the bigger question about whether he can hang. And by posting a couple of zeroes, he’s given Carlos Rodón a performance to answer. Rodón threw three innings of live batting practice on Saturday, so Tony La Russa isn’t shying away from making it a direct competition.

* * * * * * * * *

The other battery battle

With Yasmani Grandal sitting out the first week due to a sore knee, all of the White Sox’s backup candidates have gotten ample playing time, and all of them have successes on their sheets:

  • Jonathan Lucroy: 3-for-4, 2B, BB
  • Zack Collins: 2-for-7, HR, 2 BB, 1 K
  • Yermín Mercedes: 4-for-9, 2 2B
  • Seby Zavala: 1-for-3, 2 K

La Russa has yet to utter a discouraging word about anybody wearing a White Sox uniform, so it comes down which praise means the most.

Well, James Fegan noticed Lucas Giolito’s tone when discussing Lucroy:

Staff ace Lucas Giolito is looking for a new sensei after the departure of James McCann, and while he’s often complimentary of teammates, he is very complimentary of Lucroy.

“I felt fantastic throwing to Luc,” Giolito said, inviting maximum confusion by using the nickname his father uses for him. “He’s been extremely receptive to my notes, like, ‘Hey, this is where I like the target; this is how I like the catcher positioned.’ Going to a veteran catcher, sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to mess with the catcher too much.’ But he was the first to tell me, ‘You tell me what you need, and I’m going to make it happen.’ I think that’s kind of a testament to the player he is, the work ethic he has behind the scenes. The targets, the pitch calling was fantastic today. I’m looking forward to working with him more.”

And LaMond Pope noticed what Lance Lynn had to say.

“Jonathan and I go way back, first seven years in the big leagues he’s played against me a lot so he knows what I like to do and how to do it,” Lynn said after pitching two scoreless innings Thursday against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It was pretty easy. He had a good idea going in on how I want to attack and not a whole lot needed to be talked about.”

Even if Lucroy’s name can be penciled in pretty firmly, the others aren’t out of it. Grandal has to take the field, Lucroy isn’t a lock to hold up physically himself given his history, and then we’ll see what the Sox plan to do with Andrew Vaughn. No set DH would give the Sox room for a third catcher, because Grandal’s bat would be the best use of the position on his days off.

* * * * * * * * *

Product update

Our first batch of Sox Machine zip-up hoodies sold out in four days, but you can still order one through the site in order to reserve a spot in the second shipment.

The early reviews have been favorable.

“I got mine today, and it’s very nice! It fits great and is super comfortable/soft. I highly recommend getting one to anyone on the fence.”


Got mine today as well and I too am pleased with my purchase.

Joliet Orange Sox

Right now, I’m planning to keep the backorder window open a week, after which I’ll place the order, which would put them on track to ship out around Opening Day, give or take a couple days. If I’ve piqued your interest, you can order below:

(Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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As Cirensica

When I read Fegan’s article a few days ago, I thought: “Lucroy will be our main backup”, and I believe that’s what is gonna happen. Yermin will be sent down, and Collins will start as a DH after Vaughn irons out whatever he needs to iron out to qualify for the extra year of control.

I will order that hoodie, but I will use my sister US address instead of the Canadian one. I feel I don’t have a proper Sox Machine merch (other than your vintage book) and that hoodie looks pretty cool.

Last edited 2 years ago by As Cirensica

Shew, leaving Vaughn down would be wild. Presumably they’d have to start him in the minors in May. So we’d be looking at almost 2 months of Collins at DH to get the extra year. That’s unacceptable.


Wow, I did forget that Madrigal also didn’t play games in the meantime. How can they possible defend this as anything other than manipulation? It just seems so blatant in this case. It just can’t be a baseball or development reason.


HOF, the minor-league delay doesn’t affect the major-league service-time clock from what I gather. Vaughn can go to the alternate site in Schaumburg and in about two weeks be promoted to Chicago – losing a year of free agency.


I knew that, but my thought was in order to complete the charade he’d have to play some games. But as Jim pointed out, they pulled the same stunt with Madrigal, which I forgot about.


I have a feeling if they have a DH other than Vaughn, it will be Mercedes and not Collins. I could be wrong. But I think Mercedes is probably the better hitter of the two, in addition to having a higher defensive ceiling since he throws out a high percentage of baserunners and at least has that going for him. I don’t think a month or two of Mercedes as DH would be a disaster at all. In fact, I think it will give them a very interesting dilemma, as I suspect Mercedes will hit well enough to where they won’t necessarily bring up Vaughn to replace him. He might wind up being their best DH for 2021 even if Vaughn will take the job from him soon enough. Maybe I’m too bullish on Mercedes, but his AAA numbers were beastly and I just want to see him get a chance to see what he can do vs MLB pitching, rather than rushing Vaughn.


It’s still infuriating they didn’t let Mercedes give it a go last year once it was clear Encarnacion was toast.


No kidding… that they played EE and Mazara when Mercedes and Engel were wasting time on the bench, inexcusable!


Trade value lurking in the glut of backup catchers?

As Cirensica

I wouldn’t call that a “glut of backup catchers”, but OK. Anyway, do backup catchers really have any trade value? I guess McCann had, but that is more an exception than the rule.


No. They’re marginal major leaguers, if that.


I realize it’s early and still just talk, but a lot of positive opinions regarding the changes in young pitchers’ mechanics. If these prove half true an indictment on Coop’s end of career. I can’t help but think that Renteria’s bond with him played a part in his departure.


Hope you’re right and the Coop was a poor coach… or that Katz is really good, as long as there is a big difference between the two that results in improvements. I don’t want to buy into the hype this early, but things with Katz do sound positive.

As Cirensica

I don’t see Coop as a poor coach, just outdated.


Coop also has some recent feathers in the cap, though. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume he had nothing to do with Giolito. Bummer, Marshall, Foster, and Heuer were all great finds. Keuchel has a great year, too, for whatever that is worth.

It was probably time to move on, but I don’t think it’s necessarily Coop’s fault.

As Cirensica

He helped Sale, Floyd, Buehrle, Danks, Quintana, Garland, etc. Kept pitcher’s health on track. Was part of the revival of Matt Thornton.


Believe it or not, I think some of Coop’s best work was with Hector Noesi. If I remember correctly, the Sox lit up Noesi for like 5+ runs in one inning and as result he got DFA’d. The Sox picked him up and he ended up being a pretty good and consistent back end starter that whole year.


You made me go look him up and yeah, he was awful in 1 inning with Seattle, went to Texas where we lit him up for 7 runs in 1 inning, and then went on to pitch 166 innings of 4.39 ERA for us. The most interesting thing to me in that season is that he had a -166.7% LOB for Seattle.


Sure, I was only thinking of (very) recent work. I was responding to the above claim that improvements from Lopez/Cease would be an indictment on the end of his career. My point was just that even in the last couple of years there are some notable achievements.


I don’t really see any issue in using two catchers in the lineup at the same time without a third on the bench. So what if you have to sub your DH into the game? With the 26-man roster, you have enough bench guys and bullpen guys to cover the rest of the game without losing any competitive edge.


Is it a foregone conclusion that Madrigal will be 100% by opening day? Leury could start the season at 2B opening a bench spot.

John SF

Wouldn’t really change the bench calculus anyway. Until Vaughn is up, there’s no reason not to carry 2 of the 3 potential backup catchers / DHs.

Technically, there’s even room to carry Lucroy, Mercedes, *and* Collins.

The bench will be:
-IF backup (Leury or Mendick)
-OF backup (Engel)
-backup catcher
-backup DH

One thing to keep in mind though is the 13 pitchers / 13 position players thing has been rolled back. So the Sox could decide to go with a 9 man bullpen instead of one of those bench spots.


It is the spring and I don’t want to buy into early success too much, but all else equal, it sounds very positive about Lopez. I wish they had a more established 5th starter, but perhaps things will turn out ok with him. He doesn’t need to be an ace, just not awful like the past 2 seasons. A lot of room between his success of 2018 and struggles since. Somewhere in the middle would be fine, hopefully closer to 2018. I’ll believe it when real games start as I don’t think his mental game was there the past 2 years either, and think he is still probably going to have problems, but still, sounds encouraging. If he is even decent some of the time it would be a big improvement. I hope he wins it over Rodon, personally. A lot more upside simply because he isn’t as likely to go down with an injury as Rodon. And Rodon’s velocity and stuff has been on a steep decline the past few years.

Lucroy seems like the best 2nd catcher for them. I was not keen on him when they got him but it sounds like he has had neck issues the past few years that are better, and he attributes that to his loss of power. Anybody they pick is going to be a drop off from McCann, but Lucroy might be decent enough and my guess is they will take him, simply because he is the best behind the plate of the 3 by a lot. I hope Mercedes or Collins makes big strides defensively to the point where it looks like they have a future as a catcher. If either makes the team over Lucroy, I am guessing it will be because they showed substantially improved defense this spring. I can’t see either of them getting the job otherwise.


I don’t really think you’re going to get a more established 5th starter than Lopez. Best case scenario of adding another starter is they become the 4th starter behind Keuchel and push Cease to the 5th spot and he is a lot less established than Lopez. I don’t think Lopez is ever going to live up to his prospect billing at this point but he can be a cromulent 5th starter if these mechanics changes take.


If Lopez is half decent, he’ll embiggen the depth of the entire rotation.

As Cirensica

Rec’ed for the use of embiggen


Still I will believe it when I see it in games. Lopez and Rodon combined for an ERA near 6 in both 2019/2020, so it is a bit early to call either of them established. The good thing is that if neither does well they will be able to go with Kopech at some point, even if it is just 3 or 4 innings. He is 2 1/2 years removed from surgery, a surgery that a lot of guys recover well enough from with a year less time than he has had, and still throw well over 100 innings. They don’t have to baby him the whole season as if his arm is going to break, even if they are cautious with him.

Anyway it would certainly be great if Lopez gets off to a good regular season start, it is surely a big mental thing with him as well. Until we see actual regular season games we won’t know for sure, at least things seem pointed in a positive direction.

Last edited 2 years ago by jhomeslice

Was hoping Collins would get an extended opportunity to finally show if he’s a true major league player. It just seems that he hasn’t gotten a ton of chances which is crazy because of his first round pick status. Sounds like Lucroy has an inside track though.