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Those watching Yoán Moncada this season know something isn’t right, but it doesn’t always look like the same thing that’s wrong. Oftentimes it takes the form of an obvious hamstring strain, except that wouldn’t explain why he’s swinging a cement bat in some games, or throwing a 20-pound baseball across the diamond in others.
Rick Renteria couldn’t exactly clarify matters. He called it a leg issue, but his description seemed mostly intended to distinguish it from a strain, or something else that could get worse by playing.
“It’s the same thing (that’s been bothering him). It’s the irritation he has in the back of his leg,” Renteria said. […]
“I would say (the issue is) in the general area (of his hamstring). That would be accurate. I wouldn’t call it a hamstring, but general area.”
The White Sox have tried to push Moncada too hard with previous ailments, so there’s reason to second-guess Renteria’s judgment. But there was also the part about the Sox using the words “fatigue” and “body aches” to describe a rest in mid-August. And above everything else, Moncada had contracted COVID-19 before summer camp. The White Sox talked around that, too, at least until Moncada was ready to reveal it himself.
Basically, there was reason to believe the White Sox’s iffy management of Moncada was rooted in discretion, not carelessness. And sure enough, Moncada said that he’s still battling the effects of COVID-19 more than a month and a half later.
“I feel a lack of energy, strength. It’s just a weird feeling,” Moncada said through an interpreter Thursday before a game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. “It’s different. When I got to Chicago before I tested positive, I was feeling strong and with energy.
“Now, it’s like a daily battle to try to find that strength, that energy to go through the day. But that’s something that I have to deal with, and it is what it is. I have to find a way to get through it.”
He did say that his legs are a particular issue, but not in a way that gets worse. And he sounded somewhat pleased that his numbers (.242/.333/.411) don’t look as bad as he feels. Finding middle ground for his walk rate, which is 12.5 percent after diving to 7.2 percent last year, is helping him keep the line moving in lieu of harder contact.
While COVID-19 is clinically novel, its effect in a baseball context might look a lot like valley fever. That’s another lung-centric ailment that has a way of lingering for unusually long amounts of time in some people, while others never know they have it. Steve Stone might have something to say about that, although he didn’t sound interested in discussing it last year.
This might be the toughest part of Renteria’s job for the rest of 2020. Ideally the White Sox would find somebody more capable of impact to take his starts, but a field led by Danny Mendick and Yolmer Sánchez isn’t going to do it. If playing doesn’t jeopardize Moncada’s greater availability and he just has to wait for the fatigue issue to resolve itself, there may be some value in keeping him engaged in game action.
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The White Sox also had to apprise everybody of Reynaldo López’s situation, because López himself said he didn’t have conclusive answers following his second-inning hook on Wednesday. With López speaking through a translator, I’m not going to feel confident assigning a tone on it, but there’s a definite disconnect between what he said and what everybody saw.
“I guess he has his reasons, but I don’t understand,” López said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “What is important now — beside my condition that I feel good, I feel strong — is that I have to work to get my rhythm. I think that’s the missing part of this puzzle. Once I get that rhythm, once I get to the rhythm that I had during spring training, I think things are going to start going better and work for me and for the team of course.”
The club provided one answer with actions instead of words, optioning López to Schaumburg before the start of the series against Kansas City. Bernardo Flores Jr. joined the team for immediate bullpen length, and I’m guessing he’ll return to Schaumburg to open a spot for Carlos Rodón in Pittsburgh.
Renteria still sounds supportive of López, but there’s also no clear path for him back right now. That’s not great news if he wants to be a starter as soon as possible, but good news if he just wants to get back to the majors no matter what.
“I think that all options are on the table,” Rick Renteria said before Thursday’s game. “I think we need to have him be able to help us. Obviously he’s got a good arm and he’s shown such great signs in his first go-around. We want to find that guy again. But certainly he can help us and we’ll have all options on the table.”
I’ve been skeptical of López’s ability in the bullpen, if only because he doesn’t have a swing-and-miss secondary offering or the grounder-inducing ability that typically allows a reliever to work innings of any importance. He’s always used above-average fastball velocity and command to push teams around on his best days. When he doesn’t have that prime command, he’s a homer-prone-but-serviceable starter, throwing 180 innings that lesser pitchers don’t have to cover.
In his current form where he neither has command nor exceptional power, I don’t see anything playing up, even in shorter outings. The hope is that he can find the missing velocity with side work, which would at least allow him to be a cromulent opener as we saw in his tandem outing with Gio González. Some might not hope at all, but given the tendency for injuries and the way even critically flawed pitchers resurface on the South Side, some amount of finger-crossing is recommended.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)