Reynaldo Lopez will stay in rotation, but Rick Hahn makes it clear no one ‘has a scholarship'


Reynaldo Lopez isn't going anywhere any time soon.

But Rick Hahn made it clear Saturday that no player who continues to struggle gets to stick around forever.

The calls, at least on White Sox Twitter, for the struggling Lopez to be sent down to Triple-A only grow louder as the guy who was the team's best pitcher in 2018 has been anything but in 2019. Lopez finished last season with a sub-4.00 ERA and closed the campaign on a sensational stretch. But after getting rocked yet again in Thursday's outing against the Detroit Tigers, one of the worst hitting teams in baseball, he owns the highest ERA among the game's qualified starters at 6.34.

Of course, White Sox fans have heard that distinction before. Lucas Giolito, who's on his way to the All-Star Game after turning in one of the best first halves of any pitcher in the American League, led the game with a 6.13 ERA last season. There were plenty of calls for his demotion, too, but the White Sox, not threatening for a playoff spot in what ended up being a 100-loss season, allowed Giolito to keep pitching, keep struggling and keep learning. Those lessons allowed Giolito to become the Cy Young candidate he's been so far in 2019.

So there's a strong case to be made for keeping Lopez in the big league rotation: his past performance, his potential to be an impact pitcher for the rotation of the future and what a similar decision led to with Giolito. The White Sox have expressed plenty of confidence that Lopez will be able to turn things around, with manager Rick Renteria adamant that Lopez would be part of the big league rotation moving forward.

Hahn expressed that same confidence Saturday, with a caveat.

"He is a kid who obviously had a little bit of an up-and-down season last year but finished the year very strongly, and we had high hopes coming into this season," Hahn said. "We’ve seen flashes of it. We’ve seen games where he’s dominated with his four-seamer. We’ve seen where he has mixed in more breaking balls and dominated that way. So, the ingredients are still there. What we need to see is much more consistency.

"He’s obviously a young player. There’s going to be hiccups in the development of any young player, but Reynaldo’s been around long enough and had enough success that I understand his frustration and desire to put these struggles behind him and get back on track quickly.

"I wouldn’t go to so far as to say anyone has a scholarship indefinitely up here, that they are never going to get optioned if struggles continue or for something we feel is better addressed in a lower stress environment or with a little bit of a change in their approach. But for now he’s going to remain part of our rotation heading into the second half."

Fans calling for Lopez's demotion might take that as a hint from the GM, whether it is or not. And though this season likely isn't the one, there will come a day, perhaps as soon as 2020, when continued poor performance from someone like Lopez could make a difference in a playoff race. For now, though, the White Sox have the same luxury, the same rebuild silver lining, that they had with Giolito. And they hope they can reap similar rewards.

Time to see if Lopez can deliver on the promise he made Thursday, that White Sox fans will see a different pitcher in the second half.

"The first three innings the other night, he was very good. It's just a matter of having that for 100 to 110 pitches on a nightly basis," Hahn said. "We saw it at the end of last year, we just haven't seen it consistently enough this year.

"From a long-term standpoint, I view it as a positive that he's capable of doing that, I view it as a positive that he's healthy, and I view it as a positive that he knows what he's done so far isn't acceptable and he wants to be better.

"Now we just need to pull all that together and execute."

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