Reynaldo López has worked out with Johnny Cueto during previous offseasons.
Recently, López found himself following Cueto in a game.
Cueto pitched seven shutout innings for the Chicago White Sox on June 18 against the vaunted Houston Astros offense. López finished with two scoreless innings as they combined for a three-hitter in a 7-0 victory at Minute Maid Parkwith López allowing one hit and striking out three.
López has enjoyed being teammates with Cueto, his countryman from the Dominican Republic, who has been impressive since joining the Sox in May. Cueto is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
“We have a very good relationship,” López said through an interpreter Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “We have had that for a couple of years. It has been better now playing together. It has been fun. We talk about the game, about pitching situations. If we did something wrong, we know we could do better. We can tell each other that in this situation, you can do this better.
“We are able to say what we think about each other and our performance in order for the other one to get better. It’s that kind of relationship we have.”
López has been able to lean on teammates such as Cueto while playing a larger role in the Sox bullpen. He is 4-1 this season with a 3.00 ERA in 27 appearances, including one start, and has 33 strikeouts in 33 innings.
“It’s almost impossible to measure his value,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said before Monday’s series opener against the Angels. “He’s really come down and has been overpowering. Not just the fastball but quality breaking balls.”
López entered Monday with 11 consecutive scoreless innings over his last eight outings, which includes his one start as an opener June 10 against the Texas Rangers.
“Can’t give him enough credit,” La Russa said.
Lopez started for the Sox from 2017-20. He pitched mostly out of the bullpen last season (nine starts in 20 outings) and has seen that relief role expand this year.
“I’ve learned a lot being in the bullpen, and I’m a different pitcher now,” he said, “just having that knowledge now that you have to be more aggressive, being in that attack mode every time, that makes every pitch count.”
Opponents are batting .188 (12-for-64) with runners on base against López, who also has held hitters to a 1-for-12 mark (.083) with runners in scoring position and two outs. Opponents are 7-for-33 (.212) overall against López with runners in scoring position.
Reliever Kendall Graveman has been helpful with the adjustment to relief work, López said.
“Right before the season started, he gave me some clues about what to do to have success before every series,” López said. “Just try to go to the opposite batter, try to check their weaknesses and strengths, try to analyze and visually try to pitch to them.
“And at the same time, have a plan. And I’ve been doing that. I usually do my report at home before I get there on other teams, and that has helped me too. Those little things have helped me to adjust better and have that kind of success I have right now.”
Another key, López said, is feeling more in sync with his mechanics.
“Right now, everything feels in place,” he said. “Everything is synced up. My delivery is all in one movement. My arm action is good. I feel loose. Last year was a difficult one and to get to this point wasn’t an easy process. It was a lot of work and a lot of changes I had to make.
“Now because of that, I feel more comfortable. My pitches are better, my command is better and that’s been the key.”
He laughed when asked if, in three or four years down the line, he would rather be a starter or a closer.
“I think I will go with being a starter,” López said. “That’s what I used to be and I like doing it. But at the same time, I think being a reliever or especially as a closer, the closer has a lot more adrenaline in that part of the game. I would say the relationship is probably 60-40 right now, starter.”