"We talked to him, he said hello," said White Sox manager Rick Renteria with a wry smile of the hurler's appearance. "He played a little catch. We're looking forward to seeing him tomorrow."
Lopez, ranked the club's No. 6 prospect and No. 59 overall in the Majors by MLBPipeline.com, becomes the latest addition in the youth movement during the early stages of a White Sox rebuild. Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in the game, has become the team's everyday second baseman, while Nicky Delmonico reached base in each of his first eight games played at the Major League level starting in left field and at designated hitter.
Let's not forget left-handed hurler Aaron Bummer as a new addition joining "established" veterans such as shortstop Tim Anderson, Thursday's starter Carlos Rodon and All-Star right fielder Avisail Garcia. But the immediate focus falls upon Lopez, who probably earned a chance to break camp with the team out of Spring Training but patiently developed his craft at Triple-A Charlotte throughout the 2017 campaign.
"I know he's got good stuff and I would expect him to do well," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "Listen, when you can throw the ball 95-99 mph, with a good curveball and a good changeup, you should do good.
"He's had to wait for his time and now his time has come. I certainly talked on a regular basis with [Charlotte pitching coach] Steve McCatty and all the coaches. And we certainly watched. We've got the reports coming in every day.
"He had a great Spring Training and he did everything really well. He's got the physical stuff. Now we're going to try to maximize the command of that physical stuff, his three pitches he possesses. And who knows? Maybe he added a pitch since we left. I'm not sure. I always like playing around with that and thinking, 'What could enhance this guy's chances of being as good as he can be?'"
Lopez has 11 games of big league experience and six as a starter with the Nationals last year. The 23-year-old also fanned 63 against 15 walks over his last 46 2/3 innings for Charlotte, proving he's ready for the next challenge. Lopez built on some of the Spring Training changes, such as moving on the rubber to be able to get down and away to righties and in to lefties a little more.
But whereas one big prospect callup in a season once was a major step forward for the White Sox, Lopez and Moncada represent two of the many to come as they gradually build their core for sustained success. It's exciting for the fans and equally exciting for the Major League staff.
"It's always been fun to be part of a guy's first day in the big leagues, first win in the big leagues, first start in a White Sock uniform for guys," Cooper said. "When you get a front-row seat to watch people realize their dreams, that is a perk of the job."