Lopez, holding a 5-4 lead in a game won by the Rangers 9-8, was visited at the mound by manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider with two runners on and one out. Renteria and Schneider started walking to the dugout after talking with the pitcher, then returned to the mound, bringing Lopez off with them.
Lopez will be re-evaluated Friday.
Rated as the Sox’ No. 6 prospect and 59th overall by MLB.com, the 23-year-old Lopez pitched six innings of two-run ball in his Sox debut against the Royals Friday. He had an uneven outing Thursday, striking out six batters and walking four while allowing five hits including a home run to No. 9 batter Brett Nicholas in the Rangers’ four-run third inning. Lopez followed that frame with a perfect fourth including two strikeouts.
Lopez was replaced by Chris Beck, who suffered a bruised right shoulder when he took a smash off the bat of Adrian Beltre. Beck turned away and was apparently struck on the back of his shoulder, the ball ricocheting to second baseman Yoan Moncada. Beltre reached on a fielder’s choice on the play before Nomar Mazara homered with two on to give the Rangers an 8-5 lead.
Beck was then visited by team physical therapist Brett Walker and left the game.
As Lopez (4 1/3 innings, six runs, five earned runs) was making his second start, a former teammate in the Nationals system and most recently Class AAA Charlotte was inching closer to follow him to the majors.
Right-hander Lucas Giolito, at one time the more highly touted pitching prospect of the two, who came from the Nats with Lopez and another right-hander, Dane Dunning, in the trade for Adam Eaton in December, is close. It was Lopez who got called up first because of his performance and live arm, but Giolito is fairly close behind.
“He’s not far off,’’ said Chris Getz, the Sox’ director of player development.
Getz said that a couple hours before Giolito, the No. 60 prospect according to MLB.com, threw six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts for Charlotte against the Toledo Mud Hens Wednesday. Giolito (6-10, 4.48) is 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA over his last five starts.
“He’s in a good place,’’ Getz said. “When you look at pitchers’ fastball command, that will kind of let you know how close they are. He’s improved in that area. He has a very good curveball, slider-cutter and his changeup is pretty good, too. He has been repeating his delivery. He has really competed out there and is keeping things simple.’’
It seems reasonable to guess that one landing spot for Giolito could be for a start in of the games in a Monday doubleheader against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
When Yoan Moncada was called up on July 19, it marked the first step of the second phase of the Sox rebuild, the first phase being the acquisition of 19 prospects for 10 veterans in trades. Moncada walked twice and hit his third homer against right-hander Tyson Ross Thursday.
Promotions are happening at the minor league level, too, most notably of late outfielder Eloy Jimenez and catcher Zack Collins from advanced Class A Winston-Salem to AA Birmingham this week.
“We’ve witnessed Moncada, Lopez,’’ Getz said. “There will be a couple more by year’s end. There are guys in AA. They’re at different points in their career. That said, in the next year, two years, three years this core group should be competing together in Chicago.’’
Jose Abreu drove in two runs with a single and hit his team-high 23rd home run.