After struggling two years with KC Royals, Jorge Lopez is off to a solid beginning in his first two starts of spring training.
There is something about the crack of the bats and mitts popping in Arizona in February that makes even the most jaded KC Royals fan have hope. Usually, it is drowned out by May, but we still get to enjoy a couple of months speculating who will rebound or what rookie will take the league by storm.
This way-too-early bit of optimism would like to present the performance of Jorge Lopez so far. In his second start this spring, Lopez once again looked like a pitcher who was chosen by the Milwaukee Brewers in the second round in 2011…and who the Royals hoped they were getting in 2018 when he was part of a package that was obtained in the Mike Moustakas trade.
Lopez faced ten batters on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers and retired eight of them including five strikeouts. His totals now are 4 2/3 frames worked, six punch outs, one walk, two hits and no runs allowed. He has thrown 32 pitches to the 16 hitters he has faced, a tidy average of two pitches per at-bat.
With no more options remaining, it is almost a guarantee that Lopez will be on the opening day roster. Despite making the start in these first two outings, it is reported that he is a lock for the bullpen. That could be a wise move as it would limit the number of times hitters would see him and be able to lock in on what pitches he is throwing.
The KC Royals really need their pitching staff to improve if they wish to start making the climb up the American League Central standings. The lack of consistency and ability to record outs crippled the team last season. Unfortunately, Lopez has been part of the problem for the last one and half years recording ERAs of 6.35 and 6.33 while with Kansas City.
At the end of the 2019 season, he did flash signs of hope tossing three solid games his first three starts of September including six innings of shutout ball against the Miami Marlins with five strikeouts. However, Lopez was shelled his last two appearances to close out the year.
His career minor league numbers do not point to a pitcher who has had a history of success at different levels so it is tough to know if he can put together a long string of quality innings that the Royals need. In 180 games in the minors, his ERA is 4.41 with a 1.38 WHIP, and a K/BB ratio of 2.25.
But, it is spring and Lopez is certainly off to a great start with the KC Royals this year. Hopefully, the positive momentum will keep going and we will not have a May hangover with his output.