López stays strong to reach 30-start benchmark

September 21st, 2022

MIAMI -- Six months ago, Marlins right-hander Pablo López proudly spoke about the offseason training he hoped would get him through a full season for the first time. López, who had returned in the 2021 season finale after yet another issue with his right shoulder, went with a trial-and-error approach to see what might make a difference for him. 

López sought a routine that could lead to elusive durability. That effort has paid off, as López made his MLB-high-tying 30th start of the season in Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Cubs at loanDepot park. 

“I've always told you guys when Spring Training starts, the main goal is always health,” said López, who went 6 2/3 innings with one run allowed. “It's being able to perform every fifth day, so being able to do it to this point, it makes me really happy being able to be one of the guys the team can count on every fifth day. It makes me extremely proud, extremely honored. 

“I think it's just one of those things that you have to soak it all in, you have to cherish it. I'm trying not to take anything for granted from pretty much when the second half started. I've been cherishing every second of it, enjoying it, having fun. Unfortunately, today, we didn't get the win, but obviously there's a lot of silver linings here and there.”

López is one of 11 pitchers to attain that benchmark; also is part of that group. That gives Miami the distinction of being the only club with two pitchers with as many starts for the team in 2022.

“Sandy, a couple of years in a row, he's kind of been the model of health and consistency -- knock on wood,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Pablo I look at kind of separately, because Pablo’s finally crossed that threshold. He's been able to go a full season, he's stayed strong. You see his stuff is holding up.

“It just lets you know that this guy can finish a season and still be throwing the ball good, and actually getting almost better. So if you are in a playoff situation, you know you’ve got two guys that are still throwing the ball good late in the year.”

Since giving up a season-high eight earned runs on Sept. 10, López has pitched into the seventh inning in consecutive starts. In both outings, he switched up his look by forgoing his trademark stirrup socks for pant legs. It might have to stick if he keeps pitching this way.

On Tuesday, López coasted until his stuff began declining in the seventh. David Bote led off with a game-tying homer, then P.J. Higgins and Jared Young reached on two-out singles. Mattingly pulled López after 105 pitches -- his highest tally since June 22.

“I wanted him to try to get through that inning,” Mattingly said. “He had pitched so well. You don't want a guy to give up a run and all of a sudden he's out of the game, and you hate taking a guy out of the game that's pitched that well. And he gets the ‘L’ and somebody else gives up the run. So that's something you don't like to do.”

The 26-year-old López has thrown 167 innings in 2022 -- 55 2/3 more than his previous career high. He credits his routine, and the in-season adjustments he makes to it. Some starts are more tiring than others, which dictates things like whether he lifts less weight or does more plyometrics.

“Makes me really happy,” López said. “Today was my 30th start, first time this deep into the season, this deep into September. So being able to have a start where I'm able to go deep into the game, push the pitch count up to a little bit over 100, is very encouraging.

“It goes to show that if you stick to a routine, if you listen to your body, and you really pay attention to what other veterans [who] have gone through it, things they have to tell you, listening to the athletic training and strengthening-and-conditioning coaches, you want to soak up as much information as you can, and then you want to filter through all that and then take what works for you. I think I've been able to do that, and I'm still looking forward to doing it for what's left of the season.”