López to come off 60-day IL, start '21 finale

September 30th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Marlins right-hander will return from the 60-day injured list to start Sunday's season finale against the Phillies at loanDepot park.

López, who last pitched in the Majors on July 11, has been sidelined with a rotator cuff strain since the beginning of the second half. He is scheduled to go 40-45 pitches or three innings.

"We're really happy and excited about that," manager Don Mattingly said. "I know he's excited about that, to be feeling this good that we're ready for that. Obviously it's something that I think we all wanted to accomplish. We didn't want to force [it], but we're happy that it's going to happen."

The Marlins weren't sure if this would be possible when López's initial rehab assignment was slowed down as a precaution on Aug. 21 after just one start with Triple-A Jacksonville. He eventually built back up enough to toss 31 pitches across two innings for the Jumbo Shrimp last Thursday. López rejoined the ballclub in St. Petersburg, throwing a 21-pitch bullpen session on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

On Tuesday, López completed a three-up, 40-45-pitch bullpen session at Citi Field with hitters standing in -- but not swinging -- and simulating matchups. The Marlins had wanted him to appear in another outing at the Minor League level, but Jacksonville was off until Wednesday. The alternative was to throw live batting practice at Citi Field, but the weather didn't hold up.

The 25-year-old acknowledged there were times he wasn't sure returning in 2021 was a possibility.

"We didn't have enough time to make a full build-up like the one that as a starter you normally go through, so it crossed my mind, but we've had a lot of good communication," López said. "I think communication's been key, giving the feedback, them giving the feedback on how they think I'm looking. I have to be very honest with how I'm reacting and how I'm feeling, so I think just communicating back and forth on a daily basis made it possible, and I'm really happy for that."

López has a history of right shoulder injuries, missing time from 2018-19 with strains. Through 19 starts in '21, he had a 139 ERA+ and a 1.09 WHIP in 101 innings -- 10 1/3 frames shy of his career high. López entered the season as the rotation's No. 2 starter, and he formed a formidable trio with Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers.

"It just makes me really happy and gives me a lot of peace of mind," López said. "That would help me going into the offseason not thinking that Spring Training next year is just going to have a question mark. It'll make me feel like I can go through a regular normal offseason and when Spring Training 2022 comes, if they want me to throw a bullpen on Day 1, I know I'll be able to, so that's the main thing."

It hasn't been decided whether Rogers, who was in line to start Sunday, will follow in relief. A candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, he allowed one run over five innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader.

The 23-year-old is the NL leader for rookies in several categories: ERA (2.64), WHIP (1.15), innings (133), strikeouts (157) and average against (.218). Opponents have been limited to three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his 25 starts.

"That's something that we've kind of talked about, and there's obviously some complications with that of routines," Mattingly said. "What's that really do for him? Is it worth taking that chance?

"[GM Kim Ng] and her group will talk about that, [pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.] and I've talked about it. We're going to talk with Trevor about that and kind of see where we come out. But it's one of those things that's like risk-reward, and if it takes any chances with Trevor, then it's not something that we'd probably be comfortable with."