Diligent López developing breaking ball

March 3rd, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- During the early stages of Spring Training, made it known that his goal for the 2021 season was to pitch more than 200 innings. Following his spring debut in Tuesday's 0-0 seven-inning tie with the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, the 24-year-old right-hander unveiled that he is developing a breaking ball to achieve just that.

This marks the second straight season López has added to his arsenal, incorporating a cutter at an 8.4 percent clip in 2020. Updating his repertoire means López can face a lineup three or four times in a given start, thereby becoming a workhorse in a young but talented rotation.

"The more good pitches you have, the more comfortable throwing in any count, the more unpredictable you remain, which is a huge weapon," López said during a Zoom call. "You don't want to fall into patterns. You don't want to become too predictable that, 'In this count he doesn't throw a certain pitch,' because when you give the batter the ability of eliminating a pitch for a strike, that's a huge advantage for them. So developing and working on new pitches and having that confidence that I can throw it can only benefit you, like when the season starts and your goal is to go deep into games."

Across two scoreless innings on Tuesday, López threw his four-seam fastball (10 times), changeup (nine), two-seamer (four), curveball (three) and cutter (two) in a 28-pitch outing. He maxed out at 95.5 mph, with an average of 94.8 mph on his four-seam fastball.

"Just have a consistent [breaking ball] with some shape that goes according to my arm slot," López said. "We're trying to figure out with my arms like a good grip, a good break of the hand, how to make a breaking ball happen. So I have to make sure that I'm throwing that in the game to get a feel for that."

After missing time from 2018-19 with right shoulder strains, López broke out last season across 11 starts. The only member of Miami's rotation to be on the active roster for the entire 60-game slate, he posted a 3.61 ERA, a 3.09 FIP, a 1.19 WHIP and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Take away the 29-9 loss to the Braves, and the ERA drops to 2.59.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly noticed how much the day-after game reviews with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. helped the cerebral López. During these meetings, they would walk through his start, discussing pitch-selection decisions and why they either did or didn't work. As López enters his third full season, the Marlins anticipate that he will take another step forward as part of a formidable 1-2 punch with Sandy Alcantara.

"I think last year between our first Spring Training and [Summer Camp], it's like it clicked for him, just the rhythm and the body staying together, staying closed where he wasn't open-chested as he was throwing and putting more pressure on his arm," Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "You're seeing everything kind of clicked together last year. And so now we'll see where it goes.

"It's going to be about consistency now, continuing to improve, continuing to get better. His processes have always been good. He's smart. He understands how to study, what he's trying to do. It's just getting him to the point where he's got everything put together, so we're feeling good about Pablo."