López getting good results with curveball

June 10th, 2021

MIAMI -- Marlins right-hander pitched a career-high eight frames in Tuesday night's 6-2 win over the Rockies at loanDepot park, and the emergence of a reworked breaking pitch could help him consistently go deep into games.

López turned to his curveball 19 times, according to Statcast. That is a single-game high for López, who made the pitch a focal point during Spring Training. Entering the outing, he was throwing the curve 9.1% of the time -- his least used of a five-pitch mix.

A breakdown of the curveball on Tuesday:

Called strikes: 5

Whiffs: 1

Fouls: 3

Balls in play: 1, groundout to short

Spin rate: 2,423 average rpm

"It's coming along very well," López said. "Every day, I try to put in a lot of work into the pitch, how I want the pitch to look like, how I want the speed, the rotation of the ball to be, which is going to allow the pitch to move to where we want to. We look into all the tunneling stuff, you know make every pitch look the same out of your hand when it leaves your hand, and then it's just going to drop and all that.

"I'm really happy to where we've gotten with the breaking ball, but there's still a lot of work to be done with it. It's an extra weapon that we're going to need for games like this. We want to go deep into the game. We have to show different stuff to just have batters see different things and different movements, different dimensions and all that."

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. was encouraged by López's usage -- whether it be to certain batters or when in the counts. It shows him that López is growing confident and aggressive with the pitch.

A breakdown on how the curveball was used on Tuesday:

First pitch of at-bat: 9

With two strikes in an at-bat: 4

Of note: Three in a row to Joshua Fuentes in the seventh inning

"It's made some big strides as of late," Stottlemyre told MLB.com. "He quit trying to shape the pitch, and so what happens with guys that are trying to shape it, it gets lazy, and they always want to see the movement. So you've seen him start to finish some guys, a lot like his cutter. You're starting to see his cutter against righties be a little more evident. I've talked to him a lot about this. We're taking a strength of who he is and how he works, and we're starting to add little pieces to him to create more options to get through lineups three and four times."

Rojas healing

Shortstop began hitting off a tee and taking grounders on Tuesday, and he has his eyes set on a more imminent return than initially thought.

"I'm moving along and moving good, and I feel like if I keep tolerating the pain, I'm going to be able to play here at some point, maybe starting next week," Rojas said Wednesday.

Rojas, who dislocated his left index finger, also sustained a small fracture that didn't require surgery. When the injury took place on May 27, he and the Marlins thought the timeframe would be longer. Rojas has been able to perform range of motion drills as the swelling continues to heal. Upon his return, he will make adjustments at the plate, like utilizing lizard skin on the bat to restrict the vibration and taping his finger for protection.

"If I can tolerate the pain and get back on the field, that's going to be my goal," Rojas said. "I'm not going to put myself in a bad situation. I don't want to put the team in a bad situation, but I think if I can tolerate the pain, and I'm moving well, hitting, catching, throwing, I'm going to make my best effort to get back out there as soon as possible."