López's early success welcome sight after injury, rough spring

May 3rd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Christina De Nicola’s Marlins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Chris Hammond. Kevin Brown. Dontrelle Willis. Carl Pavano. Josh Johnson. Javier Vázquez. José Fernández. Pablo López.

Hours before taking the loss in Monday night's 5-4 defeat to the D-backs at loanDepot park, López joined exclusive company when he was named National League Pitcher of the Month for April. He became the eighth Marlin to receive the honor, and the first since Fernández in April 2014.

"Extremely happy and proud," López said. "In sports, you try to be as consistent as you can on a daily basis, your routine, and in my case, every fifth game I get the opportunity to take the mound. So just being able to be recognized with that award really means a lot to me. And it's a team effort. I wouldn't have gotten those results without [Jacob] Stallings behind the plate or the seven guys behind me playing defense for me. So just really grateful for it. A lot of people were deserving of it, but really happy that I was able to get it."

Across four April starts, López ranked in the top five in the Majors in ERA (first, 0.39), wins (tied for fourth, three), opponents' average (tied for fifth, .160) and WHIP (fourth, 0.73). During Monday's series opener, David Peralta's two-run homer with one out in the first snapped a stretch of 18 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

Take a deeper dive and you will see that López's numbers held some historic value:

  • 0.39 ERA through his first four starts of the season was the lowest in Marlins club history
  • First starting pitcher to have an ERA of 0.39 or less in at least four starts in April since the Rangers’ Nick Martinez in April 2015
  • 12th pitcher in MLB history to allow one run or fewer in his first four starts of the season while pitching at least 20 innings

This stretch was a welcome sight after the 26-year-old López missed nearly the entire second half of last season with a right rotator cuff strain, returning in the finale to go 1 2/3 innings and find peace of mind. It allowed him to have a normal offseason to prepare for 2022 rather than rehab. But such great results are somewhat surprising considering his rough spring, when he surrendered 10 runs in eight innings across three Grapefruit League starts.

"Just consistency," manager Don Mattingly said before Monday's start. "He's been locating, getting ahead in counts, putting himself in good spots and being able to pretty much do what he wants to with the baseball. There's hardly anything to say that hasn't went well for Pablo so far."