When the Marlins set their Opening Day roster on Thursday, Pablo López projects to be the No. 4 starter. By the end of the season, the 24-year-old right-hander just might challenge Sandy Alcantara as the club’s ace.
In his final tune-up for the season, López worked a scaled-down three-inning start on Wednesday afternoon, giving up one run on one hit and striking out three in the Marlins’ 6-2 win over the Braves at Truist Park.
By design, the Marlins limited López’s workload so he can be fresh for his first start, which lines up to be on Monday against the Orioles at Marlins Park.
“I'm ready to watch this kid soar,” Miami pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said in a recent Zoom call.
In his third season with the Marlins, López is maturing on the mound at a time when he is going through personal tragedy. His father, Danny, passed away earlier this month.
López spent the entire shutdown due to the coronavirus with his father, and the two often played catch.
“It's been tough,” López said. “The three months of [the shutdown] I spent with my dad. Just the two of us. He was actually playing catch with me two, three times a week. That was pretty fun.
“How comfortable I'm feeling on the mound right now, it’s having good rhythm with my mechanics. He was always my coach. Every once in a while when we were playing catch, I'd ask him if my rhythm was good, when I was delivering a pitch, stuff like that.”
Elieser Hernandez, the Marlins’ expected fifth starter, threw three innings, allowing one run. Harold Ramirez belted a two-run home run and an RBI double.
In the third inning, Ramirez’s double off Kyle Wright caromed off the right-field wall and scored Corey Dickerson, who had drawn an 11-pitch, two-out walk.
“I saw some video of the pitcher before the game,” Ramirez said. “He likes to throw outside with a lot of sliders. I tried to go to the opposite field.”
The Marlins anticipate the strength of their roster being their rotation and their organizational starting-pitching depth.
Alcantara heads the staff and will get the Opening Day nod Friday against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
López gave up one run -- a homer to Austin Riley, who hit two on the day -- and walked one.
Of the 37 pitches López threw, 20 were four-seam fastballs, which maxed at 95.6 mph, according to Statcast. He added 10 changeups and struck out Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall in the second inning on the pitch. Opponents hit .226 off López’s changeup last season.
"I think, for the most part, we've seen [López be] aggressive and less mechanical," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "I think that's the one thing I talked with Mel about. Over that break, he said that Pablo had really made some big strides, as far as being aggressive and staying fluid in his delivery. He's such a smart kid and thinker. He's always trying to figure it out. But it looks like it's coming natural for him to be aggressive on the mound and just make pitches.”