MIAMI -- While all eyes were set on top pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara and his first Major League start on Friday night, another piece of Miami's future awaited his debut.Pablo Lopez, a right-hander from Venezuela and the organization's No. 20 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is set to make his first
MIAMI -- While all eyes were set on top pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara and his first Major League start on Friday night, another piece of Miami's future awaited his debut.
Pablo Lopez, a right-hander from Venezuela and the organization's No. 20 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is set to make his first career Major League appearance on Saturday against the Mets.
After the Marlins beat the Mets, 8-2, on Friday night, the club announced right-hander Ben Meyer is being optioned to Triple-A New Orleans to clear a roster spot for Lopez.
"It's still very unreal," Lopez said, speaking to the media prior to Friday's game. "It still doesn't feel real that I'm right here on this field, with these teammates, in this scenario. It's still just very overwhelming but very exciting as well."
Lopez had been tearing it up in the Minor Leagues since being acquired by the Marlins in a trade with the Mariners involving veteran reliever David Phelps last July.
In eight starts with Double-A Jacksonville, Lopez posted a stellar 0.62 ERA. Opponents were hitting a measly .184 against the 6-foot-3 righty, who tallied 51 strikeouts in just 43 2/3 innings. In Triple-A New Orleans, Lopez compiled a 3.38 ERA in four starts, with a WHIP of 1.07.
"He dominated Double-A this year and then was pitching well in Triple-A," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "You can tell he's a sharp kid, well prepared."
Beyond Lopez's promising production in the Marlins' farm system, it was during Spring Training that Mattingly and the rest of the organization got a glimpse of just how talented this 22-year-old is.
"I remember hearing during the Winter Meetings how much our guys liked him and the presence he had," Mattingly said. "We were able to see him in Spring Training. He was impressive, his whole demeanor and the way he handled himself."
Lopez praised his routines and his relationship with his teammates for catalyzing the quick turnaround from Double-A to the big leagues, a speedy transition that took him less than half a season.
"I have developed good routines between starts, taking care of my body," Lopez said. "Going through hit maps to learn about the hitters that I will be facing next time, talking to teammates, picking their brains because you know, we feed off each other."
In addition to his debut, Saturday is also Venezuelan Heritage Day at Marlins Park. Lopez will be following in the footsteps of former Marlins Anibal Sanchez, Henderson Alvarez and Jose Cabrera, Venezuelan players he has admired since he was a kid.
"I remember when Miguel Cabrera was just called up," Lopez said. "He hit that home run off Roger Clemens in the World Series. That was a big moment. I was just 7 or 8 years old. He's a big example and role model for all the Venezuelan players. … They told me it was going to be Venezuelan Heritage Night, and that made it super special."
Left-hander Caleb Smith, who is on the disabled list with a Grade 3 left lat strain, will undergo season-ending surgery on July 9 in Philadelphia.
"Once we found out the MRI and everything, we knew it was long term," Mattingly said. "Obviously disappointing for him to miss the end of the season, but he looked at his options and thought this was the best one."
Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter <ahref="https: twitter.com/max_goodman97"="">@Max_Goodman97.</ahref="https:>