‘I like the challenge’ – Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In the wake of the commerce that price him two of his high-leverage reliever, Orioles supervisor Brandon Hyde was not shy about his intentions with right-hander Jorge López.

“You’re gonna see Jorge López pitch in big spots,” Hyde mentioned earlier this week after Baltimore dealt Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Miami Marlins.

It didn’t take Hyde lengthy to indicate he meant that assertion, calling on López to face the center of the Tampa Bay Rays’ order within the eighth inning of Friday’s season-opening 2-1 loss. Although López allowed the go-ahead run to attain, he confirmed why Hyde trusted him in that spot. The common velocity on every of his three pitches Friday was about 3 mph above his marks in 2021, a season spent principally as a struggling starter. His sinker averaged 98.5 mph and acquired as much as 99.3 mph, based on Baseball Savant.

“His fastball velocity has really jumped, and so now he’s sitting 98, 99,” Hyde mentioned afterward. “He’s now a weapon against right-handed and left-handed hitters. He’s always had a starter mix, obviously, but now the velo is really ticked up, the changeup’s gotten better, the breaking ball you saw got better, and the confidence is there.

“Lopie’s going to be pitching in the big part of games.”

Hyde doesn’t have many different choices for that sort of function, with Dillon Tate and Paul Fry the one different pitchers in his bullpen with a minimum of two years of main league service time. But López’s stuff is dynamic, and as Hyde famous, his confidence has additionally improved with the change in function.

“I like the challenge,” López mentioned. “I feel like it’s a big opportunity, just to be here already and have another opportunity, another opening day.

“That opportunity, even with what happened last year, it’s completely what I wanted. I just want to keep going and get better.”

Acquired on waivers from the Kansas City Royals in 2020, López, 29, spent a lot of final yr in Baltimore’s rotation, continuously operating into difficulties within the center innings. He confirmed potential late within the season as a reliever, just for a sprained proper ankle to spoil the showcase after eight outings as he ended the yr with a 6.07 ERA.

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Now, he is perhaps Hyde’s go-to reliever within the greatest spot of video games every time they arrive. Friday, that was with a runner on first and no outs within the eighth. López issued an eight-pitch stroll to Ji-Man Choi earlier than Randy Arozarena raced to first to beat out an infield single that loaded the bases; the ball had an exit velocity of 49.9 mph and an anticipated batting common of .230, based on Baseball Savant. With the bases loaded, López acquired a grounder from Brandon Lowe (Maryland) for a fielder’s alternative at house, however Francisco Mejía was capable of get a changeup airborne for a game-winning sacrifice fly. Another stroll adopted to reload the bases, although Fry left them that strategy to preserve López’s ERA clear.

Early in spring coaching, Hyde mentioned the Orioles have been contemplating stretching López out to as soon as once more function a size possibility, however the potential of him briefly reduction proved too intriguing to not give an prolonged look. Thrust into the backend of Baltimore’s bullpen, López is already wanting ahead to the possibility to enhance on Friday’s efficiency.

It matches how Hyde described his perspective after final yr’s swap to reduction, with López coming into his workplace every day saying he was obtainable to pitch that night time.

“It’s good to have the opportunity,” López mentioned. “I never had that before, and it’s good to jump in and have that kind of opportunity to just keep going with my mentality of attacking the hitters, just try to keep the game close, and that’s my job. Everything else, I can’t control. I just can control what I can control, and my next step is just keep going forward.”

The Orioles’ hope is that extra pitchers problem López for these alternatives. Before Tate allowed a leadoff single within the eighth and gave strategy to López, he, Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez mixed to retire 9 straight Rays. Baker and Pérez, like López, have been waiver claims, and each have been making their staff debuts.

“I told them, all you guys are going to be in big spots, different leverage spots, just because I need to find out who can do what and what part of the game that they’re most comfortable in,” Hyde mentioned. “Really happy with how Baker threw the ball. Cionel Pérez was outstanding. We’re really encouraged by that. I thought Tate was really good in the seventh, and Lopie had good stuff in the eighth.

“These guys are going to continue to get opportunity.”

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