Before Reynaldo Lopez’s major league debut earlier this month, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters about what convinced him the hard-throwing righty was ready to pitch in the majors.
Lopez was throwing strikes, Rizzo explained, and that was what allowed him to move up in the organization as quickly as he had.
"The stuff has always been there," Rizzo said. "He’s a 6-foot-, 6-foot-1, right-handed pitcher, but he comes after you with some good down angle, which is kind of unique for a shorter pitcher. He’s a supreme athlete on the mound and has a great repertoire. He’s come a long way in a short period of time, and we thought we could not only reward him for what he’s done, he gives us a chance to win the game tonight."
About that stuff: Lopez’s fastball was widely-regarded as his best weapon, but Rizzo said the secondary stuff was on the come.
"His changeup is there right now. It’s an above average pitch right now. It’s got good arm speed, and coming off the mid-to-upper-90s, it’s a very effective weapon for him.
"The curveball, when he’s hitting it, is a plus pitch. It’s less consistent than the changeup as a secondary pitch, but it’s a weapon for him."
Lopez gave up a home run in his first major league at bat and he took the loss vs Los Angeles, but the 22-year-old right-hander made a strong impression on Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker.
"He was pretty cool," Baker said, "especially in your first start, in the face of adversity, and being in trouble. I'm sure it shocked him right away to have your first big league hitter hit the ball out of the ballpark, cause I'm sure he's not used to guys catching up to his fastball. But he's young, this is the big leagues and you're facing big league hitters. I tell you his future is very bright. We've just got to tighten up a few things and I think he'll be here for a long time."
Lopez allowed 10 hits total, a walk and six earned runs, striking out nine batters in a 105 pitch effort against the Dodgers in which he threw a 96-98 mph fastball, a mid-80s changeup and a 77-80 mph slider.
He lasted just 4 ⅔ innings, but provided plenty of evidence of the talent that allowed him to move up from Double to Triple-A and eventually the majors this season.
Lopez was returned to Triple-A Syracuse after that start, but on Friday night in San Francisco, Baker told reporters that they would be calling Lopez back up to face the Giants in the third game of four in AT&T Park.
Baker talked about what went wrong for Lopez vs the Dodgers.
"His fastball command was there," the Nats’ skipper explained, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo:
"It wasn’t like he was walking people. His fastball command was too fat with strikes, which is easier to correct than if he was all over everywhere."
As of ninety minutes before game time the Nationals were reportedly still weighing their options when it came to a roster move to add Lopez for tonight's start. It was the trade that sent Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates that opened up a spot on the roster, however:
Additionally, the #Nats have recalled RHP Reynaldo Lopez for today's start at San Francisco.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 30, 2016