Miami Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. raved about the strides right-handed starter Pablo Lopez has made ahead of the MLB’s shortened 2020 season on Friday.
The 24-year-old Venezuelan is one of the Marlins’ three starters with spots secured in the rotation secured behind Opening Day starter Sandy Alcantara, but Stottlemyre called Lopez “the thing I’m most excited about” in a web conference with reporters.
“This guy is on the upward swing of things. I’m so proud of the work that he’s put in,” Stottlemyre said. “He’s starting to settle in, become comfortable. We’ve added the pitches. You talk to our hitters and hear the feedback, and the response they have about Pablo, this is a changed man.”
Lopez, in the rotation with Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Jose Urena and a to-be-determined fifth starter, had his earned-run average elevate to 5.09 in 21 starts last season after it was 4.14 in 10 starts as a rookie in 2018. An improved pitching repertoire has Stottlemyre believing he’ll keep that number back down in the 60-game season.
“The transformation, the addition of the cutter, the crispness of the breaking ball, the separation of now the sinker and the four-seam [fastball], and we’ve known about the changeup and the willingness to attack,” Stottlemyre said.
While the Marlins fifth starter is still being determined between Jordan Yamamoto, Elieser Hernandez, Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert, whoever wins the job the first time through the rotation may not feel too secure there if not effective right away.
The Marlins will be prepared to give spot starts to the three that don’t win the role — in the event a regular starter is not available, but also if a change needs to be made.
“It’s kind of all hands on deck. It really is a different season,” said Stottlemyre. “Development is always at the forefront, but we are in a must-win sprint season, and that changes our mindset.”
Stottlemyre touched on the competition among the four and how they’ll all play critical roles.
“All guys who have had really good springs,” he said. “Some of those guys are going to go into the bullpen, and they’re going to help us win some games in pitching that middle role. We’ll have to be creative to make sure we keep some volume in there, so in the event one of them gets called up for a spot start, that they can still give us five innings.”
In the bullpen, the Marlins could end up with a surprise prospect make the active roster. Jordan Holloway, who has not pitched above Class A Advanced in the minors, has impressed.
“What he’s done in a couple of outings here has been very pleasantly surprising. It’s putting him kind of in the mix,” Stottlemyre said. “It’s very appealing and enamoring the stuff of a Jordan Holloway. We’re not going to rule out — this guy’s going to be given a chance. He’s healthy. He’s throwing strikes. He’s probably the nastiest guy we have in our bullpen.
“Like all young players, there will be a little bit of a learning curve. We’ll soft-serve him. If he makes our club, we’re going to have to find some situations that he’s going to be able to handle.”
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