Twins starter Pablo López, soon off to compete in WBC, sharp in first spring start

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pablo López’s four-seam fastball touched 95 mph on Monday, his first start of the spring. It would have been a good sign for any Twins starter. It was a particularly good sign for López considering he’ll be leaving camp soon to compete for his home country of Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

“I took my preparation very seriously during the offseason (knowing) that I was going to ask … myself (of) a lot of intensity during the spring knowing that I’m going to go to the WBC,” López said. “WBC is going to be high-intensity pitches, so I built myself for that.”

The starter threw two scoreless innings on Monday, striking out three batters and allowing a pair of hits in the Twins’ 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox at jetBlue Park. It’s expected to be one of two starts López makes with the Twins before leaving for West Palm Beach, Fla., where Team Venezuela will train before the tournament.

“You want to have good results and I think I asked of myself a little more intensity knowing … that there’s going to be some very high-leverage and intensity pitches coming up,” López said. “I think it was a good one, good first one.”

López said he started his offseason preparation a couple weeks earlier in anticipation of the tournament. Rather than just showing up with spring training with a handful of bullpen sessions under his belt, he reported to camp also having thrown live batting practice.

While the Twins will be without their newest starter for a period of time in March, they already have liked what they’ve seen in his brief first impression.

“You really get a chance to see that he has a lot of different things to offer,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s a multi-dimensional type of pitcher. … He’s out there with a 95 mph fastball and doing what he wants with it. That’s a pitch that’s a pretty good-performing pitch in and of itself, and he looked in control of the outing.”

Jorge López hits 97

Reliever Jorge López also was quite invested in the radar readings on Monday.

In his scoreless inning of work, the third, López touched 97 mph, a relief to him considering he hadn’t yet hit the velocity he was looking for earlier in the spring and he also is headed off to the WBC next month.

“Even when I was playing catch earlier at the field, it didn’t feel quite as good as I was thinking,” López said. “When I got here and threw off the mound, I just concentrated on every pitch. I didn’t care about it. I just hurled it when I got here. Now, there’s a week to go until the WBC. I’m like, ‘OK, I’ve got it. I can take a little breath.’

“Just to represent Puerto Rico, it means a lot. I didn’t want to see the 93-94 (mph) and not feel right and get there and not give it 100 percent like I’d want. But happy. Happy to have it.”


Tyler Mahle will make his first start of the spring on Tuesday against Atlanta. … Simeon Woods Richardson, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, gave up a pair of runs in his inning of work on Monday. … Max Kepler and Kyle Farmer each finished the day with a pair of hits.

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