For those of you who might be unfamiliar, Jorge López is the star closer for the Baltimore Orioles and their resurgent bullpen.
Helping lead the Orioles’ bullpen to the seventh best ERA in baseball, López is a testament to the theory of trusting the process for it all to work out.
It wasn’t always this way for the young Puerto Rican pitcher. Originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the second round in 2011, López was a right-hander with raw talent and tools, that if they ever came together, would be a pitcher very difficult to face.
López made his debut in 2015 for the team that drafted him and would go on to start two games, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA across 10 innings of work.
López would only pitch 11 more games over the next three seasons for Milwaukee, before being shipped to Kanas City in a trade that brought Mike Moustakus to the Brew Crew in 2018.
The same frustrations seemed to surround López in Kanas City. He had the talent and raw tools to be a game-changer, but it just needed to come together for it all to work.
From 2018-2020, López would appear in 47 games (25 starts) for the Royals, going 6-13 and amassing a 6.42 ERA over that time. He would show glimpses of what could be, followed by a string of bad outings, before teasing fans and coaches all over again.
In Kanas City, López’s standout performance would come against Minnesota in September of 2018. He would take a perfect game into the ninth inning, finishing with a one-hit victory.
A move to the bullpen in 2019 didn’t improve things for López, and, eventually, Kanas City was faced with a decision.
Not wanting to continue waiting for “everything to come together,” the Royals had to expose López to waivers to try and slip him back to the minors. The plan backfired, as the Orioles picked up the righty two days later.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, things didn’t fair much better in his first full year in Charm City. López would appear in 42 games (31 starts) through 2021 for the O’s, amassing a 5-16 record and a 6.25 ERA across 160 innings.
There was a glimmer of hope towards the end of the season in 2021 though. Through four September games, López would appear out of the bullpen and post a 3.38 ERA against the Blue Jays, two games against the Yankees and one against his former team, the Royals.
This opened the door to possibilities and gave the Orioles brass an idea that might prolong López’s career.
Lopéz, a strong family man, has long believed in trusting in the process. With his son Mikael fighting a myriad of illnesses, López has his time away from baseball focusing on his son.
From his time with the Royals, López has talked about how Mikael has been an inspiration and a presence in his mind.
In July of 2021, López’s son would receive a bone marrow transplant and two weeks of chemotherapy. Taking things day-by-day and praying, it has helped ground López and remind him that there are always battles to be fought.
This season, on the same day López would record a save against the Boston Red Sox, Mikael would celebrate his ninth birthday watching his dad pitch at Fenway Park.
López said he couldn’t look at Mikael while warming up. If he had, he wouldn’t have been able to focus on pitching.
The strength of his son to continue to fight and be able to come out and watch his dad is the drive that has kept López’s hunger to get better and “trust the process.”
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said before the season that López would be put in to pitch in high leverage situations. They believed in what López brought to the table, and he has rewarded the Orioles with their belief.
López has appeared in 31 games for the Orioles this season, all out of the bullpen. He is tied for the league-lead with six multi-inning save appearances and has converted 13 of 15 saves.
He has pitched in 36 innings, registering 36 strikeouts, while opponents are batting just .131 against him.
López currently has the second lowest ERA (0.75) amongst relievers who have pitched a minimum of 30 innings (Clay Holmes – 0.53).
López’s most dangerous pitch has become his sinker. Coming out of the pen, the righty has seen an increase in velocity from last season to this season. In 2021, his sinker clocked in at 95.3 mph, where as in 2022, his sinker is averaging 97.7 mph.
Due to his new found success and his increase in velocity, López finds himself in the top 6% in slugging percentage (.312), hard hit percentage (27.5) and on-base average (.219).
No stranger to challenges, López has learned to take each outing one pitch at a time. Of course, he always knew he had the talent, everyone could see it. It was just a matter of time before it all came together.
The Orioles have given the opportunity to López to be successful, not only for himself, but for a team that is on the verge of competing. As it has been from the beginning, López, like O’s GM Mike Elias, has believed in “trusting in the process.”
For the Orioles, the process is turning into a success story, not only for the team but for a one time promising pitcher with raw talents. The process has turned López into one of the top closers in the game.
Trust the process; Jorge López is proof that it, indeed, works.
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