Futures Game another step to majors for Brewers prospect Lopez
MINNEAPOLIS — Jorge Lopez sat in the Target Field bullpen for seven innings, patiently biding his time and soaking up what he referred to after as the experience of a lifetime.
When World Futures manager Bert Blyleven finally called his number, the gangly, right-handed Brewers prospect loped out to the mound and told himself to keep his nerves in check.
After all, a sold-out house for the Futures Game is a far cry from the cramped ballparks of the Florida State League.
"I just think like ‘don’t nervous, don’t look around and just concentrate on playing,’" the 21-year-old from Puerto Rico grinned afterward, not a trace of sweet dropping from his curly-haired Mohawk.
A low-90s sinker and a curveball and changeup that regularly fool batters have Lopez steadily ascending through Milwaukee’s farm system. In 16 starts during his first High-A season, the 6-foot-4, 165-pounder is 8-4 with a 3.26 ERA.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, Lopez spent two seasons playing rookie ball before joining the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last summer. Then came his latest promotion to the Brevard County Manatees.
And an All-Star caliber season to date.
"Me, I just take day by day," said Lopez, who speaks broken English but grasps the language much better than he did upon reaching the professional ranks directly out of high school. "It’s a process, you know? I just take the steps and get better, like try to get better each and every day."
Lopez was born Feb. 10, 1993 in Cayey, P.R., a town of about 48,000 in the American commonwealth’s central mountain range. Its higher elevation makes for cooler temperatures than the rest of the island, and its strong infrastructure includes a Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble manufacturing plants.
"It’s a small city," Lopez said, "but it’s one of the best."
Lopez played youth baseball there for 10 years before moving to nearby Caguas to attend high school and attract scouts’ attention. The Brewers signed him on as part of their movement to develop more pitching depth throughout their minor league ranks.
Three years later, he was one of 19 Single-A prospects to participate in the Futures Game, the first of three baseball showcases culminating in Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game.
Facing fellow Florida State Leaguer J.P. Crawford of the Phillies’ farm system, Lopez coaxed a sharp ground-out to second in his one batter faced. Blyleven, the Hall of Fame hurler, then replaced Lopez in attempt to keep his promise of playing all 25 players on the World roster.
But this day wasn’t about accumulating innings — just recollections.
"It was my first time pitching in front of a lot of people — a lot of people," Lopez said. "I just had fun."
The World Futures wound up losing 3-2. Lopez, though, took it as another juncture on his journey to the big leagues.
"I never played with those guys, and it’s good to see and watch them," Lopez said. "We just take the opportunity for to take the time and have fun with them."
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