7/29 Saturday’s starter: Rodrigo Lopez

On Saturday, Rodrigo Lopez returns to the mound for the Cubs, his first start since July 18. The right-hander has had to battle to stay in the big leagues, including spending time on the DL because he needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

“It’s been tough to establish myself in the big leagues,” Lopez said. “I guess a lot of factors are involved. I don’t think my age has taken anything from my skills. My velocity hs been pretty consistent, 88 to 90 [miles an hour]. I’ve never been a power pitcher.”

 Growing up in Mexico, his hero was Fernando Valenzuela.
 
“In the ’80s, when ‘Fernando-mania’ hit Mexico, everyone started to play,” he said. “We were playing soccer, my brother and I, and baseball was a new sport, and we started playing that. That’s why I started playing baseball.”
 
Why did he become a pitcher?
 
“I’m a pitcher because I can’t hit,” he said.
 
Lopez was a catcher and shortstop but when he was 14, he was playing with boys older than he was. He couldn’t hit and the only spot open, if he wanted to play, was pitcher.
 
“My arm started getting some strength and it seemed like I had pretty good life on my fastball, so they wanted me to pitch,” he said.
 
Lopez was at a tryout where scouts had gathered to see his brother, but they watched Rodrigo pitch and signed him.
 
“Since then, I’ve been surviving,” he said.
 
– Carrie Muskat

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