Jorge López has had a new calling as a closer. So far, this “new calling” has turned out to be a success for the Baltimore Orioles. As of this writing, the 29-year-old right-hander has four saves, three wins, and a 1.06 ERA. The former starter has seen his career change dramatically for the better.
Always had Potential
López always had the potential to be an MLB pitcher. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2011 when he was 18. He spent four years in the lower minor leagues working on his form and mechanics, but started to showcase his pitching talents in 2015. At the time, he was with the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers of the Class AA Southern League. López finished that season with a 12–5 record, a 2.26 ERA, 137 strikeouts, and was named the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year.
First Chance in MLB
After the 2015 season ended for Biloxi, the Brewers called him up. López made his major league debut on September 29, 2015. He would finish the MLB season with a 1-1 record and a 5.40 ERA. Also in the ten innings that he pitched, he had ten strikeouts. He looked like a “lock” for the Brewers 2016 team.
Struggled in 2016
In 2016, López had a decent Spring Training, and in three games, he had a save and was really showcasing his fastball. In a somewhat surprising move, he was assigned to Triple-A: The Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He struggled all season, ending his run with a losing record of 1-7 and an ERA of 6.81 through 17 starts. He even struggled when sent back to Double-A Biloxi, and went 2-4 there.
In the 2017 season, López was with Biloxi and struggling as a starter—4.61 ERA in 13 games started. Manager Mike Guerrero and Pitching Coach Chris Hook converted him to a reliever. He would finish the season with seven saves; his reliever ERA was 3.62.
López was with the Brewers to start the 2018 season. He saw time as a starter and long reliever. On July 27, López was traded to the Kansas City Royals. He was pitching a perfect game on September 8, retiring 24 Minnesota Twins batters in a row. That ended in the ninth inning when López surrendered a leadoff walk and a hit and was removed from the game. It sure looked like the change of scenery was good for him.
López would then struggle with the Royals in the 2019 season. His command was off, he was giving up too many home runs, and he ended up with a 6.33 ERA and a 4-9 record. He was later released by the Royals after pitching in one game in 2020.
New Home in Baltimore
López was picked up by the Orioles on August 9 and he went to Baltimore, where he continued to struggle with a 6.69 ERA. However, he was invited to Spring Training in 2021 and made the Orioles team as a starter. In 33 appearances—including 25 starts—his ERA was 6.07 with a 3-14 record, but when he moved to the bullpen full-time, his ERA dropped to 2.16.
Inconsistent Starter to Closer
Jorge López’s new calling as a closer was due to Manager Brandon Hyde knowing that he had the mechanics to be an MLB pitcher. After trading both Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser before the start of the season, the Orioles were going to start the season using the “closer-by-committee” strategy, with Dillon Tate and Felix Bautista, along with López.
However, that has changed with López’s strong start as the closer. His pitching has been energetic, and the confidence of being a closer has made him the go-to arm to get the save. He has even recharged a bullpen that has actually pitched well and kept leads for López. His performance also gives the Orioles some options. Both Bautista and Tate can close, but now there is the option of keeping one or both as the set-up arms for López.
Jorge López: Closer
Jorge López’s new calling as a closer has come full circle. He has gone from an inconsistent journeyman-starter, to the main closer. He appears to love and thrive on the challenge of getting the save. We know that he has the confidence of the Manger and his team. If he continues to be effective in the closer role, and the other bullpen arms continue performing well, then it might not be such a long season for suffering Orioles fans after all.
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