Kansas City Royals

Royals’ Jorge Lopez adapting well following move back to the bullpen

Royals pitcher Jorge Lopez made his eighth relief appearance of the season by tossing a scoreless inning on Monday night against the Cleveland Indians.

When the Royals announced they were moving Lopez to the bullpen, Lopez said he thought the move would help him be more aggressive as a pitcher and he’d be able to attack hitters without having to worry so much about sequencing and facing them a second or third time.

Lopez reiterated that on Monday night both with his postgame comments and with his pitch selection during his one inning.

He had a good feel for his curveball, and he threw it on six consecutive pitches during one at-bat against Roberto Perez, including a 3-2 pitch Perez flailed at for the third strike with two on and two out in the eighth inning with the score tied.

“He’d been giving me (trouble) his last two at-bats in fastball counts,” Lopez said. “I was not giving up anything. If he took it, I preferred he walk than give me the chance to leave runners (on base). I just went right to my strength, the curveball.”

After struggling through 10 starts this season, his statistics have already started showing that he’s been more efficient coming out of the bullpen.

Lopez, who went 0-6 as a starter, posted a 7.07 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP, 8.5 strikeouts per 9 innings and a 2.35 strikeout per walk ratio in 10 starts. In his eight relief appearances, his ERA has dropped to 3.94 to go along with a WHIP of 1.18, 10.1 strikeouts per 9 and 4.5 strikeouts per walk.

“He threw a lot of changeups last night,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Lopez. “His strengths are in three pitches — a 95-mile-per-hour fastball, a good curveball and a good changeup — it’s all about location, staying ahead in the count, not getting too fine.”

Of course, Lopez still has times when he gets “too fine” such as when he walked Jose Ramirez on four pitches earlier in that same inning on Monday night.

Suspension over: Tuesday night’s game marks the final game of left-handed pitcher Eric Skoglund’s 80-game suspension for violation of the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The Royals will need to make a roster move on Wednesday because Skoglund isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. He’s been on the restricted list during his suspension. He’d need to be added to the 40-man roster even if he’s optioned to the minors, which is the likely scenario. It’s not clear who the Royals will take off the 40-man roster in order to clear room for Skoglund. That announcement should come on Wednesday.

Injury updates: Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi has been limited to playing catch so far since straining his groin and going on the injured list last week. Mondesi, who leads the American League in stolen bases (27) and triples (eight), went on the 10-day IL on June 20 (retroactive to June 19).

Meanwhile, All-Star catcher Salvador Perez has progressed to the point where he can start catching side sessions as long as he doesn’t throw. Perez is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He recently had a 16-week check-up, but still can’t hit or throw.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.