08/11/2004 8:12 PM ET
Notes: Lopez back, throwing strikes
Lefty cuts down on walks during Triple-A stint
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Colorado Rockies left-handed pitcher Javier Lopez let go just a little on Tuesday night.
|Javier Lopez developed a more natural delivery at Triple-A, which improved his control. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Last year as a Rockies rookie, Lopez was uncommonly cool for a guy who had never pitched above Double-A. He went 4-1 with a 3.70 ERA in 75 appearances. But he struggled this season, walking 22 against 17 strikeouts after finishing last season with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks, and wound up spending a couple of weeks at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
So after his first appearance back with the Rockies -- a scoreless sixth inning, which ended with a double-play grounder, in the Rockies' 5-4 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday night -- Lopez pumped his fist and broke into a huge smile as he left the mound.
"That was pretty important for me," Lopez said. "I really wanted to get back on the right track. I knew the guys I was going face were Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley. Getting Thome out got rid of the jitters, then I felt more like I felt in Triple-A. I threw more strikes and gave myself a better chance."
On Wednesday night, Lopez tossed a 1-2-3 fifth inning in relief of starter Jason Jennings, retiring sluggers Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu in the process.
Lopez, 27, said that during his trip to the minors, he "freed up" his delivery, allowing his hands to flow up and down naturally as he made his leg kick, as opposed to just keeping them at stomach level. The result was a more natural delivery. He went 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA -- and, more importantly, had nine strikeouts to two walks -- at Colorado Springs.
But he found more than his control in the minors.
"Going down there was kind of exciting, because it was also my first time in Triple-A -- I saw Portland, Tacoma and Oklahoma City," Lopez said. "It was kind of nice to be down there and have them be in a race, see how excited those guys were to come to the park every day. That was kind of nice, being able to take some time away from the big league life. You can work with in a little less-pressurized environment and work on some things."
Rox get pitchers: The Rockies completed the trade sending outfielder Larry Walker to St. Louis by receiving Cardinals left-handed pitching prospects Luis Martinez and Chris Narveson. Both will come to the Rockies as starters, with Martinez bolstering the Colorado Springs rotation and Narveson going to Double-A Tulsa.
Martinez, 24, was the Milwaukee Brewers' minor-league pitcher of the year last season, and he saw big league action with four late-season starts (0-3, 9.92 ERA). The Brewers waived Martinez after he was arrested in a shooting in an offseason traffic dispute, but he was cleared of the charges. The Cardinals, who claimed him off waivers, and the Rockies checked into the incident and were satisfied Martinez acted in self-defense.
Martinez, listed at 6-foot-6, was 7-7 with a 4.10 ERA at Double-A Tennessee and 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA at Triple-A Memphis this season.
Narveson, 22, who was born in Englewood, Colo., but attended high school in Asheville, N.C., was a Cardinals second-round pick in 2000. Narveson underwent Tommy John elbow ligament transfer surgery in August 2001, but has been ruled healthy. Narveson was 5-10 with a 4.16 ERA for Double-A Tennessee, but had 121 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings.
A different kind of 4-for-4: Rockies utilityman Luis Gonzalez made his fourth straight start on Wednesday night against the Phillies, all at different positions. He stood in for Aaron Miles at second base and led off on Wednesday, after playing shortstop, right field and third base in the previous three games.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said he rotated players through the lineup that way "a number of times" as a minor-league manager in the New York Mets system. With Gonzalez having hit .500 (12-for-24) in his previous seven games, he merited the effort to find him a place.
"It's one of the best ways to take a utility player, try to get him jump-started, get him on a roll, keep him on a roll, get guys days off and get him a long period of playing time," said Hurdle, who said he recalled playing left field, right field and first base three days in a row, but could not recall going to four positions in four days during his career.
Fuentes close: Left-hander Brian Fuentes, completing his recovery from a back problem that has sidelined him
since July 7, threw perfect innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
After striking out two and pitching a perfect inning with just 14 pitches on Wednesday, Fuentes is scheduled to be evaluated on Thursday and could be activated for Colorado's series in Pittsburgh beginning Friday.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.