MINNEAPOLIS - Pablo Lopez had gotten done training and was at his sister’s apartment babysitting his 2-year-old nephew when his phone rang.
After five seasons with the Miami Marlins, he had been traded to Minnesota. The Twins were in need of high-end starting pitching after bringing back Carlos Correa, and signing Joey Gallo and Christian Vazquez in free agency. They had to pay a price, sending American League batting champion and fan-favorite Luis Arraez to Miami to get him.
Lopez was a the Twins’ media luncheon last Friday ahead of TwinsFest, and spoke with Fox 9 about the range of emotions after the trade.
"In baseball, we’ve always been told that you don’t want to get too attached to teams and all that, but I think it’s inevitable that happens. I developed some affection for the Miami Marlins, so when the trade happened, you go through mixed emotions," Lopez said. "It’s a little bit of a bittersweet moment, but then you realize what it means opportunity-wise, then I get really excited."
Lopez went 10-10 last season in 32 starts with the Marlins. He had a 3.75 earned run average with 174 strikeouts in 180 innings. It was the third straight season he’s had an ERA under 4. He’ll join a starting rotation that features Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan and could include Bailey Ober, Louie Varland and Josh Winder.
"Being able to really fatten up that rotation, bring in an extra really good arm in Pablo Lopez, that’s a key move for us," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Hopefully those benefits will be reaped over the course of a long season, knowing we have a lot of guys that we can turn to."
Lopez’s goals are simple. He wants to make sure he’s ready to take the mound every fifth day, and challenge himself to get better. The Twins, after division titles in Baldelli’s first two seasons, have missed the playoffs two straight years.
"I think it’s just the hunger. Losing is never fun, but losing also brings out the best in you when it comes to the things you need to get better at to get to where you want to get. The drive that it’s going to be in the clubhouse, the hunger, that’s going to be extremely exciting," Lopez said. "When you experience those moments that you want to show up to the field early just because you want to win that start, I think that’s going to be a big part of it."
Lopez goes back to see his old team for the second series of the season, April 3-5 at the Marlins. It remains to be seen if he’ll take the mound against the Marlins. Twins’ pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla, in about two weeks.
Lopez has already spoken to several of his new teammates, and met most of them last weekend at TwinsFest.
"A good amount of the players reached out to me. Everyone has been extremely welcoming, and it’s justified that they let me know that they are excited for me to be a part of the organization. It just makes me even more excited," Lopez said. "The sense of family, the sense of everyone being united. We’re together eight months out of the year, so you need that bond. I can’t wait to get going."