Lopez An Oldie But Goodie

Righty dominates as 21-year-old in Gulf Coast League





DETROIT—At 21, righthander Yorfrank Lopez may be older than the typical Rookie-level Gulf Coast League player, which would cause his statistics this season to be viewed with some skepticism.

But good pitching is good pitching, and Lopez has been better than good—his numbers indicate he is one of the GCL's best pitchers. The Venezuela native has dominated hitters in his first season in the United States, leading the GCL in ERA (2.10) and strikeouts (54) while tying for the league lead with five victories. He also ranked among the league leaders in innings (51), which is impressive for a pitcher who made eight of his first nine appearances as a reliever.

Tigers pitching coach Greg Sabat said the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Lopez has taken big steps forward in his development this season.

"He has learned to pitch down in the strike zone," Sabat said. "His command is better, and he is locating his fastball better. He's also able to repeat his delivery, and he's reading batters' swings better."

Lopez started out slowly, allowing eight hits and three walks in his first seven innings. But since then, he had given up 31 hits and eight walks in 45 innings, and hadn't yielded more than one run in 10 of 11 appearances.

"His command of all of his pitches got better," Sabat said. "And he has learned to read swings better. All during extended spring training we preached locating pitches, learning command and repeating delivery, and he has done that."

Lopez features a fastball that sits at 91-92 mph as well as a two-seam fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. While the curve is more of a "show-me" pitch, Sabat said he thinks Lopez has a future as a starter.

"He's big, strong and durable," Sabat said. "He has the ability to face a lineup more than once, and his fastball/slider/change give him enough pitches to be a starter."

TIGER TALES

• Righthander Jake Thompson, the Tigers' first choice in this year's draft, was shut down to rest his arm. The second-round pick was 1-2, 1.91 in seven starts for the GCL Tigers, striking out 31 and walking 10 in 28 innings.

• Austin Schotts, who was chosen in the third round in June, hit .336/.387/.463 in his first 35 GCL games. Schotts, who has moved to center field after playing shortstop in high school, ranked fourth in the GCL in batting.