Roberto Lopez wasn’t worried about counts or mixing his pitches when he took the mound on Wednesday night in the ninth inning.
The 27-year-old’s professional pitching debut came as a quite a surprise — to him and his team. He’s played left field, third and first in the last week, but pitching for the first time since before he was drafted really stretches the definition of “utility player.”
“When they told me, ‘Get ready, you might pitch the ninth,’ I just started mentally preparing myself,” Lopez said. “I just wanted to throw strikes, that’s all it was.”
With only 11 pitches and a fastball topping out at 82 mph, Lopez got the Bees out of the ninth in one of the team’s worst losses of this season. Salt Lake (23-24) didn’t get much out of its pitching staff in a 17-6 blowout at the hands of the Memphis Redbirds (23-21).
The Bees surrendered 19 hits, including four home runs. By the end, the squad ran out of arms to burn. So they sent in right-handed Lopez, who had been sitting on the sidelines.
“We told [Lopez] try your best to get the ball down in the zone and see what happens,” manager Keith Johnson said. “He did well enough to get those three outs. As we can see from this game, pitching is not an easy thing to do.”
This one was never much in question. From the first inning on, the Bees couldn’t stop the shelling.
Salt Lake starter A.J. Schugel’s pitches couldn’t get past the Redbird’s swings: triple, triple, single, single, single, home run — all before the end of the first. His fastball held no mystery for the Redbirds, as they ended up with nine hits total off the young right-hander.
Fernando Cabrera relieved Schugel after two innings, but didn’t fare that much better. He gave up five runs in just over two innings of work, before Ryan Brasier came in to try to limit the damage. Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen, making his first appearance during a rehab assignment, was rocked for two homers in the seventh.
Mitch Stetter and Lopez ended up having the most successful outings, seeing three hitters apiece.
The Bees struggled at the plate as well, getting only four hits through eight innings. A ninth-inning rally salvaged a bit of pride, as Luke Carlin, Luis Rodriguez and Andrew Romine each batted in runs.
O Memphis notches 19 hits and a season-high 17 runs against Salt Lake.
• Six Bees pitchers see action.