Exactly 13 months after the Orioles traded Jorge Lopez to Minnesota, the 2022 All-Star relief pitcher is returning to Baltimore.
On Saturday, general manager Mike Elias claimed the 30-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins, but Lopez won’t be eligible for the postseason since he wasn’t part of the organization to open September. The veteran hurler has had a rough 2023 with a 6.13 ERA in a combined 47 innings between the Twins and Marlins, the latter club acquiring him days before the trade deadline. Since joining Miami in late July, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound reliever has pitched to a 9.26 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.
With the status of 2023 All-Star Felix Bautista in serious doubt after he suffered an ulnar collateral ligament injury in his right elbow last weekend, Lopez getting back on track could be helpful for a club trying to win its first AL East championship since 2014. And it could prove bigger next season if Bautista has to undergo Tommy John surgery, which would all but guarantee him missing the entire 2024 campaign.
Acquired by the Orioles during the abbreviated 2020 season, Lopez experienced the greatest success of his career in Baltimore upon transitioning to a bullpen role late in the 2021 season. Beginning 2022 as manager Brandon Hyde’s closer, Lopez pitched to a 1.68 ERA, collected 19 saves, and struck out 10.1 batters per nine innings over 44 appearances before being traded last Aug. 2. That deal may have hurt the Orioles bullpen for the remainder of 2022, but it netted future All-Star reliever Yennier Cano, Triple-A pitching prospect Cade Povich, and two other minor-league pitchers, making it difficult to argue against Elias making the deal in the big picture.
Lopez hasn’t yet reported to the Orioles, but he is out of minor-league options. Baltimore designated right-hander Logan Gillaspie for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster and will need to make another move to create a spot for Lopez on the active roster. With the roster expanding from 26 players to 28 on Friday, the Orioles recalled right-hander Joey Krehbiel from Triple-A Norfolk for an additional bullpen arm.