Why López isn’t worried about getting his pitch hit ‘like 600 feet’

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Pablo López, the Twins' All-Star righthander, faced Matt Olson, Major League Baseball's leading home run hitter last year, in the first inning of a Grapefruit League game Monday at Hammond Stadium. A perfect chance, López thought, to test his repertoire under pressure.

He tried a fastball, 94.8 mph and high in the zone, which the left-handed hitting Olson took for strike one. Then López got the Braves slugger to swing at a changeup wide of the plate, which he fouled off. Then came a curveball, only 83 mph, that dove toward the dirt as it approached the plate. Olson just poked it away, foul once again.

Let's see — what's left? The sweeper, López's secret weapon last year? He thought about it, but changed his mind. Better to experiment, he decided.

"I don't think I threw an 0-2 sinker to a lefty last year, let alone a lefty like Matt Olson," López said. "But it's just something to see if, at some point during the season, we can sneak in a pitch like that. We saw an opportunity" to try it out.

The idea was to hit a corner of the plate with it. The sinker sunk, but right in the middle of the plate.

"It didn't work out. He hit it like 600 feet to center," López said of Olson's two-run blast onto the plaza in straightaway center, which StatCast actually measured at a mere 418 feet.

But López had no regrets, and not just because the game, the at-bat, doesn't count.

"Maybe that's not the right guy to attempt a pitch like that, [a pitch] that I'm not very comfortable with yet. If it's not in the right spot, it better be a ball, instead of missing the way I did," López analyzed. "I got too worried with making the perfect pitch in that count, the pitch got too much of the plate, and he barreled it pretty good. I challenged myself and it didn't work out. But it's valuable feedback. If the situation comes again, now I know how to be a little more specific, a little more convicted on where I want the pitch to go."

Twins camp notes

Jose Miranda will return to playing the infield later this week, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, but it won't be at third base. Miranda, limited to designated hitter duties this spring as his right shoulder heals from rotator cuff and labrum surgery, will focus on first base for the remainder of camp, Baldelli said. "We think he can really fit [there, but] it's a position he hasn't played a ton," the manager said. He needs the work at first base, so we're going to give him as much as we can."

— Sunday was a sad day for Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven, who learned that Ed Ott, who caught his Game 2 start for the Pirates in the 1979 World Series and scored the winning run, had died at 72. "He was a bull. Nobody crossed the plate without a fight," the former Twins broadcaster said. "I was looking forward to seeing him at the 45th reunion this summer in Pittsburgh. I feel sad for his wife, Sue, and his family."