Twins reliever Jorge López didn't have his typical entrance video when he entered in the eighth inning Saturday, and that wasn't his only change.
López altered his routine for warmup pitches, dialing things back to what he estimated 70% effort, as the 2022 All-Star with Baltimore searches for ways to break out of his funk. He has permitted nine runs on 10 hits — including five home runs — three walks and four hit batters across his past six appearances, totaling 10 outs.
"My first time this year doing something like that," López said. "Just trying a different strategy. It's a game where you have to figure it out. I'm trying to find my way to be good again."
López struck out Cleveland catcher Mike Zunino with two runners on base and two outs in the eighth inning during Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Guardians at Target Field, executing a curveball on the final pitch that elicited a fist pump from catcher Christian Vázquez.
He returned to the mound for the ninth inning where he surrendered a solo homer to Steven Kwan on a changeup he left over the plate in a 0-2 count. He then walked two batters and hit a batter before he was replaced.
"The 0-2 pitch, throw it right in the middle, that can't happen," said López, who gave up one unearned run in 12 innings during the first month of the season.
López had a 1.68 ERA in 44 games with Baltimore in 2022 when he was traded last August, but his ERA over 50 appearances with the Twins is 4.44. He's surrendered more homers in 24 innings this season (six) than he did in 71 innings last year (four).
López, who has four blown saves this season, attributed his recent struggles to his sinker, which he called "awful." He thought the more relaxed warmup routine was beneficial, stranding two inherited runners, because he had a good feel for his pitches for at least his first inning.
"It's not coming easily," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's also why it's important to get him out there and let him keep pitching and continue to try and find himself on the mound. We could have taken him out and just gotten him off the mound, but he has to go out there and get some outs for the team, but also for himself to work on these things."