Twins’ Pablo Lopez working to recover his ‘rhythm on the mound’

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Pablo Lopez has made big adjustments over his professional pitching career. The big ones, no surprises, came when he moved to high-A ball as a 20-year-old in 2017 in Modesto, Calif., and then throughout his first full major league season in 2019 in Miami.

At that point, the right-hander was adjusting to the uptick in competition. But 2022 was different. He got out of whack, then got really out of whack.

“I tried to do too much at some point, and it went from a little out of synch to a lot out of synch,” the Twins’ No. 1 starter said Wednesday. “Because I was doing too many things that I wasn’t used to.”

That’s not the case now, despite the fact that Lopez has struggled over his past three starts — 0-3 with a 9.00 earned-run average and 25 hits in 16 innings pitched. He spent his bullpen session before Wednesday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field working on one thing.

“I went back to recovering some kind of rhythm on the mound,” he said afterward.

On May 9, Lopez was 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA, 55 strikeouts and eight walks in 48 innings. Since then, something has been off with his mechanics, specifically his movement above the rubber.

“Things were happening a little earlier than they should,” he said. “And this goes back to what feels right for me. Every pitcher is different. Our windups all look different, but our windups are all the same — we’re transferring power from one leg to the other.

“But we have different cues. One of my cues is slow and in control, give myself time, let it all happen at the end. And it looks like it was happening a little before the end.”

Lopez, 28, has become one of the majors’ most consistent starting pitchers. Last season, he threw 194 innings for the American League Central champs, going 11-9 with a 3.66 ERA and fanning 234, third in the majors. After the 2022 season, the Twins acquired him from the Marlins, sending Miami reigning AL batting champ Luis Arraez.

Almost immediately, Minnesota signed Lopez to a four-year, $73.5 million extension through 2027.

“I wanted to feel today that I wasn’t rushing, that I was giving myself enough time to build steam,” Lopez said after Wednesday’s session. “So, I’m building steam, I’m loading to then unload, and I wanted to unload at the right time. For me, that’s when I feel this foot landing firmly. That’s when I let go of the steam, when I step on the gas.”

Lopez is scheduled to start Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Houston.

Buxton rests

Center fielder Byron Buxton was given a day off on Wednesday after going 2 for 2 with a triple, two walks, stolen base and run scored in a 4-2 victory over the Royals on Tuesday.

Through one-third of the Twins’ season, Buxton has played in 37 of the team’s 58 games after knee and hip injuries limited him to 85 total games last season. After being limited to designated hitting in 2023, he has played 31 games in center.

“I look at the week when I’m looking at what Buck is going to be out there for,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He has been playing good. He had a great day yesterday. He wants to be out there seven days a week. Right now he won’t be out there seven days a week, but we’ll get him out there as much as we can. He’s doing well.”


Third baseman Royce Lewis, on rehab assignment for a quad injury with Class AAA St. Paul, was not in the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game in Buffalo. He was hurt in the Twins’ first game this season after going 2 for 2 with a home run. … The Twins are in the middle of their third annual “Twins Week of Service,” during which members of all six baseball organizations volunteer to help for underserved communities.

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