Lopez showed no hints of this effectiveness during spring exhibitions. He recorded a 9.00 ERA in nine outings, surrendered 10 hits in seven innings, and walked twice as many hitters (four) as he struck out (two). He even yielded two home runs, matching the regular-season total he has allowed since joining the Giants at the 2009 Trade Deadline.
Lopez pointed out that Spring Training games don't always put him in the situations he encounters as a left-handed specialist in the regular season. In exhibitions, he frequently starts an inning and faces right-handed hitters; when it counts, he tends to enter games in the middle of an inning, and almost exclusively matches up against left-handed batters.
Moreover, regular-season pressure often helps Lopez concentrate.
"I'm used to coming into 'traffic' in different situations," Lopez said, referring to men on base. "That's what helps me kind of lock in."
Pitching more frequently in the regular season than he does in March also sharpens his skills.
"For me, I need to find my rhythm because of the way I throw, and it's nice to have that opportunity during the season," Lopez said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.