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Yoan Lopez developing, solid again for D-backs in win over Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect Yoan Lopez had his best outing of the spring Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies, allowing just two baserunners in three scoreless innings.

He struck out two in the effort, building upon a solid two-inning performance Friday against the Cleveland Indians.

Lopez, 21, was lauded by D-backs manager Chip Hale after that appearance for his composure on the mound following a shaky Arizona debut earlier in the spring. Hale said before Wednesday’s game that he hoped to see more of the same from his pitcher versus the Rockies.

“I expect him to pitch like he did, using all of his pitches,” he said.

Lopez was stretched a third inning at Salt River Fields in the night tilt. In two prior spring outings, he was held to two innings or less. Hale was also sure to pit the young right-hander against better hitters than he had previously faced, saying his first two outings came in the less competitive innings of spring games.

In the fifth inning, Lopez coaxed outs from Rockies starters D.J. Lemahieu, Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez before recording a clean sixth and a one-hit seventh.

The manager was pleased with the work.

“He did the same thing,” he said after the game. “I think his velocity was a little better. He just keeps mixing those pitches and keeping guys off balance and he really looks good — looks good for a 21-year-old kid.”

The D-backs signed Lopez, a Cuban defector, for $8.25 million over the offseason, ultimately spending more than $16 million after international taxes were imposed by MLB.

At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Lopez’s fastball has sat around 92 mph so far in Cactus League play, but international scouts clocked it in the mid-90s last season, when he pitched for Isla De La Juventud in the Serie Nacional league in Cuba. He recorded a 3.12 ERA and 28 strikeouts in seven starts for that club last year.

Hale and the D-backs believe the pitcher can climb back up the velocity ladder as he adds strength to his long frame and what the manager described Wednesday as a “whippy” arm.

“I think as of right now we think he has more miles per hour in his arm,” he said. “The whole transition has been kind of a tough deal for him, but I think he has it in his arm.”

After surviving the first round of big league camp cuts last weekend, Lopez faces another round Sunday. He seems most likely to end up with a D-backs affiliate at either the Single-A or Double-A levels.