Former Seton Hall right-handed pitcher Jose Lopez was added to the 40-man roster of the Cincinnati Reds on Nov. 21.
Lopez, a native of Cranbury, N.J., made his debut for the Pirates in 2012. He spent two seasons at Seton Hall as a relief pitcher before an injury derailed his junior campaign. Despite this, he was drafted by the Reds in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Since being drafted, Lopez has made 64 starts in the minor leagues as a member of the Reds organization. Most recently he pitched for their Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He made 15 starts in 2017, posting a 7-2 record with a 2.43 ERA.
The Reds decided to add him to the 40-man roster in order to protect him during the Rule 5 draft, which would allow another organization to sign him.
Lopez got word of his addition a few days before Thanksgiving, as he was sitting at home with his parents and girlfriend. He spoke on the phone with Jeff Graupe, the senior director of player development for the Reds, who informed him of the transaction. Graupe told Lopez to keep the news quiet until the organization had a press release.
“I didn’t understand how this all worked, but it’s been my dream for as long as I can remember,” Lopez said. “To have this opportunity is pretty cool and humbling.”
Lopez is not quite sure where he wants to be yet, as he has not officially gotten the call to play at the major league level. While protection from the Rule 5 Draft is certainly a good sign, it is not a guarantee that he will remain on the 40-man roster. Lopez also understands that this call-up is not a guarantee that he will play for the Reds during spring training in March.
“I was thankful to have a pretty good year in Double-A, but you never know,” Lopez said. “A lot is out of my control so I try not to worry too much.”
In addition, Lopez believes that he still has a lot he can improve on as a professional baseball player.
“There is always something that can get better,” Lopez said. “I’m always trying to learn my body. The key the last couple years has been staying healthy.”
Lopez mentioned he worked last season with Danny Darwin, a 21-year MLB veteran. Darwin emphasized the importance of working hard and earning the respect of his teammates, something Lopez is striving to accomplish.
Seton Hall baseball head coach Rob Sheppard was proud of his former pitcher, saying he deserves the call up.
“Jose was a competitor,” Sheppard said. “He was always a good teammate, and you always knew you were going to get his best effort when he was in the game.”
Lopez and Sheppard have kept in touch since the 2014 Draft, as Lopez still attends Seton Hall as a student. Sheppard believes that this commitment to education is one of many reasons why Lopez is a role model for his players.
“He shows the importance of getting your degree as well as having the opportunity to play professional baseball,” Sheppard said. “He’s done a really good job leading the way for our players and has been a good role model.”
“I had a lot to work for and prove at Seton Hall,” Lopez said. “You try to keep everything in perspective and not let your goals get too far out of hand, but I want to make a career out of this.”
Even though the call-up is not a guarantee of success, Lopez is doing everything in his power to make his dreams of taking the major league mound a reality.
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.