Notes: Lopez up and down in debut

Notes: Lopez up and down in debut

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rodrigo Lopez had an uneven outing in his Rockies spring debut. He pitched a pair of scoreless innings to open the game, then gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in the third inning.

Lopez was the Orioles' Opening Day starter in three of the last four years, but he'll need to earn his spot in Colorado's rotation following his January trade to the club. He took a low-key approach on the mound Tuesday, focusing on the work he wants to accomplish in the spring and not obsessing about the numbers.

"I feel pretty good," Lopez said after giving up three runs in three innings on seven hits and two walks. "I feel pretty strong. Because I feel so good, I was throwing a lot of fastballs. I didn't throw my slider, which is my good pitch. I threw just a few changeups."

But after feeding the White Sox hitters a steady diet of fastballs for the first two scoreless innings, his pitches began to elevate and the Sox made him pay.

"That was my plan, to establish my fastball," Lopez said. "The numbers aren't good, but that's the way I wanted to work, establish my fastball, command my fastball. Today I was working on my stuff. I wasn't trying to adjust to them. I was going to work for me, for my feeling, for my timing. I was trying to get them out, but I was trying to get them out with fastballs."

Manager Clint Hurdle saw much to be pleased about in Lopez's outing, though he noted that many of the new Rockies are behaving like new cars, saying, "We just need to blow out some carbon first for some of these newly acquired guys."

Though Lopez may have his share of carbon to discharge early in the spring, he brings a veteran presence to the Rockies, and he is a durable pitcher, who, over the past five years, has been in the top 15 in the American League for innings pitched and the top 11 for wins. He's seen plenty of the powerful White Sox lineup over the years, and he welcomed the challenge of tuning up his stuff against some bonafide big leaguers.

"I want to get the regular guys out," Lopez said. "They're the guys we're going to face during the season. I like those challenges. It's a good lineup, they always gave me a hard time when I was in Baltimore."

It may be early to envision exactly where Lopez fits in a rotation likely to be anchored by Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis, but Hurdle has no trouble making an early evaluation of a pitcher the Rockies hope they can depend on in 2007.

"I see another guy that's trying to go out there and get a lot accomplished in a hurry," Hurdle said. "His arm's good. He threw close to 50 pitches, if not more. He did some things he wanted to do. He locked some pitches up, he painted some corners."

Green light: Brad Hawpe has his groove going in the Cactus League, hitting .308 through the first six games and impressing his manager with his easy approach at the plate. When you're going good like that, you get the green light on 3-0 counts, and that's exactly what Hawpe had as he faced Adam Russell in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game against the White Sox.

Russell floated a fat fastball to the plate, and Hawpe turned the pitch around, up, and away for a towering two-run homer over the 40-foot wall in dead-away center field, his first four-bagger of the spring.

"I'm not so sure I've seen one hit that far, non-wind aided," Hurdle said of the ball's orbit. "That ball was hit as far as I think I've ever seen a ball hit to center field."

White Sox center fielder Luis Terrero fooled many of those watching by appearing to be underneath the ball, well in front of the wall, but his ploy didn't deke Hurdle.

"I kind of laughed," Hurdle said of Terrero's attempt to fool the fans, and if anything, he worried about the ball bouncing off the wall and clocking the unaware Terrero. "I said it's going to hit him in the back of the head."

While his teammates marveled at the "gunshot" sound of the bat meeting the ball and the neck-straining flight path it took out of the park, Hawpe simply lowered his head and headed for first.

"This is what Spring Training's for," Hawpe said. "For me especially, working on my timing, getting set and all that. 3-0, it was kind of a pressure-free pitch. I had the chance to take some of the pressure off, get up there and get set."

Hawpe's strong spring is having the effect of relieving pressure with each meaty meeting of barrel and ball, letting the lefty relax at the plate and settle into his groove.

"I feel better than most springs," Hawpe said. "I got some hits and some hard outs. Usually it takes me a few weeks to feel remotely comfortable and put the barrel on the ball. It's still early, so anything could change tomorrow. Putting the barrel on the ball, whether you get a hit or not, right now in Spring Training, that's what you're looking for."

It's what Hurdle is looking for from Hawpe also, and though the humble hitter didn't take the time to admire the ball as it soared over the wall, Hurdle hopes he takes time to appreciate what's working for him.

"He'll see it on tape," Hurdle said. "That's just a perfect example of effortless power. That's a pretty swing. There's no grunt, there's no grind. Rhythm and timing and just boom."

On deck: Rotation candidates Josh Fogg and Byung-Hyun Kim will both get action on the mound Wednesday as the Rockies host the Brewers at 1:05 p.m. MT. Carlos Villanueva will start for Milwaukee.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.