Right-hander Pablo Lopez won't have to wait long to make his debut with the Minnesota Twins.
After he was traded to the Twins in late January, Lopez will look to make a positive first impression Thursday when he takes on the host Kansas City Royals on Opening Day.
Lopez (10-10, 3.75 ERA in 2022) came over from the Miami Marlins, with whom he spent the first five seasons of his career. Minnesota also acquired a pair of prospects in the deal, but it came at a cost, as the Twins dealt reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez to the Marlins.
"I could see why so many fans were upset in a way because they traded such a good player," Lopez said. "That's just encouraging. They traded Luis Arraez to bring me in. ... It made me want to try harder.
"I think every day just has been very encouraging how easy the Twins made the transition for me. Every day I keep raising my own bar."
Even though Minnesota's rotation features the Opening Day starters from each of the past two seasons in Joe Ryan and Kenta Maeda, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli went with his newest starter in the new season.
"I feel like Pablo's a guy that's come in and had such an immediate impact on everyone around here, staff and player alike," Baldelli said. "I think he's an extraordinarily talented individual who will rise to that occasion of pitching the first game of the season for us."
While Arraez might not be there to provide offensive support for Lopez, shortstop Carlos Correa will be after he saw free-agent deals with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets fall through due to concerns with his physical.
Correa came back to the Twins on a six-year, $200 million contract after hitting .291 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs with Minnesota a season ago. He will be one of the many challenges for Royals right-hander Zack Greinke (4-9, 3.68 ERA in 2022).
Greinke is seeking better results against the Twins in 2023 after going 0-4 with a 4.07 ERA in five starts against them last season.
It wasn't just Greinke who struggled against Minnesota, as Kansas City went 7-12 against its division rival last year. The Twins were one of many teams to find success against the Royals, whose 65-97 record led to a fifth-place finish in the AL Central. It was the second worst record in the entire AL.
But with a young lineup featuring shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., catcher MJ Melendez and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino -- all of whom are under the age of 26 -- first-year manager Matt Quatraro sees better days ahead.
"We all kind of came up together, so you want to go out and prove that you're supposed to be here," Witt said. "You want to keep going, keep working to get better each and every day. We have some things to prove, for sure."
Quatraro, who served as the Rays' bench coach for the past three seasons, was impressed with how his team established chemistry during the spring.
"A lot of things have been cool to watch -- how the staff has kind of gelled quickly, how the players have responded to the staff, how everybody's kind of gotten along," Quatraro said on Bally Sports Kansas City. "Really couldn't be happier with the way things have gone."
--Field Level Media