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Lopez turns in no-sweat inning in first Cactus outing

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rockies reliever Wilton Lopez's first Cactus League inning was smooth -- one infield hit, one flyout and two groundball outs during Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Reds. Lopez was cool and calm until he left the game.

After not attempting English at all last season, Lopez, 30, a native of Nicaragua, had a member of the Goodyear Ballpark visiting clubhouse staff to translate, but ventured into some English himself. At the end, he pulled at the front of his teal shirt.

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"Look," he said, smiling and laughing. "I'm sweating."

It'll be a fun year for Lopez and the Rockies if he turns in more no-sweat outings like Saturday's, even if the perspiration comes when being quizzed by the press.

Lopez pitched four seasons for the Astros, a handful of times as the team's closer (11 saves, 10 in 2012), before being traded to the Rockies in 2012. Lopez made 75 appearances, but had a couple of deep slumps and finished 3-4 with a 4.06 ERA. His early struggles can be attributed to some poor luck, but at other times, it was plain poor location.

On Saturday, the sinker that the Rockies traded for was back. Better balance in his delivery -- not leaning backward during his leg kick -- paid dividends by allowing him to throw his sinker down and inside.

Lopez said last year was difficult in part because his father was battling a long illness, and he died in September.

"It was difficult," Lopez said. "I work and my family depends on me."

Manager Walt Weiss at times used Lopez earlier in games to allow him to find a rhythm, but never went away from him. Weiss also often said that Lopez not only made himself available practically every day, but he would ask to be used and even ask to stay in the game after his inning was complete.

"I'm ready," Lopez said. "If they say, 'Lopez, are you ready?' If it's the sixth, the fifth, the third, I'll say, 'OK.' It's the big leagues. I'm happy. Whatever they want. I just want to help the team. If I feel good, I'm ready to go."

The Rockies signed Lopez for one year at $2.2 million to avoid arbitration this year, and he'll be eligible for arbitration again at season's end.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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