How Johnny Cueto helped the Braves’ Reynaldo Lopez add to his routine

Braves relief pitcher Reynaldo Lopez throws a pitch during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Braves relief pitcher Reynaldo Lopez throws a pitch during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

BRADENTON, Fla. — Back home in San Pedro de Macoris, a city in the Dominican Republic, Reynaldo Lopez works out with Johnny Cueto, who also is from there. At 8 a.m. on offseason mornings, they go to a facility about 20 minutes away.

Of course, the two pitchers would throw together. But Lopez also has taken something else from Cueto.

“He loves to run up the stairs,” Lopez said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Cueto, a World Series champion and two-time All-Star starting pitcher.


“Oh, yeah,” Lopez said. “A lot.”

Cueto runs up and down the stadium steps. He would do it the day after starts, for about 25 minutes. It is part of his offseason routine.

Lopez began incorporating it into his own offseason program. During the winter, Lopez will run the stadium steps at the facility two or three times a week, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Lopez will run up and down the steps on the day after an outing. It helps him build endurance, obviously, but it serves another purpose.

“It’s kind of like flushing it from your body, then get ready for the next outing,” he said.

Cueto, who debuted with the Reds in 2008, has pitched in 368 career games – 363 of them starts. He has a 3.50 lifetime ERA. For years, he was one of the sport’s top starters.

This spring, Lopez is competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. The question is this: If he pitches well as a starter in camp, do the Braves believe he fits best as a starter or reliever?

For now, one of Lopez’s best traits is this: He trains hard every offseason. He works out like he’ll throw more than a reliever’s workload. This includes running the steps, which strengthens his legs and stamina.

During the offseason, Lopez throws long toss three times a week. “I love it,” he said. “I’ve been doing this my whole life, so why (would) I change?” After playing long toss, he throws 20 to 25 pitches on flat ground.

The Braves are stretching out Lopez. But he also feels he can handle a starter’s workload – after all, he didn’t change his routine this offseason because, well, he’s always believed he trains hard enough to throw like a starting pitcher.

And stretching him out now makes sense.

“It’s easier to be a starter and then move me to the bullpen,” Lopez said. “It’s kind of difficult to be a reliever then push you as a starter during the season. … Right now, I feel good, that’s the good part.”

Lopez hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2020, but he’s become a better pitcher since then. He could open the season in the Braves’ rotation.

If he does, he certainly will be prepared for all of the stress it would put on his body.

He can thank Cueto, who helped with some of that.

“He loves to run up the stairs,” Lopez said. “All the time.”

Snitker out sick

Braves manager Brian Snitker came down with a stomach bug. He missed Tuesday’s game.

Bench coach Walt Weiss managed the Braves in Bradenton against the Pirates.

Remember him?

In December, the Braves acquired left-hander Marco Gonzales in the trade that netted Jarred Kelenic from Seattle. To get Kelenic, the Braves needed to take on the bad contracts of Gonzales and infielder Evan White.

A couple of days after the deal, the Braves flipped Gonzales to Pittsburgh. On Tuesday, he started against the Braves.

Sean Murphy – here to catch Chris Sale – was the only starter in the Braves’ lineup. Still, the Braves scored three runs on six hits off Gonzales across 1-2/3 innings. Murphy hit two run-scoring singles.

The Braves eventually lost to the Pirates 13-4 at LECOM Park.”

Former first-rounder makes spring training debut

Owen Murphy, the Braves’ first-round pick in 2022, pitched in his first-ever spring training game Tuesday.

Murphy allowed four earned runs over two-thirds of an inning. Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a grand slam off Murphy, who gave up three hits and issued a walk.

Still, it was good for the 20-year-old Murphy, who had two strikeouts, to get a taste of a big-league spring game.