CHICAGO -- When Chicago Cubs starting catcher Welington Castillo injured his rib in the first inning of Friday's 14-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it opened the door for rookie Rafael Lopez to take over.
The only problem? All world lefty Clayton Kershaw was on the mound.
"We actually faced him in a rehab start at the beginning of the year in Double-A," Lopez said after the game. "It was really cool."
It was even cooler when Lopez earned his first major league RBI, first hit and first walk all against the likely Cy Young winner in the National League. Lopez, a 16th-round draft pick in 2011, had a memorable day.
"I was definitely surprised to get back in there so quickly," Lopez said of Castillo's quick exit. "Even though we came out on the wrong end of the stick, it was a good experience; something I'll remember the rest of my life."
He says he'll give the ball he hit to center for a first-inning sacrifice fly to his mother, and he'll frame his third-inning single off Kershaw and give it to his father. But not before teammate John Baker tried to fool him by pretending to throw the ball into the stands after it came back to the dugout.
"He told me he pulled the switcheroo," Lopez said. "I should have expected that."
Baker threw a different ball to the fans, saving Lopez's first hit for the rookie.
Single-A on the move
Lopez's former team, the short season Boise Hawks, will move to Eugene, Oregon as the Cubs complete their Class-A affiliate restructuring. The Cubs signed a deal with the Eugene Emeralds that runs through the 2016 season.
The Cubs already announced single-A teams formerly in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Kane County, Illinois, have moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and South Bend, Indiana, respectively. The prevailing reasons are an upgrade in facilities and in Daytona's case, better weather.
The Cubs' short season Class-A team plays from mid-June until the end of August.