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Offseason swing changes turn Bisons' Raffy Lopez into new man

Buffalo Bisons catcher Raffy Lopez spent all offseason re-working his swing after hitting a career-low .213 in Triple-A last season.

It looks like the rebuilding project was a big success. Lopez hit his third home run in nine games Tuesday in leading Buffalo to a 6-3 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs.

Lopez, 29, has given the Bisons a big boost since being called up from Double-A New Hampshire on May 7. He’s hitting .433 with 11 runs batted in.

It’s a surprise given how much he struggled for Louisville in 2016. He had hit .281 in his first two Triple-A seasons but saw his average plummet almost 70 points with the Cincinnati Reds farm team. His on-base average was only .262.

“I didn’t do well last year at all,” Lopez said. “I thought I could do a lot better, and I thought there was a lot left in the tank. I just took a good long look at changing my approach.”

Lopez moved to St. Louis and worked there with a hitting instructor from October to mid-February, when he was signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays.

“My wife is doing a residency out there, so I followed her and happened to meet a guy, and I liked what he taught,” Lopez said. “A lot of it is working with the data. I’m able to look at the data on launch angles and kind of find how I want to hit the ball. I know if I hit it at a certain speed, I will have a good result.”

“I went into the offseason, and I only took three weeks off from hitting,” Lopez said. “I tried to find a bat path that works best for me. I think I found it.”

Lopez tied Tuesday’s game, 3-3, with a solo home run in the sixth inning off Syracuse starter Kyle McGowin. It was to the deepest part of Coca-Cola Field, clearing the wall just a few feet left of the 404-foot sign in center field.

“It was a fastball away,” Lopez said. “I was a little out in front of him earlier in the game, so I was thinking off-speed, just to keep my weight back and not get out in front of him and I just reacted. I just tried to put a consistent swing.”

Lopez has seven homers in 23 games, counting four he hit for New Hampshire. That’s already a career high. He hit one home run each of the previous two seasons.

Bisons manager Bobby Meacham is equally happy with Lopez’s defensive work so far.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked and more,” Meacham said. “He caught those four or five games in a row when we only had one catcher and was outstanding in all of them. He works with the pitchers really well. Oh and by the way, he’s hitting 4-something.”

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