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Brewers All-Star pitching prospect Jorge Lopez balances worries for son needing transplant

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MILWAUKEE - One of the Milwaukee Brewers' top prospects is balancing an All-Star season while worrying for his seriously ill son.

Class-A pitcher Jorge Lopez's son, Mikael, is waiting for an intestinal transplant. The 13 month-old boy who has been sick since birth was recently diagnosed with an unknown autoimmune disease.

Mikael has seen doctors in hospitals in Lopez's native Puerto Rico as well as in Miami. He's now living in Miami, about three hours south from where Lopez plays for the Brevard County Manatees.

On the mound, the 21-year-old Lopez is having a good year. He was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game earlier this month in Minnesota.

The Manatees are holding a charity golf tournament next month to help Lopez pay for mounting medical and travel bills.

General manager Kyle Smith said the idea for the "18 for 18" golf outing sprung from a late-night conversation with manager Joe Ayrault following a recent game. Lopez wears No. 18.

Lopez expressed deep gratitude to his team and an organization that prides itself on creating a family atmosphere.

"One of the best things is pray for my son," Lopez said by phone from Space Coast Stadium in Melbourne, Florida. "That's one of the best things I want."

Drafted in the second round in 2011, Lopez is rated the 10th-best prospect in the Brewers organization by MLB.com. He is 8-6 with a 4.29 ERA in 18 starts this year, though he has struggled in his last three starts after allowing at least five earned runs in each outing.

Ayrault said the right-hander is just going through a stretch that will turn into valuable learning experience. Given the situation off the field, the skipper said Lopez "has handled himself unbelievably."

Several months of visits to see doctors included a trip to a children's hospital in Puerto Rico. Lopez is allowed to leave the team when needed to travel to Miami to see his son.

"I can't imagine what he's going through ... but he's getting through it," Ayrault said.

For Lopez, being at the ballpark helps.

"I try to work hard every morning, take a deep breath, pray for (Mikael), pray for my family," he said. "That helps me a lot. When I come here to work, I try to forget everything."

The last time Lopez pitched three days ago, his wife, Karla, travelled north and brought Mikael. Lopez is next scheduled to start Thursday.

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