“For me, it’s very important to win this job and to stay here (with the Reds) for a long time. This is a team I would like to spend all my career with.”
The majority of Lopez’s big-league experience – 138 of 272 career games – has come while wrapped in a Reds uniform as Barry Larkin’s backup.
But with Larkin retired, and Anderson Machado rehabbing his knee following offseason surgery, this is a two-man competition between a player trying to establish himself and one who did so years ago.
Building on the offensive success experienced and defensive consistency shown during his second stint with the Reds last season will go a ways in aiding Lopez’s bid to start.
“He’s going to get every opportunity,” Reds general manager Dan O’Brien said Sunday. “It’s a matter of making the most of it in spring training and during the regular season.
“It isn’t what I would call a make-or-break type scenario. But we are expecting him to elevate his game to a more consistent level.”
Because Lopez knew this opportunity was coming, he used the offseason to prepare for it vigorously.
“He came in ready to compete for that job,” said Reds first base coach Randy Whisler, who also serves as the team’s infield instructor. “He has a different attitude.
“He knows his situation. But he’s given himself every opportunity by going about it the right way.”
Much of Lopez’s offseason time was spent working out with Larkin, Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein and other major-league shortstop prospects in Orlando.
He then reported to Reds camp in the best shape of his life.
I see no reason not to give the SS job to Lopez outright. Aurilia is on a downhill slide, and I can’t imagine him out-producing what Larkin would have given us this year anyway.
Lopez is young, he’s had success in the minors, and he looked pretty good last season after being recalled. He’s the type of shortstop who could be here for years if he pans out.
If he doesn’t pan out — well, shouldn’t this be the year when we see if he’s going to pan out or not? If he doesn’t work out, you still have Aurilia as a stop-gap measure. And heck, if he doesn’t work out, there’s reason to believe that he’ll still put up numbers equal to or better than Aurilia will put up.
I can see not one single valid reason not to give Lopez the starting job out of spring training. Perhaps you guys can enlighten me…but until then, I’m a big Lopez fan.