Infielder Felipe Lopez was in the Red Sox clubhouse Saturday afternoon, happy to be in a comfortable situation at the tail end of what he hinted was a tumultuous year.
The 30-year-old Lopez signed a free agent deal with Boston on Friday after vetoing a waiver claim made for him by San Diego. He was released by St. Louis earlier in the week, ending an up-and-down campaign with the Cardinals that saw the one-time All-Star on the outs.
St. Louis signed him on the eve of spring training and used him in a part-time role, a capacity in which Lopez was not entirely pleased after a 2009 season that saw him bat .310 with 38 doubles and 88 runs scored between Arizona and Milwaukee.
"What happened to me in the offseason, that was kind of tough for me," Lopez said of waiting so long to be signed and then not being guaranteed starts. "Being the last guy signed especially with the year I had. That was kind of tough for me. Being a backup player after the year I had, that was tough.
"Just not playing, that was tough."
Lopez may have had a chance to play some with San Diego over the final week-plus but he said he did not feel comfortable being part of any form of playoff celebration when he did not contribute much. The Padres enter play Saturday one-half game behind San Francisco in the N.L. West and one-half game ahead of Atlanta in the wild card race.
Either way, Lopez would not be eligible for a postseason roster. In Boston, he saw a chance to be with players he knows and respects, and potentially generate a relationship that can last into 2011.
"This is a winning ballclub," said Lopez, who hit just .231 with seven homers in 109 games in St. Louis this year. "There are a lot of veterans here that have been here a long time. They're leaders.
As for whether he will be a long-term member of the organization?
"I don't know. I guess that's all up to me, How I perform or handle myself."
One thing that will help is if Lopez falls in line. There were reports of him being tardy and not having the best of attitudes during his difficult year in St. Louis. He said he holds no hard feelings for the Cardinals organization and learned from the trying time.
It wasn't always easy for him to stay quiet.
"I didn't complain one time. I should've, maybe, but I'm not the type to," Lopez said. "I just shut up and play."
Lopez was brought on board in the immediate term to give the Sox some infield depth. Marco Scutaro remains hampered by a sore shoulder and the club is uncertain how much he will play over the final nine games, manager Terry Francona said.
And if Lopez, who is a free agent after the season, signs with another club then Boston may receive a compensatory draft pick.
Regardless of where he finds himself in 2011, Lopez hopes to regain the everyday role he held with various teams from 2005 to 2009.
"Man, I just like playing," he said. "I like playing. When I'm in there on a consistent basis I'm a pretty good player.
Indeed, Lopez has had some nice moments in an otherwise uneven career. He was an All-Star in 2005 with Cincinnati, batting .291 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs. He batted .385 (60-for-156) in 43 games with the Cardinals in 2008 and recorded an OPS of .810 in '09.
Francona said there is no guarantee as to when and how often Lopez plays for Boston.
"We'll get him out there a little bit and move him around. We'd like to watch him play a little bit," Francona said. "I just don't know how much he will."
Lopez has played every position in the infield, the majority at shortstop, and a small handful in the outfield in his 10 seasons in the bigs.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP