Lopez Needs Bounce Back Spring To Make Tribe
Each week through Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and break down the players in camp for the Indians at Goodyear, Arizona and examine their potential roles for the season to come. This week, we kick off our Goodyear coverage by breaking down some of the 22 spring invitees invited to big league camp by the Tribe.
By Craig Gifford
The 2011 Indians were hurt by injuries. In an attempt to avoid the same scenario in 2012, Tribe management signed a multitude of veteran free agents.
One of those veteran free agents is Jose Lopez. Lopez, an infielder, has had success at the Major League level, although none recent.
When the Indians signed Lopez as a minor league free agent, it was with the hope that the 28-year-old could regain his form of 2009. That season, as a member of the Seattle Mariners, Lopes blasted 25 home runs with 96 RBI and a .272 batting average. Lopez fell apart in 2010 with just 10 home runs and a .239 batting average. Last season, with Florida, Lopez hit rock bottom, playing just 82 games, with a .216 batting average.
The numbers the last couple years are not good, but the Indians are taking their chances on a player who has had a bit of success in his eight years in the majors. While the 2009 campaign was good to Lopez, he did have 17 jacks and a .297 average in 2008. He has not been a one-hit-wonder.
A huge reason the Indians signed Lopez is their depth in the middle of the infield. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is locked into a spot on the team. Second baseman, and 2011 rookie, Jason Kipnis is all but assured a starting job when spring training ends. Beyond those two, however, the depth is minimal.
Jason Donald is the odds-on-favorite, among internal candidates, to nab the middle infield spot out of preseason. Donald was injured most of last year. However, one of the players from the Cliff Lee deal showed spurts, enough so, in 2011 that he deserves a long look.
Cord Phelps, another middle infielder, was a rookie last year. He struggled in his first tour of duty with the Tribe and of probably needs some more time in Columbus.
For Lopez, the biggest competition to getting back to the majors is in the form of Donald. Donald is on the 40-man roster. Lopez is not. Lopez will have to show glimpses of 2009 for Tribe brass to go with a player whom the team would have to cut someone for.
Lopez has shown the ability in the past. For a player to make the team as a reserve, he would have to show skills that few possess. As that is unlikely, Donald is probably the favorite to keep his spot on the roster. A healthy Donald still means Phelps is a backup in the minors. Lopez is talented, but a long shot at best.
Photo: Associated Press