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Lopez likes his chances of sticking in Cleveland

Lopez likes his chances of sticking in Cleveland

Lopez likes his chances of sticking in Cleveland
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jose Lopez had a few teams attempting to sign him over the winter, but he viewed the situation in Cleveland as an opportunity he did not want to pass up. Even if it was just a Minor League contract, the infielder saw a chance to make an impact.

"A couple teams asked me to sign with them," Lopez said on Saturday morning. "Cleveland had more opportunity. I'd have more chances to play first base, second base, third base and designated hitter. And I know the American League.

"They're giving me a chance, and now I'm fighting for a spot."

Just a few years ago, Lopez was a power-hitting second baseman for the Mariners with an All-Star appearance on his resume. This spring, he is trying to revive his career by competing for a job as a utility infielder.

The Tribe added Lopez as a non-roster invitee over the winter, but he appears to have a fan in Indians manager Manny Acta.

"He's a guy who's had success in the big leagues in the past," Acta said. "He had a couple of down years, but he's in very good shape. He played winter ball and did well in winter ball. He's been having some good at-bats for us. He's a guy who could make things interesting."

Over the winter, the 28-year-old Lopez played 43 games for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League and hit .310 (52-for-268) with five home runs, 12 doubles and 24 RBIs. That followed a decent finish to an inconsistent 2011 campaign, split between the Rockies and Marlins. Lopez hit .216 overall, but posted a .273 average in his final 32 games.

Lopez cited sporadic playing time with the Rockies for his poor showing at the plate. He hit .208 in 38 games for Colorado before being released on June 7. The Marlins signed him a couple of days later, and he enjoyed spurts of success. Lopez hit .364 in 20 games between August and September, but then ended the year in a 1-for-21 dry spell.

Lopez said his offensive performance is all about maintaining a sound rhythm in the batter's box. Over the winter, his goal was to find the same type of groove he had offensively in 2009, when he hit .272 with 25 homers, 42 doubles and 96 RBIs across 153 games with Seattle.

Lopez feels he succeeded in that regard.

"I had to play winter ball," Lopez said. "I played two months and I tried getting my rhythm back to how it was in 2009. I did it good in winter ball. And, right now, I feel good."

Four games of Cactus League play is hardly a large enough sample size, but it is worth noting that Lopez has hit .556 (5-for-9) with one homer and one double. In Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Padres at Goodyear Ballpark, Lopez went 1-for-3 as the starter at second base.

During winter ball, Lopez played mainly third base. Last season, he spent 39 games at third, another 20 at second base and eight as a first baseman. With a starting lineup full of left-handed hitters, Cleveland is hoping to field a bench that includes players who offer both versatility and a right-handed bat.

While he is not on the 40-man roster, Lopez fits that mold.

"We can get creative at the end if we need to," Acta said.

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