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Mariners Lopez gets attention with WBC performance


Mariners Lopez gets attention with WBC performance
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - Jose Lopez carried the Seattle Mariners anemic offense for a time last season, setting career highs in nearly every major offensive category.

Because he did it on a team headed for 101 miserable losses, few noticed.

Plenty paid attention, however, to the World Baseball Classic, where the second baseman hit .417 for Venezuela and was selected to the all-tournament squad.

"It's what I saw last year," Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "The way he played in the classic was the way he played for us last year."

Lopez was part of a Venezuelan team littered with major league talent that reached the WBC semifinals before getting routed by Korea. For all the names that dotted the Venezuela's lineup, Lopez was the lone representative from his country on the all-tournament team.

"It was the first time proving (myself)," Lopez said.

The WBD performance was a carry-over from last season and strong play during the Venezuelan Winter League.

Lopez batted .297 in Seattle, hit 17 homers and drove in 89 runs. Then he played 28 games in his home country over the winter, hitting .349 and driving in 34 runs.

"He's so mature now. He knows what he's doing, and he's going to have a good year," said Venezuelan pitcher Felix Hernandez, his Seattle teammate. "He's got more confidence, and he knows what he has to do. He knows what he can do."

Despite his improvements at the plate, the 25-year-old continues to face challenges at second base.

Never considered the most gifted infielder, he has struggled to improve his defense and has been criticized for his concentration. The Mariners even used Lopez at first base for a time last season. And new general manager Jack Zduriencik acquired Ronny Cedeno this offseason to push Lopez and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.

Lopez, however, insists the Cedeno trade was nothing more than bringing in someone to occasionally give a break to himself and Betancourt.

No matter how new manager Don Wakamatsu juggles his middle infielders, Lopez simply wants to be on the field.

"I want to play no matter what position. You want to move me to first base, I'll move to first base. You want me to stay at second I'll stay at second base," Lopez said. "I don't feel any pressure."


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 28, 2009

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