ANAHEIM, Calif. – Jose Lopez got the message and his spot back in the lineup.
Lopez started at second base and batted fifth Tuesday night when the Seattle Mariners opened a two-game road series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite having homered in his previous at-bat, Lopez was removed from Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay in the bottom half of the fourth inning after making an error on a stolen base play in the top half of the inning.
Neither manager Jim Riggleman nor Lopez wanted to publicly address the benching after Sunday’s loss, but by the time the team returned to action Tuesday after an off day Monday, both sides said the matter was resolved and no longer an issue.
Riggleman said he talked with Lopez and thinks the 24-year-old got the point about being focused and giving a full effort all the time.
“I think he does,” Riggleman said. “Time will tell. Jose’s a very talented player. We don’t want this to become a distraction. We’ve dealt with it and it’s over.”
Lopez had little to say about the matter.
“I don’t want to say nothing about that,” Lopez said, adding that “I’m OK” and the lesson he learned was “play hard.”
Sunday’s play on which Lopez failed to catch catcher Jeff Clement’s throw to second was the latest in a recent series of defensive lapses by Lopez. Riggleman talked to the team about its sloppy play after Saturday’s loss, so when that message didn’t appear to set in with Lopez, Riggleman decided it was time to take action and prove he was serious.
“That play goes into center field and I said, ‘You know what? Everybody’s gotta get the message,” Riggleman said. “So I made that change and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Riggleman also made sure to indicate he is pleased with Lopez’s overall contribution this season. Lopez entered Tuesday’s game tied for the team lead with a .310 batting average. His 146 hits ranked fourth in the American League. He also had 10 home runs, 64 RBI, and ranked in the top 10 in the league with 31 doubles. He added an RBI-single in Tuesday’s three-run third inning.
“He’s having a heck of a year,” Riggleman said.
“He’s actually really making strides defensively. But you know – it’s a phrase you hear probably more in football than baseball – you just can’t take plays off. Every pitch, you owe it to the pitcher. ... You just can’t take any plays off and that’s a hard thing over 162 games.”
Pitcher Erik Bedard, on the disabled list with tightness in his left shoulder since early July, continued his rehab with another bullpen session Tuesday. Although the workout was encouraging, Riggleman said he is unsure about a timetable for Bedard’s return.
“He had a good session today,” Riggleman said. “He threw two days in a row – Saturday and Sunday – had (Monday) off. Today, he stretched it out a bit in the bullpen. He said he felt good. He’ll throw again (Wednesday).”
Young talent on display
The third annual Mariners Cup featuring some of the top high school prospects from the Northwest and California begins today with games at Everett Memorial Stadium, home of the Mariners’ Single-A Everett Aqua Sox. The six-game event continues Thursday and Friday at Safeco Field, where tickets are $5..
Among the participants is Beau Amaral, son of former Mariner Rich Amaral, who will be a coach for the wood-bat event.
In the second game of the short two-game series today, Seattle will send Felix Hernandez (7-7, 2.94 ERA) against the Angels' Ervin Santana (13-5, 3.45) at 7:05 p.m. The game will be carried on FSN.