Lopez lands Minor League deal
Former Atlanta catcher to compete for backup role
ATLANTA -- Javy Lopez's determined dedication has put him in position to return to the Majors. Whether or not he realizes his goal of making the Braves roster as a backup catcher will be determined when he rejoins his original team at Spring Training.Based on the positive reports he's received from bench coach Chino Cadahia, Braves general manager Frank Wren decided to sign Lopez to a one-year Minor League contract and invited him to come to Spring Training to battle for a roster spot. "It's a no-lose situation," Wren said. "If he can do it, that would be great, because we all know Javy has good power and can provide offense. Even the numbers he put up in 2006 were good, especially if you put them in the context of a backup catcher." After being released by the Red Sox near the end of the 2006 season and again by the Rockies in Spring Training this year, there was reason to wonder if Lopez's career was complete. But the 37-year-old veteran, who was a fan favorite while playing in Atlanta from 1992-2003, kept himself in good shape and has spent the past month working on his defensive skills with Cadahia. "People might be hesitant because he missed a year," Cadahia said. "But I think he looks better than he did when he was last with us." Three times a week over the course of the past five weeks, Lopez has driven more than an hour to meet Cadahia at a high school field in suburban Atlanta to work on the mechanical aspects of his defense. Even on Monday, when early-morning temperatures were near the freezing mark, Lopez went through a 90-minute workout with Cadahia, who agreed to work with the veteran catcher at the request of Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, who is one of Lopez's closest friends. "This is the first time that he's really taken two months to really focus on his defense," Wren said. Given the limited availability on the free-agent and trade markets, the Braves would like to see Lopez prove he's improved his defensive skills to the point where they'd be comfortable using him as All-Star catcher Brian McCann's backup. But there's also a chance Lopez could earn a roster spot as a right-handed bat off of the bench.
During his 15-season career, Lopez has batted .287 with 260 homers and a .491 slugging percentage. After hitting .328 with a career-high 43 homers and 109 RBIs with the Braves in 2003, he signed with the Orioles and remained with them until they traded him to the Red Sox in August of 2006.Since leaving Atlanta, Lopez has hit .288 with 46 homers and a .459 slugging percentage. He was released by the Rockies after hitting .375 for them in the Cactus League last spring. "He's been working hard and wants to play," Cadahia said. Along with Lopez, the Braves also announced the names of five other players who will come to Spring Training as non-roster invitees. They are: catchers Jean Boscan and Corky Miller, outfielder Joe Borchard, right-handed pitcher Jorge Campillo and infielder Javier Guzman. Among this group, Lopez seemingly has the best chance of earning a spot on the 25-man roster.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.