Today was the first of many workouts to come for Jose Lopez at third base. Lopez met yesterday with manager Don Wakamatsu after reading newspaper suggestions a few weeks back that he’d get some work at third. He wanted to hear from the manager face to face and was told that yes, indeed, the club would like to see how he looks there.
This is the time to do these types of experiments. Lopez will get work on groundballs and his throwing over the next week or so before they start to play games down here. Wakamatsu has known for a while he wanted to try this out but waited until he could sit and talk to Lopez before breaking the news to him.
Lopez said the discussion “went back and forth” and in the end, he agreed to try it.
“I’ll try to catch ground balls at third base and see what happens at spring training, play in a couple of games,” Lopez said. “If i like it, I like it. I’ll try.”
And if he doesn’t like it?
“Then I’ll go to the manager’s office and tell him I don’t like it.”
Lopez added: “If we like it, we talk. If we don’t like it, I’m going to play second base.”
The Mariners are cautioning that this is just in the experimental stage for now. They know Chone Figgins can handle second base, so having him know what his position is for now isn’t that big a deal. But they want a gauge on whether Lopez can play third.
Lopez added that the switch could be what’s best for the team. He said he expected to be asked to play third once he saw that Figgins had been signed.
“Figgins is a good guy and quick,” he said. “He’s got better range. And we need it. I’ve got a better arm than Figgins at third base, especally with a diving catch. But it’s no big deal. I’ll wait for the games and see how I’m feeling in the games.”
Lopez has played third base at winter ball before, though this year, he played second in Venezuela. It took him a while today to get used to making the longer throws, which he worked on for onl six minutes.
There will be more work in days to come. Lopez also said the hard smashes to third get on him a lot quicker than at second and that will take getting used to.
“Taking balls in batting practice is no big deal,” he said. “But I want to play in a game and see what happens.”
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was on-hand, along with the team’s other top brass, to see Lopez taking grounders during batting practice.
“We’re going to look at it and see,” he said, as Lopez scooped grounders a few feet away. “There’s nothing etched in stone right now. We’re just looking to see what our different options are.”
Zduriencik had said at the winter meetings in December that he’d like Figgins to know what position he’d be playing once spring training began. Asked if he’d changed his mind about that, Zduriencik replied that it wasn’t that big a deal.
“I think guys buy in to what’s best for the team,” he said. “Chone knows he’s going to be in the infield. It’s just a matter of where. Again, we’re just looking. All it is is a look-see.”
Zduriencik added that: “There are a lot of variables. Again, I don’t want to say too much about it right now, because again, all we’re doing is seeing how it looks.”
Lots to talk about tonight on Geoff Baker Live! at 6 p.m. Pacific time.