By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — Jose Lopez had stood at third base for so long without getting a ground ball this week, it seemed the Seattle Mariners were pitching away from contact.
Contact with Lopez.
He played five innings of an intrasquad game Monday and nobody hit a grounder his way. And, in Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the San Francisco Giants, he stood there another four innings without a sniff of a batted ball.
Oh, there was the short-hop throw that catcher Adam Moore nearly impaled into Lopez’s sternum in the fourth inning, but outside that, he wasn’t much more than an on-field spectator.
“Through the first four innings, I was thinking, ‘No ground balls today, too?’” Lopez said.
Then, with two outs in Lopez’s fifth and final inning Wednesday, he got what he’d been wanting for all week, a grounder. The Giants’ Kevin Frandsen hit a fungo-perfect bouncer that Lopez easily fielded before making the throw to first base.
“Lopey played an outstanding third base on the one play,” manager Don Wakamatsu deadpanned.
Lopez left the game after that, but didn’t finish his day until another 15 minutes of individual work at third base on a practice field behind the stadium.
“It was like my first day in the big leagues,” Lopez said. “Nervous, Nervous. But when you catch the ball and make an out, you’re not nervous anymore and you want more. I want more ground balls at third base. I want hard ground balls to get my eyes ready, my feet, everything.”
If nothing else, the past week has been an adventure for Lopez, who has been the Mariners’ regular season baseman since 2006. The move to third base is an experiment at this point as the Mariners see how he adapts to the new position.
Wakamatsu said Lopez would play at least two weeks of the exhibition season, on an every-other-game basis, before any decision is made on whether he’ll stay there.
Asked if he’s starting to like third base, Lopez said he didn’t know.
“But I’ll be there,” he said. “I’m a little scared right now. I got a ground ball today and I’ll be ready tomorrow. I want to play. I want to play every day.”