All winter, the Cardinals were looking to add a final piece to the puzzle. The team they had assembled was a talented group in all phases of the game. But something was missing. There were holes in the Redbird armor. They lacked depth in key areas and still needed a threat off the bench.
All winter, the answer seemed obvious. Felipe Lopez. He played in St. Louis before. He could play multiple defensive positions and play them well. And he was a good hitter who consistently made contact. But as Spring Training neared, the answer was becoming more and more of a question mark. The Cards may just move on and pocket the extra money. Scott Boras was getting in the way.
All winter, Felipe Lopez was looking for a team. He just wanted to play. But Scott Boras wanted more money for his client. He got in the way of Lopez signing a deal. Lopez was a highly valued free agent on the market this year. But the interest was seeming to die down as winter turned to spring.
Then, Lopez fired Boras. And the interest regained life.
St. Louis wanted Lopez. And Lopez wanted St. Louis.
The two sides got a deal done and the Cardinals roster was coming together nicely. Lopez could play shortstop if Brendan Ryan wasn’t ready. He could play third if David Freese wasn’t up to the task. If Ryan Ludwick or Matt Holliday got hurt, Lopez would roam the outfield too. The Cards had an insurance policy. And a bat off the bench. Before Allen Craig and Nick Stavinoha proved to be valid options, the Cards bench was thin. Lopez, who hit .300 over the past few seasons, made it look a lot better. The Cardinals loved Lopez for his versatility and proven bat.
On Friday, the Cardinals got even more than they bargained for. The utility man hit a grand slam in the seventh to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Mets. Add clutch to the list of skills on his resume. Or highlight it. His track record with the bases juiced is among the best in the majors. Lopez has hit .368 and driven in 93 runs in 94 at-bats. Pretty impressive for a utility man who has bounced around the majors.
It wasn’t just a power display from Lopez, either. He lived up to his versatile calling card Friday. He started at second base for St. Louis and then slid over to short for the final inning. In a pressure situation due to another Ryan Franklin adventure in the ninth, Lopez got speedsters Luis Castillo and Jose Reyes on tricky plays. In the field and at the plate, this is exactly what St. Louis had in mind for Flip. In his best performance thus far, he remembers how great it is to play in St. Louis.
While there are no definite places for him everyday, Tony La Russa will find somewhere for him to contribute. One day could be at second. The next at shortstop. The outfield. A pinch-hitting appearance. Wherever he is, he’ll be helping the Cardinals in their quest for a championship.
Then, he’ll be able to add another title to his resume. But that’s a long way off from now.
Carpenter gets the job done
-Chris Carpenter was dominant in seven innings to get the win for St. Louis. Following a less than stellar outing in Milwaukee, he came out firing. The Cards ace fanned 10 and allowed an unearned run in his best start of the season. The start is one of many great performances by the starting rotation. Dave Duncan has his magic working well early in the season. In four games at home, the starters have surrendered just two earned runs. Now, if only the bullpen could take some notes.