TUCSON — When Felipe Lopez is at his best, his one-year, $3.5 million contract looks like a bargain for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The problem is trying to figure out exactly what to expect from the former National League All Star who has been plagued by inconsistency.
"We're excited," Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes said. "He's a switch hitter with some power and speed. I think it's a good complement to our lineup. When he's been good in his career, he's been real good."
Lopez, who will be given every opportunity to become the team's everyday leadoff hitter, has shown flashes of greatness in his eight-year Major League career, hitting 23 home runs in 2005 for the Cincinnati Reds and stealing 44 bases in 2006, when he played for the Reds and Washington Nationals.
Last year, he hit .385 and had a .426 on base percentage in 43 games in a postseason push with the St. Louis Cardinals.
But he also hit just .234 in 100 games with the Nationals before being released in July. Pinpointing the problem is easy for the 28-year-old Lopez.
"Definitely my work ethic," Lopez said. "That was the key for me. I can't put any excuses out there. You can point fingers, but at the end of the day you look in the mirror and that was it. My work ethic."
Lopez said he had a hard time going to the park every day for the Nationals because of communication breakdowns and no clear plan for what his role on the team would be.
"I kind of let that get to me and it was the first time in my career that has happened," Lopez said. "You learn from it, but I'm accountable for everything. I blame myself for letting that get to me and not working the way I was supposed to."
The Diamondbacks hope fielding a contender from opening day through a late-season push for the playoffs will be all the motivation Lopez needs. Lopez will be called upon to replace three-year Diamondback Orlando Hudson, who signed last week with National League West rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said he plans to take a hard look at Lopez in camp before officially anointing Lopez as the team's everyday leadoff hitter, but that is certainly the hope.
Should Lopez provide some stability at the top of the lineup, Melvin said, the team can move shortstop Stephen Drew toward the middle of the lineup to drive in runs.
"With the lineup, it seems like we can do some different things not having Stephen lead off," Melvin said. "I'd like to have him in a more productive spot."