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03/30/08 6:59 PM ET
Lopez tabbed as Mariners' No. 2 hitter
Second baseman had a good spring after down year in '07
By Bob Sherwin / Special to MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Jose Lopez has won the audition for the No. 2 hitter in the Mariners' lineup.
That was one of the spring uncertainties, as manager John McLaren used a variety of players in that spot. But as the Mariners went through their final workout Sunday before Monday's Opener with Texas, McLaren said he has settled on Lopez.
"I think he's grown up a lot," McLaren said. "I think he's ready to handle it. He's got some pop in his bat, he's got bat control, he can hit behind the runner. He came into camp with such a great attitude. I feel good about Jose."
Lopez struggled last season with a .252 average. He hit .278 this spring. In 2006, Lopez hit .282 while batting in the two hole for most of the season's first half. He also earned an All-Star selection that season.
The Mariners' starting nine will be: CF Ichiro Suzuki, 2B Lopez, 3B Adrian Beltre, 1B Richie Sexson, LF Raul Ibanez, RF Brad Wilkerson, DH Jose Vidro, C Kenji Johjima, and SS Yuniesky Betancourt.
The Rangers have set their lineup for Monday's opener: 2B Ian Kinsler, SS Michael Young, CF Josh Hamilton, 3B Hank Blalock, DH Milton Bradley, RF Marlon Byrd, LF David Murphy, C Gerald Laird and former Mariners 1B Ben Broussard.
Kevin Millwood, who was 10-14 last season, will start for the Rangers. Rangers manager Ron Washington said "we're going to let him go," which means that he could throw 100 pitches, if necessary.
"He never backs off," McLaren added. "I've always respected Millwood, the way he approaches the game."
Ichiro has a .438 career average against Millwood.
The Mariners counter with newly acquired Erik Bedard, who was 2-2 with a 8.63 ERA this spring.
"He had trouble gripping the ball [in Arizona]," McLaren said. "He'll be more accustomed to our mound up here. We won't have the conditions like we did in Arizona. It's cooler here, which pitchers like. He can feel stronger as the game goes along. I'm looking for a huge game from him [Monday]."
Not unexpectedly, right-hand pitcher Anderson Garcia was the final player moved for the Mariners to reach the Opening Day 25-man roster.
Garcia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. It is retroactive to March 21.
Garcia, 27, originally signed by the New York Yankees in 2001, made his Major League debut with Philadelphia last season. He appeared in one game. He has spent parts of seven seasons in the minors with the Mets, Orioles and Philadelphia.
In his Minor League career, Garcia is 29-31 with a 3.85 ERA in 221 games, 39 starts.
One of the spring's best stories, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, did not finish with a happy ending. Despite a 1-0 record and 2.25 ERA in seven official appearances, he was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday.
But the Mariners liked him well enough to make a trade to keep from returning the Rule 5 Draft pick back to Minnesota. Minor League catcher Jair Fernandez was sent to the Twins.
"It was tough [to send him down], McLaren said. "He impressed us. We were able to make a trade. It gives us good insurance at Triple-A. We feel good about having him down there."