Infield Starts Give López Shot of Energy

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 20, 2008

MIAMI, April 19 -- When Felipe López walked into the visiting clubhouse at Dolphin Stadium on Friday and Saturday afternoons, he could hardly contain his excitement. Each day, he was in the lineup. Each day, he was leading off.

"That did it for me," López said. "I was like, 'I got this.' I just think this team needs somebody that's going to be energetic and pick up the tempo of the game instead of going through the motions and waiting for somebody to hit a two-run shot."

Through the first three weeks of the Washington Nationals' season, López has just four starts in the infield. He responded Friday by going 3 for 5, then went 2 for 4 in Saturday's 6-5 loss to Florida, a game in which he was charged with two errors. Manager Manny Acta had planned to play López at shortstop Saturday, but Cristian Guzmán -- who is hitting .304 -- convinced Acta he didn't need a day off, so López played second again.

"We know he's capable of doing that," Acta said of López's performance on Friday. "He just struggled last year, and this year hasn't been easy for him."

Lopez, who hit just .245 in 2007, is 0 for 3 as a pinch hitter. He said he is not concentrating on winning his old job back.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I want to go out there and have a game plan. That's the only thing I can control -- being prepared, studying the pitcher before and having a game plan and sticking to it. Whatever happens, happens."

Cordero Regains Some Velocity

Acta inserted Chad Cordero, who didn't throw a pitch over 82 mph Wednesday night in New York, in the seventh inning Saturday when the Nationals trailed 5-3. Cordero's first fastball was 85 mph, and he generally reached 87 -- not as alarmingly slow as he was Wednesday, but still off his normal velocity of 89-91 mph.

Cordero faced only two batters, allowing a soft infield single to Jorge Cantú and retiring Cody Ross on a grounder.

"One more outing, and if he shows that consistency, we should be able to trust him in more important situations," Acta said.

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