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Lopez receives deserving All-Star nod

Lopez receives deserving All-Star nod

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CINCINNATI -- Felipe Lopez began the season as a reserve on the Reds.

Now he'll be a reserve on the National League All-Star squad.

Lopez will be making his first appearance at the All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

"Coming into the season, on Opening Day if you'd a said, 'We're going to have one guy make the All-Star team, who's it going to be?' [Lopez] probably would've been 20th on our list," manager Jerry Narron said. "To start the season and not be a starter, and to come on and make the All-Star team is just outstanding."

To begin this season, Lopez wasn't even slated as the No. 1 shortstop on the team. Splitting time with Rich Aurilia, Lopez played well enough in Spring Training to be considered for the starting role. But come Opening Day, he was on the bench.

Since then, he's become arguably the No. 1 shortstop in the National League.

"I was excited," Lopez said of the All-Star bid. "It was a good feeling. I think I deserve the chance, and I'm honored to be picked."

When the season began, Lopez admitted that an All-Star Game selection didn't even cross his mind. But that doesn't mean he's shied away from the nomination.

"My goal is to, everyday, just keep grinding," he said. "In the past, I've tried to do too much, and it's too much pressure. ... I just [made sure I was] ready at all times. Even when I wasn't playing, I still stayed ready for whenever they gave me the chance."

Lopez got that chance.

And he wasted no time making it clear that he was ready for the spotlight.

Lopez made the most of the scant playing opportunities he received in the season's first month. And by the time he launched his first career grand slam on April 27 in Chicago, it was becoming clear he deserved a regular spot in the lineup.

It was only a matter of days after that.

Back on May 4, Lopez was slotted into the starting lineup for good, but at second base. After Aurilia went down with a hamstring injury on May 11, Lopez became the team's regular shortstop.

Even his current manager, and then-bench coach, Narron took notice of how fast Lopez took off.

All-Star Game 2005

"The thing that I liked to see early in the year, when he wasn't playing, was that he was working hard," Narron said. "He didn't get down. I think he realized that at some point he was going to get a chance to play, and he was doing everything he could to stay ready.

"His biggest thing was just, early in the year, he stayed ready and didn't pout and came here ready to play."

And in case you don't want to take Narron's word for it, just look at Lopez's numbers.

Nearing the break, Lopez sits atop the list of shortstops in the National League in most statistical categories. Heading into Sunday's selection, he had six more home runs than any shortstop in the league (14), 14 more RBIs (48), and his slugging percentage was 49 points higher (.565).

The 25-year-old Lopez finally developed into the player the Reds thought they were getting in 2002, when they acquired him from the Blue Jays as part of a four-team trade. It was three years in the making, but it was only a matter of time before Lopez made his mark in the Reds organization.

"Last year, he showed that he could be a pretty good offensive player," Narron said. "And he's just progressed on what he did a year ago. At shortstop, he's done a very good job for us. He's had a couple bad games that have run up his error total. But the big thing with Felipe is to continue to progress, not only with the bat and the glove, but just mentally."

Of course, it helps that Lopez had a little guidance from a former All-Star.

Lopez's selection comes in the wake of one of the Reds' all-time greatest players leaving the team. Barry Larkin got the opportunity to play with Lopez, and it was time well spent, Lopez said.

"He just helped me a little bit here and there, mostly mentally," Lopez said. "We just talked about life, mostly."

Well, life and baseball, of course.

Narron knows the value of having an All-Star on the team to help the younger players.

"One thing that I think was a great benefit to [Lopez] was having Barry here last year," Narron said. "I think Barry really helped his progression. I know Barry talked with him a great deal. He was with him all the time."

Now, the 25-year-old Lopez will have All-Star experience to pass on to other players.

And when asked if Lopez had an All-Star clause in his contract, the shortstop just shrugged with a smile.

"I didn't even know if I'd be starting this season," he said.

Kyle Jepson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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