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Lopez following Larkin's lead

Lopez's breakout leads to All-Star Game

DETROIT -- Working out under the Florida sun, preparing for the season, Felipe Lopez thought about making the club.

That would be the Cincinnati Reds, not the National League All-Star team.

"To tell you the truth, I was competing for the job," the Reds' shortstop said on Monday, describing his Spring Training experience. "I didn't think about the All-Star Game at all."

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Lopez returns to the All-Star festivities after participating in the 2001 Futures Game, a showcase for prospects.

Cincinnati's lone representative at the Midsummer Classic has finally begun delivering on the promise that made him the eighth overall pick by Toronto in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.

"It just comes down to the experience," said Lopez, acquired from the Blue Jays as part of a four-team trade in 2002. "All the struggles that I've been through, in Toronto, it just made me stronger."

A more mature Lopez, who said he first considered being an All-Star selection last month, credited his success to a different hitting approach.

"I was so aggressive at the plate that I swung at everything," Lopez said. "Now, I'm more patient."

Batting .304 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs, Lopez has stepped in for the retired Barry Larkin, who played in nine All-Star Games and became a mentor to the 25-year-old shortstop.

"The minute I walked in to Spring Training, we just clicked," Lopez said. "He was so helpful and treated me like a little brother. And the friendship just grew as the season went on."

Larkin, now a member of the Washington Nationals' front office, preached patience.

All-Star Game 2005

"That's a lot of pressure, big shoes to fill," Lopez said. "That's one of the things he used to tell me a lot, 'You cannot try to be me. What I've done took me 19 years to do.'"

Lopez's first All-Star Game will arrive on Tuesday night under the bright lights of Comerica Park.

"I knew, one day, I'd break through and figure it out," Lopez said.

Patrick Mooney 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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