One day after it was revealed that the Nationals are close to sending second baseman Jose Vidro to the Mariners for outfielder Chris Snelling and right-hander Emiliano Fruto, pending physicals, Felipe Lopez said he will make the switch from shortstop to second base for Washington in 2007.
Lopez, 26, made the decision last week after talking to general manager Jim Bowden on the phone and manager Manny Acta in a face-to-face meeting in Orlando. It was Bowden who explained to Lopez that Cristian Guzman has no experience at second base and that Lopez was the logical choice to make a position switch.
Lopez has played 12 games at second base during his career, and there are people in the front office and scouts around the league who feel that he is a far superior second baseman and third baseman than he is a shortstop.
The last time Lopez played second base was in 2005 with the Reds. The plan is for Barry Larkin, Bowden's special advisor, to tutor Lopez at the position during Spring Training.
Acta also asked Lopez about playing second and Lopez said he would do anything to help the team win -- except for playing left field or catcher.
"I have no problem playing second base," Lopez said by phone late Tuesday afternoon. "I played there before. I just have to go to Spring Training and work at it. I haven't played there in a long time. It should not be hard. Of course, I would like to be at short, but due to circumstances, I don't mind playing second."
The visit from Acta gave Lopez the feeling that his new boss wants to win in 2007, not in two or three years.
"There is a lot of talent on the team, and we should play as a team and work on the fundamentals," Lopez said. "We should have a chance to win, instead of waiting because of a rebuilding year."
Lopez also will be the leadoff hitter, replacing Alfonso Soriano, who signed a $136 million contract with the Cubs. Last season, Lopez batted second most of the time and hit .274 with 11 home runs, 52 RBIs and 44 stolen bases. He set career highs in walks (81), runs (98) and stolen bases. Lopez believes he will be a solid leadoff hitter.
"Hitting leadoff will not be a big transition for me. I was getting on base hitting second behind Soriano," Lopez said. "I'm going to treat it the same -- just get on base like I did last year and score a lot of runs.
"I'm looking to improve, however. I want to cut down on the strikeouts. Even though I walked a lot, I want to put the ball in play a lot more and be aggressive."
In other news, Vidro will have his physical on Friday and the trade between the Nationals and Mariners will become official that same day.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.