Lopez has no regrets about signing with Braves

Lopez has no regrets about signing with Braves

Lopez has no regrets about signing with Braves
CLEAWATER, Fla. -- When weighing his options this offseason, veteran starter Rodrigo Lopez could've signed with the Mets, Rockies, or maybe even back with the D-backs. He essentially had Minor League offers from each of those clubs.

Ultimately, Lopez chose to sign with the Braves. And even though it didn't lead to him winning a spot in a Major League starting rotation, it's not a decision he regrets.

"They gave me a chance to make the team, they gave me the ball every five days pitching against big league clubs," Lopez said. "Anything can happen. Probably there are teams that are watching me and say, 'Hey, this guy can pitch in the big leagues.'"

Perhaps that was the case on Friday afternoon, when Lopez took the ball against the Phillies at Bright House Field for an outing that felt more like a showcase for him than anything else.

This was Lopez's fifth Grapefruit League appearance this spring. It was also his first since news came out that Brandon Beachy would be the Braves' fifth starter, leaving Lopez to wonder what his next move will be.

Lopez signed a Minor League deal with the Braves in late January, and came into camp as a long shot for the fifth-starter job -- a role young studs Beachy and Mike Minor were also competing for. The 35-year-old right-hander pitched respectably -- carrying a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings into Friday. But Beachy and Minor have much more upside, and were simply too good.

Prior to his start against the Phillies, when he gave up three runs in five innings in an eventual 3-1 loss, Lopez said he hadn't been told by the Braves that he's not making the team -- likely because the club had been on the road, and the news Beachy would be the fifth starter wasn't announced to the media before it went public.

If the Braves don't trade Lopez, he'll likely start the regular season at Triple-A Gwinnett.

"Once you're in the big leagues," Lopez said, "you don't want to go back to Triple-A. I don't know. I think once I talk to them, I will have a better idea what will be my future."

Lopez's only immediate route to the Braves' Opening Day roster would come if Jair Jurrjens' recent injury becomes serious, though it doesn't seem like that's the case right now. Jurrjens exited his Thursday start after one inning with discomfort in his right side, but the ailment has been considered minor, and Jurrjens is still expected to be ready for his first regular-season start.

Still, that could be enough of a scare for general manager Frank Wren to grow stubborn about dealing Lopez, leaving him to pitch in the Minors, just in case.

Because of their inexperience, Atlanta is hesitant about sporting a rotation with both Minor and Beachy in it. Lopez and Kenshin Kawakami -- owed $6.67 million in the final year of his contract -- are insurance policies if another starter is needed. But both have been mentioned in trade rumors, lately.

"I understand baseball," Lopez said. "I understand how things work. But I still think I belong in the big leagues."

A few teams may still need starting pitching. The question is whether they'd try to trade for Lopez, who led the National League in losses and earned runs last season -- but still pitched 200 innings and struck out more than twice as many hitters as he walked.

The Brewers acquired Sergio Mitre from the Yankees on Friday, but they're still looking for insurance in their rotation. The White Sox could use a stopgap until Jake Peavy is healthy, but GM Ken Williams has expressed that he'd rather keep his search in-house. The Rockies and Indians have also been rumored to be in the market for starters.

"I know there are teams that are interested in pitching," said Lopez, who's 75-82 with a 4.85 ERA in his nine-year career. "I don't know if they're interested in my services, but I think I can help any team right now."