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Mariners auditioning Lopez at first

Mariners auditioning Lopez at first

KANSAS CITY -- Look for Jose Lopez somewhere on the right side of the Mariners infield next year. But will he need a second baseman's glove or a first baseman's glove? That's one of the issues that Seattle officials will ponder in the offseason.

Lopez made his third career start at first base on Tuesday as the Mariners continue to look at Lopez at that spot while giving Luis Valbuena some Major League reps at second base. Playing first on Monday, Lopez said he felt much more comfortable than had previously been the case when he made his debut at that position.

"[It's] not bad," Lopez said. "I'll play it."

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Manager Jim Riggleman believes that keeping the defensive options open with Lopez can only help the Mariners as they look to improve the ballclub in the offseason.

"We need another bat in the lineup," Riggleman said. "That bat may come as a designated hitter, an outfielder, a second baseman, a first baseman. This gives us the option of looking at Jose at first base while Valbuena is in the big leagues playing, rather than sitting and watching. If and when Valbuena comes back to the big leagues, he will have gotten a little taste of it."

Lopez's versatility gives the Mariners some shopping options in the offseason.

"The obvious question is if Lopez is at first, who's at second? We don't know that yet," Riggleman said. "There's 5 1/2 months in the offseason. If we come up with a first baseman, then it's Lopez at second. If we come up with a second baseman, it might be Lopez at first. We've got to get the best players in here that we can."

One thing that Riggleman knows is that Lopez's bat will be a key ingredient for the Mariners in 2009. After a two-hit game on Monday, Lopez had lifted his batting average to .296.

"Lopez just keeps sticking line drives out there," Riggleman said. "He'll be in there somewhere."

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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