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Lopez gets feet wet at third base

Lopez gets feet wet at third base

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A throw from catcher Adam Moore reintroduced Jose Lopez to the hot corner Wednesday afternoon during the Mariners' extra-inning loss to the Giants in the Cactus League opener at Peoria Stadium.

The throw that Lopez knocked down ended a streak of 9 2/3 innings without any action during the experimental position switch from second base. It also settled his nerves before he finally got a ball hit his way -- a two-out chopper in the fourth inning.

He fielded it cleanly and made a strong, accurate throw to first base.

"I got an easy one," he smiled. "It wasn't like when the catcher threw the ball to third base."

The position switch moved to another level as Lopez played in a "real" game situation for the first time this spring. He played five innings of Monday's intrasquad game and never had a play to make.

"I thought during the first four innings, 'No ground balls today too?'" he quipped.

Finally, he has something to gauge his progress.

"It was like my first day in the big leagues," Lopez said. "Nervous. Nervous. But when you catch the ball and make an out, [there is] no more nervous and you want more. I want more ground balls at third base."

He departed after the fifth inning, returning to one of the practice fields to take a few more grounders -- slow rollers that he barehanded and threw to first base.

A decision to move Lopez to third and put quicker Chone Figgins at second base is still at least two weeks away from being made. But Lopez seems to be getting more comfortable each day.

"I liked the Lopez-Figgins combination out there," manager Don Wakamatsu said after the 8-7 loss. "There was the one to Figgy's right [off Fred Lewis' bat in the third inning] and Lopey played an outstanding third base on the one play."

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The Mariners fell behind three runs in the top of the first inning as right-hander Doug Fister wobbled out of the gate. But the revamped lineup, which now includes Figgins and Milton Bradley, retaliated with three runs off two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

Ichiro Suzuki reached on an error, Figgins and Bradley walked and, after Ken Griffey Jr. hit a sacrifice fly, Bradley faked a steal of second, luring Giants second baseman Kevin Frandsen to the base. Lopez slapped a run-scoring single to right-center, the ball skipping through the area Frandsen had just vacated.

Casey Kotchman followed with a single to tie the game.

Fister pitched a perfect second inning, striking out all three batters he faced.

Seattle eventually fell behind by four runs, but scored two runs in the sixth and two more in the ninth to pull even.

One of the highlights came in the top of the 10th. After Minor League pitcher Kenn Kasparek walked all three batters he faced, another one, Anthony Vasquez, came in and allowed only one of the runners to score.

"I asked him if he was nervous and he said, 'Not really,'" Wakamatsu said of his brief conversation on the mound after changing pitchers. "I told him I was."

Seattle has now lost 12 of its last 13 Cactus League openers.

"Obviously coming back four runs is something we're trying to establish, talking about battling all the time," Wakamatsu said. "I thought Fister made a nice adjustment and overall, I was pleased."

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }