Sunday, August 8, 2004

Larkin lessons helping Lopez

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

DENVER - His Reds teammates have taken to calling Felipe Lopez "hijo." That means "son" in Spanish.

It was hung upon Lopez for the amount of time he has spent listening to Barry Larkin lecture on the subject of Shortstop 101.

"We talk every day - every inning, really," Larkin said.

Larkin sees enormous potential in Lopez. But if Lopez takes over for Larkin in the future, Lopez is going to have to learn what Larkin did.

"Everyone sees the home runs and the great plays," Larkin said. "But consistent play is the biggest thing. That's why I'm still around. Early in my career, I wasn't as consistent. I had to tell myself: Make the routine play, make the routine play."

Lopez's numbers in this stint with the Reds compared to his last stint are, well, incomparable.

Lopez went into Saturday hitting .379 (11-for-29) with three homers and five RBI over 10 games. When he was with the Reds from June 1-25, he hit .152 with five RBI in 18 games.

But Larkin sees the little things. Friday night, Lopez hit a 410-foot home run and made a great play up the middle. But Larkin was most impressed by a routine play.

In the second, the Rockies had Jeromy Burnitz at third with no outs. Charles Johnson hit a groundball to Lopez.

"He had his feet set so he could have thrown home," Larkin said. "But the ball dictated that he go to first, so he did. But he was in position. That impressed me."

Lopez appreciates the input. "His experience in the game is unbelievable," Lopez said. "It's really helped."

Larkin said when the Reds traded for Anderson Machado that his money was still on Lopez as the shortstop of the future. That hasn't changed.

"Felipe has the talent," Larkin said. "It's a matter of harnessing it."

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