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Tampa Bay Rays sign infielder Felipe Lopez to minor-league deal, denying Red Sox draft pick compensation

Felipe Lopez was an All-Star in 2005 and a solid player in 2009 but struggled for the Cardinals and Red Sox last season.

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Felipe Lopez was an All-Star in 2005 and a solid player in 2009 but struggled for the Cardinals and Red Sox last season.

ST. PETERSBURG — By signing Felipe Lopez, the Rays added some veteran depth to their group of young and relatively inexperienced middle infielders.

And by signing him to a minor-league contract, they denied the Red Sox the opportunity to collect an additional compensatory draft pick.

Lopez, 30, was a National League All-Star in 2005 and a frontline player as recently as 2009, when he hit .310 over 151 games for the Diamondbacks and Brewers. But he had a bad 2010 season with the Cardinals, hitting just .231, losing playing time and getting released in September, with St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak citing repeated tardiness.

The Red Sox signed Lopez — who curiously declined a waiver claim by the contending Padres — for the final week of the season, seemingly just to be in position to receive an extra draft pick as he was a Type B free agent. But because Lopez signed a minor-league deal, the Red Sox don't get compensation even if he ends up in the majors.

At the least, Lopez provides spring competition for Elliot Johnson for the utility infielder spot and depth should shortstop Reid Brignac, second baseman Sean Rodriguez or Johnson be injured. He has spent most of his career in the middle infield but can also play third and the outfield.

Lopez, who lives in Orlando, told "I think I'll have a great opportunity to make the team, and it will be exciting to play near my home." He will get $1 million if he makes the team and can earn another $1 million in incentives, ESPN reported.

The Rays still have to create two spots on the 40-man roster for the addition of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez once details of their contracts are finalized.

New gig for Sweet Lou

Former Rays manager Lou Piniella will be back at Tropicana Field this season in his new role as a special assistant to Giants GM Brian Sabean, an associate from their days in the Yankees organization. Piniella retired from managing last season while with the Cubs but said he would like to stay involved in the game, and he will do so based from his Tampa home, attending spring training and Rays games.

STORM DAMAGES WRIGLEY: Wrigley Field was damaged by a severe storm that caused tiles to fall from the top of the press box at the 97-year-old ballpark. Emergency Management spokesman Roderick Drew said high winds from the snowstorm in Chicago on Tuesday night sent the tiles flying.

YANKS-NATIONALS TRADE: New York acquired outfielder Justin Maxwell from Washington for minor-league right-hander Adam Olbrychowski. Maxwell, 27, has a .201 average in three big-league seasons with nine homers and 26 RBIs.

ASTROS: Outfielder Brian Bogusevic, right-handers Enerio Del Rosario and Wilton Lopez, and infielder Jimmy Paredes agreed to one-year deals.

DODGERS: Left-handed reliever Hong-Chih Kuo agreed to a one-year contract worth $2,725,000.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Rays sign infielder Felipe Lopez to minor-league deal, denying Red Sox draft pick compensation 02/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 11:30pm]
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