Braves says goodbye to Lopez

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Javy Lopez is out.

The fan favorite and sexy former catcher for the Atlanta Braves announced his retirement on Saturday, just hours after the team cut him as it trims its roster and begins final tweaks in anticipation of the March 30 season opener.

The 37-yeard-old catcher, a longtime Brave, was attempting a comeback with the team he played with until 2003. Since then, he’s bounced around a handful of other MLB franchises and sat out last season. A rigorous off-season workout regime brought him back into playing form and caught notice of the Braves, who offered a one-year $750,000 contract if he made the roster this spring.

But his bat and arm aren’t as strong as they once were. With three others competing for the backup catching position, Lopez was the odd man out, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A quick trip to Orlando this week to catch a couple of Spring Training games made a few things clear to me: Lopez remains a fan favorite, his on-field skills aren’t as strong as they once were and he’s the same hot jock that fans swooned over when he wore a Braves uniform a few years ago.

Lopez didn’t do himself any good on Friday versus the Cleveland Indians. As a designated hitter, he couldn’t muster a hit. But each time he came to bat, he was warmly received by the 10,000 fans at Champions Stadium inside Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The same held true the night before when he played a few innings behind the plate against the Detroit Tigers.

Seeing Lopez backing up Brian McCann on occasion and taking swings as a pinch hitter would have been a treat this season. As a veteran, his leadership in the clubhouse would have benefited the team, too. A little more eye candy on the bench wouldn’t hurt, either.

Chipper Jones summed it up speaking to the AJC:

“It’s a sad day. I know fans of Atlanta are disappointed who were looking forward to seeing him back. Every time he came up to bat during spring training, the loudest ovation was for Javy. When you look at the majority of the run we had over 14 years, he was one of the most important cogs.”

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