UPDATE: At the end of the post.
It’s been four years since the Atlanta Braves parted ways with Javy Lopez, the former three-time All-Star catcher and fan favorite. But he’s back. Well, maybe.
The Braves recently signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, where he will report Feb. 14 to try and win a roster spot to back up Brian McCann. Lopez didn’t play last season, failing to convince the Colorado Rockies to keep him past spring training.
But the Braves think Lopez might have enough punch to give them a power bat off the bench and to serve light duty behind the plate, according to David O’Brien, the Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lopez’s career started in 1992 and since his release from the Braves has included stints with the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox.
Lopez, who lives in Duluth, became a fan favorite with his performance in the 1996 National League Championship series with the Braves, where he was named Most Valuable Player. His good looks (6 feet 3 inches tall and 220 pounds) and smile don’t hurt the 37-year-old Puerto Rican player, either. Appearing shirtless in a 2003 AJC story about his low-carb routine and dropping 35 pounds made an impression, too.
O’Brien noted Lopez’s appeal in a recent post to his blog:
In the meantime, Lopez sure can’t be bad for business. Judging from the fact that the story merely mentioning his return yesterday was the top-rated story on our entire website shortly after it was posted. He’s got that appeal to a certain segment of the fan base, as you probably know.
Oh, yeah. We know.
UPDATE: Lopez recently talked with Mark Bowman, a writer for MLB.com about his return to the Braves, a season away from the day-to-day grind of the sport and his new, slender athletic build that’s the result of countless hours spent with his trainer.