Cubs’ Lopez unclear on 2012 home
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org September 24, 2011 10:28PM
Updated: November 11, 2011 1:37PM
ST. LOUIS — Before the Cubs’ final home game Wednesday, pitcher Rodrigo Lopez took a few pictures of Wrigley Field and had his taken with the ballpark as the backdrop.
It was particularly poignant if only because Lopez might be the snapshot image that best sums up what happened to the Cubs this season — a journeyman starter acquired in a minor-league trade in May as the Cubs scrambled to cover depth problems after injuries to Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells.
The Cubs never recovered from those April injuries, compounding the issue by playing poorly in other areas of the game, and Lopez went on to make 16 starts among his 26 appearances.
“I’d like to be able to show my grandkids when I played at Wrigley,’’ said Lopez, who would like to return next season but knows that Saturday’s start against the St. Louis Cardinals was likely his last as a Cub. “I’ve never been on a team with a lot of history, and Wrigley’s part of that.’’
Assuming Saturday was it for Lopez’s Cubs career, he went out on a strong note, pitching six scoreless innings in a no-decision and running his scoreless streak to 12 innings over his last two starts.
“I would say it was a pretty good season for me,’’ said Lopez, 35, who signed a minor-league deal with the Atlanta Braves before the season and was pitching in Class AAA when the Cubs acquired him.
He finished 6-6, and his 4.42 ERA is better than that of three starters who began the season in the rotation (Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Wells).
“I started in AAA and battled all the way back to the big leagues, and then did a little bit with the [Cubs’] bullpen, had some emergency starts and [then into the rotation],’’ he said. “I think I handled it the best I could, and at the end I got an even record and lowered my ERA these last two starts.
“I go home pretty happy, and hopefully I can get an opportunity next year to start 30 games.’’
Notes: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed a third consecutive game because of a quad strain, but he said it was better Saturday and he hopes to return to the lineup during the final series of the year at San Diego.
◆ Lopez held Albert Pujols hitless in three plate appearances after having allowed six straight hits to the slugger, including three home runs, this season. “I made adjustments,’’ said Lopez, who credited Dempster with some useful advice on Pujols before the game. Until Pujols’ 6-for-6 streak, he was 0 for 12 in his career against Lopez.
◆ Alfonso Soriano’s 85 RBI this season — 44 in 60 games since the All-Star break — are the most for him since he drove in 95 for the Washington Nationals in 2006, the year before joining the Cubs. His nine RBI at Busch Stadium this year, including three Friday and one Saturday, are the most for a Cardinals opponent there.