Javier Alfonso López, 32, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the new Bucco LOOGY. He's had previous stops with the Colorado Rockies (2003–2005), Arizona Diamondbacks (2005) and Boston Red Sox (2006–2009).
López went to college at the University of Virginia, and went 12–9 with a 6.30 ERA, with a batting average of .319, 15 home runs, and 71 RBI. Arizona selected in the fourth round of the 1998 player draft.
He was fairly nondescript on the farm until 2002, his first full season at AA. Pitching for the El Paso Diablos of the Texas League in 2002, Lopez appeared in 61 games, going 2–2 with a 2.72 ERA. He didn't allow an earned run in 53 of his outings; opponents hit .204 off him.
The Red Sox took notice, and picked him in the Rule 5 draft. But he wasn't going to make their roster out of camp, so they dealt him to Colorado Rockies. They kept is name on file, though.
López made his MLB debut for the Rox on opening day. He pitched in 72 games, the third-most among rookies in MLB. He had a 4–1 record, a 3.70 ERA, and a save. At one point, Lopez retired 18 straight hitters.
López started off badly in 2004. He was sent down to AAA Colorado Springs, and was called back to the majors in August. His overall line was 1-2 with a 7.52 ERA in 64 outings, not exactly the follow-up year he was hoping for.
López was traded from Colorado in the middle of the 2005 season to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had an 11.02 ERA, the highest in the majors that season, although in justice he only worked 16-1/3 innings.
He was sent down to the AAA Tucson Sidewinders in July and went 0–1 with a 2.22 ERA while finishing the 2005 season there. Lopez signed as a minor-league free agent with the White Sox.
Playing for their AAA Charlotte Knights, he was 2–1, had 12 saves, and had a 0.55 ERA. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox on June 15 for David Riske, finishing the year going 1–0 with a 2.70 ERA in 27 appearances.
In 2007, López made 61 relief appearances over three stints with the Red Sox. He had a 2–1 record with a 3.10 ERA. He was a member of the 2007 World Series championship roster, and was called on five times during the playoffs, including a brief scoreless stint in the Series.
In January, 2008, López agreed to a one year contract with the Red Sox for $840,000, avoiding arbitration. He went 2-0 in 70 outings, with a 2.43 ERA. He then pitched for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic to start 2009; it would be the highlight of the year.
On April 30, 2009, Lopez allowed five runs in 1⁄3 inning and played the remainder of the eighth inning in right field after Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona switched him with right fielder Jonathan Van Every, now a Pirate minor-leaguer. It marked the first time a Red Sox pitcher played another position in a major league game since 1980.
On May 10, 2009, Javier was designated for assignment to make room for pitcher Daniel Bard after compiling an 0-2 slate with a 9.26 ERA in 11-2/3 frames. On May 15, 2009, he was outrighted to AAA, and Lopez became a free agent in October.
The Bucs signed him to a major-league deal yesterday. His contract is for $775,000, with an additional $550,000 in performance bonuses, based on appearances, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette. That leaves one more spot on the 40-man roster.
He's a sidewinder with sinking stuff, and a ground ball guy. Control is his bugaboo, walking over 4 batters per nine. Lopez grumps at being pigeon holed as a LOOGY, but his actions speak louder than his words in that regard.
His career opponent batting average against lefties is .247; it's .295 against righties. The OPS is even more tilted, .668 to .821. And Lopez has a much higher K rate against lefties, although he walks both about the same no matter what side of the dish they line up over.
Lopez isn't exactly the second coming of John Grabow or Sean Burnett, but ya gotta start somewhere. He put together a pretty good string at Boston as a middle-inning bridge guy from 2006-08; the Pirates hope 2009 was just a bump in the road.