PITTSBURGH -- Back in Spring Training, the Cardinals believed that Felipe Lopez was the solution to several of the issues facing the club. On Tuesday, they decided that the infielder was instead enough of a problem that they chose to part ways with him.
Lopez was granted his unconditional release prior to Tuesday night's game against the Pirates. He traveled with the team from Florida to Pittsburgh and was informed when he got to the park Tuesday afternoon that he was being let go. Lopez's name was initially written in as an available bench player on the lineup card in the visitors' clubhouse at PNC Park, but his name was scratched out by the time reporters were allowed in the clubhouse.
Lopez's playing time had dwindled drastically in recent weeks as he struggled through one of the worst seasons of his Major League career. That might not have been enough to earn him his release, however. Instead, repeated tardiness combined with his offensive troubles added up to the decision to release Lopez. General manager John Mozeliak said that Lopez was late to the Cardinals' Monday game in Miami, and that the move resulted at least in part from the most recent late arrival.
"He was late yesterday, and it's not the first time," Mozeliak said. "Tony [La Russa, manager] and I spoke earlier today, and when you think about what we're trying to accomplish here -- we brought up a lot of young players with our September callups this year -- we just wanted to make sure they understand the message that they want heard. It really came down to a tipping point, and it was either just not play him or allow him to go home. And we thought it was in his best interest just to be able to move on from here."
La Russa was much more circumspect in discussing Lopez, saying simply that there wasn't going to be any playing time for him, and so it did not make sense to keep him around. In fact, La Russa only said initially that Lopez had been "sent home," not that he had been formally released.
"We didn't ask his opinion," La Russa said. "We discussed it as an organization and decided that over the last two weeks, the starts are going to go someplace else. Bench time, as far as coming off the bench, is going to go someplace else."
Lopez has been struggling with injuries this season, most notably an elbow ailment that landed him on the disabled list. However, La Russa said that he's healthy now -- he's just not producing. He hit .231 with a .310 on-base percentage and a .340 slugging percentage in 109 games while seeing time at six positions -- all four infield spots, plus one game in right field and an appearance as a pitcher. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract with St. Louis at the end of February. The Cardinals are responsible for the remainder of his salary.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.