Tigers re-sign Lopez to one-year deal

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Tigers re-sign Lopez to one-year deal

Aquilino Lopez is set to return to the Gwangju Kia Tigers after inking a one-year deal worth $375,000, the club announced yesterday.

The Tigers are giving the 35-year-old veteran a $75,000 signing bonus and $300,000 salary for the 2011 season. The upcoming season will be Lopez’s third with the club.

The Dominican pitcher struggled in the 2010 season with a 4-10 record and a 4.66 ERA.

Lopez was an integral part of the Tigers’ 2009 Korean Series victory and led the league in wins that year with a 14-5 record and a 3.12 ERA. He also pitched a league-high 190 1/3 innings and was the recipient of the Golden Glove Award for the best pitcher in the league. The Tigers won the championship in seven games that year - two of the games were won by Lopez.

Having pitched for four Major League Baseball clubs between 2003 and 2008, Lopez is fully capable of producing quality numbers in the KBO. However, the combination of decreasing velocity, KBO batters adjusting to his pitching, and an increasingly ineffective sinker left Lopez less effective in his sophomore KBO season.

Lopez’s character also made headlines last season as he had several temper tantrums in the dugout after poor outings. There was speculation that his participation in the Dominican Winter League could have caused his subpar performance last season.

“I was not a big help to the team last year and my behavior hampered the team atmosphere,” Lopez said in a statement released by the Tigers. “I will come back a different player next season.”

Kia is looking to fill out its roster with another overseas pitcher.

The team is currently said to be considering re-signing Roman Colon as well as other free agent pitchers.

The 31-year-old Colon is also a Dominican native. He posted an 8-7 record with a 3.91 ERA after joining the Tigers in May.

Colon had a few spot starts last year but pitched mostly out of the bullpen, averaging close to five innings per outing. Colon could crack the Tigers’ starting rotation.

Another viable candidate the Tigers are considering is Travis Blackley. The 28-year-old Australian pitched for the Oakland Athletics Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, this season before joining the Melbourne Aces of the upstart Australian Baseball League. Blackley bounced around the MLB and several minor league affiliates since making his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2004.

By Jason Kim, Kim Hyo-kyung [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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