Felipe Lopez was added to the active roster on Monday after missing three weeks due to a strained right elbow. He was immediately inserted into the lineup, starting at shortstop and batting leadoff. Tyler Greene was optioned to Triple-A Memphis to make room for Lopez on the roster. Lopez did not go on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
"I wasn't playing him until he was cleared to play short," manager Tony La Russa said. "He could have played second a few days ago."
In a way, Lopez will actually fill in for two players. He will likely play extensively at shortstop in place of Ryan, who has slumped badly for most of the season. But he also has a chance to hit leadoff regularly, filling the role that has been mostly occupied by Skip Schumaker for the past two years. Like Ryan, Schumaker has also not hit up to his usual standards so far in 2010.
So the upgrade to Lopez, who was hitting .273 with a .347 on-base percentage and a .432 slugging percentage before he got hurt, should be a significant one.
"I was interested in Spring Training, getting to know Felipe, he said his favorite thing to do was hit leadoff," La Russa said. "I said, we've got a leadoff guy, you can hit second, and I think he's a very good second-place hitter."
Since then, though, circumstances have changed. A productive Lopez in the No. 1 spot would likely boost the Cardinals' offense quite a bit more than any residual effects of switching Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup.