C Lopez retires after being reassigned to minor league camp

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Three-time All-Star Javy Lopez retired Saturday after being reassigned to the Atlanta Braves' minor league camp, ending his bid to return to the majors as a backup catcher.

Lopez, who sat out all of last season, decided against trying to extend his 15-year career in the minors. He batted only .188 this spring in his attempt to become Brian McCann's backup.

Lopez was cut by the Colorado Rockies last spring and didn't play at all in 2007. He signed a minor league deal in December with Atlanta, where he played from 1992-2003.

"It didn't happen in spring training," Lopez said. "This is the only chance I get. They give me the opportunity to come back and prove to myself that I can still play. I had the chance and didn't do what I'm supposed to do, or at least not good enough."

Lopez made his decision after meeting with manager Bobby Cox on Saturday.

"Hopefully, he can still continue in the organization, get some at-bats and see what happens," Cox said.

Lopez chose to retire instead, saying his body felt strong but he was not satisfied with his hitting or his lack of success throwing out baserunners.

He did hit a couple of balls hard while going 1-for-5 as the designated hitter against the Cleveland Indians on Friday. He drove in a run with a first-inning single off C.C. Sabathia.

"I feel perfect physically," Lopez said. "It's just that the hitting wasn't there and unfortunately I didn't throw the guy out on the stealing attempts. That's a concern. I don't blame them. My role as a backup catcher is to be able to throw every single runner out."

Lopez finished his career as a .287 hitter with 260 home runs and 864 RBIs. He was an All-Star with the Braves in 1997, 1998 and 2003.

His best year was '03, when he hit .328 with 43 homers and drove in 109 runs, becoming only the third catcher in history with 40 homers, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average.

Lopez signed with the Baltimore Orioles before the 2004 season and spent part of '06 with the Boston Red Sox.

Other catchers still competing for the one likely backup spot are Brayan Pena, Clint Sammons and Corky Miller.

The Braves also reassigned pitchers Francisley Bueno, Jorge Campillo and Ryan Drese to Richmond and outfielder Jordan Schafer to Double-A Mississippi and optioned pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes and outfielder Brandon Jones to Triple-A Richmond, as they reduced their roster by seven.

Reyes, expected to compete for a spot in the rotation, was a major disappointment. He had a 9.82 ERA in four spring games.

The return of Mike Hampton left Reyes competing with Chuck James, Jair Jurrjens and others for one open spot in the rotation.

As a rookie last season, Reyes was 2-2 with a 6.22 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts. The Braves are still high on the 23-year-old left-hander, who said he need more consistent footwork in his delivery.

The 24-year-old Jones began the spring as one of the top contenders to be the team's fourth outfielder but hit only .211 with no homers and four RBIs. He was Mississippi's player of the year last season before a promotion to Richmond, where he hit .300 with four homers in 44 games. He was called up to Atlanta in September, hitting .158 in 19 at-bats.

Drese hit a batter and gave up six walks -- including five straight -- and six runs against Cleveland on Friday. The poor outing left his ERA at 12.96.

The Braves reduced their roster to 37 and are not expected to make any more moves before they return to Atlanta for their final two exhibition games against Cleveland next weekend. They must have their roster at 25 players before the March 30 opener at Washington.