By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
MEXICO CITY -- At least now he knows. For nearly 2 1/2 years, Albie Lopez has been wondering when he would see his younger brother again.
Now he knows, at the most, it will be about five more years. That seems like a long time, but at least it's something to look forward to. Which is better than it used to be.
David Lopez was arrested in October 1998 and charged with second-degree attempted murder in an Arizona shooting that left a man paralyzed. David maintained his innocence, but a slow-developing case, a lack of favorable witnesses and a hefty $2.5-million bail left his future bleak.
In late January, David Lopez struck a deal, pleading guilty to a felony count of aggravated assault and, after emotional testimony by his mother, receiving a reduced sentence of 81/2 years, lawyer Jerry Stahnke said.
With credit for time served and Arizona's standard 15 percent sentence reduction, David Lopez has a little more than five years left behind bars. Given the possibility of a 15- to 25-year sentence if he'd been found guilty on the original charge, David, given the circumstances, appears to have made a good deal.
"It kind of gave my brother light at the end of the tunnel," Albie Lopez said. "It was like, "Okay, this is how far I have to go.' It kind of eased his pain a little bit, which kind of eased my parents' pain and mine.
"Now we have a set date to look forward to instead of wondering if it would be 15 years, 20 years, whatever. ... Nobody knew what was going to happen. A jury could go either way and he didn't want to risk it. He was more scared of losing. He said he couldn't gamble his life away."
TRADE WINDS: Arizona and Atlanta are looking for backup catchers, so Mike DiFelice's name has been mentioned. Baltimore needs outfield help, so Jose Guillen seems like a possibility. A number of teams need starting pitching, so the scouts are starting to gather regularly.
Spring training is winding down, which means trade talks are about to start heating up.
"As we thought coming into this camp, there has been quite a bit of interest in a number of our players," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "Our catching position, because of the four we have in camp, has drawn some interest along with the outfield situation and our starting pitchers because teams know with (Wilson) Alvarez and (Juan) Guzman coming back with the salaries they make we're going to have to make room in the rotation for them."
LaMar, as he tends to do this time of year, said he hopes to make a deal. "We'll go into the last three weeks as aggressive as we possibly can and hopefully there will be a trade or two that comes out of that," he said. "But having said that, we're not going to make a trade just to make a trade."
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE: Guzman took a day off from camp last month for a very important reason, to became a U.S. citizen. Guzman, a native of the Dominican Republic, has lived in Miami in the off-season for the past 12 years and plans to stay, so he went through the citizenship process. "I did it for family purposes," he said. Guzman said he will enjoy several benefits of his new status, including the right to vote. Paying taxes, though, will be nothing new. "We do that anyway," he said.
JOSE CAN YOU SEE: First-base coach Jose Cardenal denied making critical remarks about Mike Stanton and other members of the Yankees' Bible study group attributed to him in a new book about Orlando Hernandez, The Duke of Havana.
In the book, Cardenal is quoted: "Stanton was always getting into people's business. They'd talk about God for half an hour then go into the dugout and start criticizing everybody. What kind of Christians are they?" Cardenal told the New York Post he made no such comments.
X-RAYS REPORT: The Red Sox have dropped Rolando Arrojo from their rotation and, if they can't make a trade, will use him in long and middle relief. ... Cory Lidle is making a strong bid for Oakland's No. 5 starter's job, though it may work against him that he can be sent to the minors and several of the other candidates can't. "All I can do is pitch the ball when they hand it to me," Lidle said. "Everything else going on outside of me pitching is out of my control." ... Dave Eiland has been reassigned to Oakland's minor-league camp.
- Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report.