Cust talks about coming to Seattle … and leaving A’s

CustJackAs.jpgMy original story on Jack Cust coming to agreement with the Mariners on Wednesday has been deleted from the website, so I wanted to include some of what he told me that afternoon because I thought it was interesting.

Cust told me he’d wanted to come to Seattle a year ago, but things didn’t work out.

“Seattle is a team that showed some interest over the last couple years and is a place I’ve wanted  to play,” he said. “I love the city and everything about the Northwest. I’ve always been a big fan of the Mariners going back to the first Griffey days, so I’m just excited to  go up there and try to win some ballgames.”

He hit 33 home runs with 77 RBIs in 2007 and followed up with 26 home runs and 82 RBIs in ’08 before seeing his numbers drop to 13 home runs and 52 RBIs last year in just 349 at-bats after spending the first month of the season in the minor leagues after being designated for assignment by the A’s.

Cust said he still doesn’t understand exactly what happened in Oakland last year, but that is behind him now.

“You want to go where people believe in you,” he said. “You want to go where you’re wanted. In Oakland, even though I always did pretty well there and to me was kind of what the Oakland A’s are about, hitting home runs and walking a lot, I never really felt the love there.

“Being wanted and getting a fresh start is something I wanted last year, but it didn’t get done. This year it’s in place. So I’m excited to show fans in Seattle what I can do.”

He said he’s more than willing to play in the outfield and that he’s often wound up there even when teams said he wasn’t a good fielder.

” I’m not going to win any Gold Gloves, I won’t be an Ichiro in left field, for sure, but I’m there to drive in runs,” he said. “They brought me in to hit the ball. I like playing the outfield, I really do. You’re more of a baseball player playing both sides of the ball, but I’ll do whatever they ask. I’m in good shape and ready to go.”

Cust was non-tendered by Oakland last season and then assigned to the minor leagues at the start of the year until being recalled after Eric Chavez was injured.That led to some unhappiness with his situation with the A’s, who non-tendered him again on Dec. 3.

“It was just a weird circumstance,” Cust said. “I’m sure they’d say I struggled in spring and what I did the three years before wasn’t good enough to make that team, I guess. But I’m just trying to stay positive with all this.

“When I talk about Oakland last year especially, it’s definitely not a very positive experience for me. So I’m trying to block that out a little. My wife just tells me to stay positive. I don’t know what happened. But things happen for a reason and now I’m in Seattle.”

Though Safeco is a pitching-friendly park, Cust is used to that after four seasons in Oakland. Safeco is more suited to his left-handed power and he’s hit five home runs with 12 RBIs in 97 career at-bats in Seattle.

“I’ve tried to hit those windows in right field a few times, like any left-handed hitter that goes in there,” Cust said with a chuckle.

Now he’ll get a lot more opportunites to shoot for the Hit It Here Cafe. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said Friday that Cust will be the team’s regular DH going into Spring Training and figures to hit in the middle of the lineup.

(Photo by Christian Petersen of Getty Images)

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