Japanese shortstop interests Mariners

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is pursuing a backup shortstop to provide depth behind Brendan Ryan and acknowledged interest Monday in Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki, who said last week he wanted to come play for Seattle and would be willing to accept a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp if necessary.

“From an organizational standpoint, it’s somewhat flattering to have someone who has specifically targeted a team he wants to play with,” Zduriencik said. “The fact a player is willing to do what he can to play with that team affords you greater flexibility. If he comes into Spring Training and makes your team, fantastic. If not, you know he’s willing to do a little more to get there.

“I respect what has been said. We respect the player. And again, we’re in the middle of the process of trying evaluate things. That player is one of the players we’re talking about.”

Kawasaki, 30, played with Ichiro on the Japanese National Team at the World Baseball Classic and said he wants to play with Ichiro again in the Major Leagues.

The left-handed hitting Kawasaki isn’t regarded as a strong offensive player, but is excellent with the glove. Zduriencik said defense is the first priority for a backup shortstop, but then noted any player brought in will be allowed to compete for a starting job.

“One thing to be clear on, even though I say our needs are a backup shortstop, any player can come in here and win a position,” he said. “Who is to say a player doesn’t come in and outperform the players we have? That’s a plus. That’s a good thing. It makes for competition.

“We have a shortstop signed to a contract, but if we bring in another player that plays better, no matter who it is at any position, then that player deserves to play and you evaluate it at that time.”

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