McClendon bullish on Mariners young talent
While Lloyd McClendon keeps hearing that his club needs to add more players, the new Mariners skipper believes there’s plenty of talent already lined up on his club and the key will be getting the core group of youngsters to perform up to expectations to compete in the American League West.
“I always get a chuckle,” McClendon said Monday. “People say, ‘Well, the Seattle Mariners signed [Robinson] Cano. They can’t stop there. What else are they going to do? Well, last time I looked, we have a pretty talented club.
“We have a third baseman that is one of the top 10 in baseball. We’ve got kids at shortstop that can play, kids that are going to battle. [Nick] Franklin and [Brad] Miller are going to compete. Those are talented kids. One hit eight home runs and the other hit 14. [Justin] Smoak is starting to come into his own. He hit 20 home runs last year. We’ve got some arms that everybody in baseball would do back flips to get.
“So I just find it amusing when people say what else are they going to do? It’s not like we’ve got chopped liver in that locker room. There’s a certain maturation process that takes place with any player. The one thing I know, Miguel Cabrera had to have his first at-bat at one point before he got good. It’s the same things with guys in that locker room. They’ve got to get their first at-bat or throw their first pitch.”
The Mariners finished last season playing four rookie starters in Miller, Franklin, Mike Zunino and Abraham Almonte and had eight position players on the field much of the time who were age 26 or younger, as well as rookie starters in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, a rookie closer in Danny Farquhar and several other youngsters in the bullpen as well.
The club has added some experience in key players over the offseason with Cano, Corey Hart, Fernando Rodney and others, but McClendon has said from the time he was hired that he’s not worried about the team being inexperienced.
“Part of the message we’re sending here is just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t be good,” he said. “That’s not an excuse. We develop in the Minor Leagues, we win at the Major League level.”
McClendon reiterated that Franklin and Miller will compete at shortstop this spring, with no thought of moving either into the outfield.
“We’ve got a pretty crowded outfield,” he said. “There’s a lot of talented outfielders as it is. And that’s a good problem to have. At the end of the day if we’re sitting here in late March and we have real, real tough decisions to make, that’s good for the Seattle Mariners. I hope the decisions are not easy. I hope they’re real tough. I’ll take that.”