McClendon plans to split duties in both LF and RF
Lloyd McClendon has never liked the word “platoon,” but the Mariners skipper acknowledged Monday that he’ll likely be using that sort of split-time situation in both left and right field this season if things go as planned.
McClendon said his left field situation will likely see Rickie Weeks (pictured) starting against left-handed pitchers and Dustin Ackley against right-handers. Similarly, the right field at-bats figure to fall primarily to right-handed hitting Justin Ruggiano or Nelson Cruz against left-handed starters and Seth Smith against righties.
“Now, having said that, if there’s a favorable matchup, whether left or right and the guy hits him real well, then you’ve got to put him in there,” McClendon said. “That’s why I’m not crazy about the word ‘platoon,’ because it puts you in a box. You want to be a little more dynamic than that with your managing skills and my players know there are days they may play against a righty or lefty.”
Weeks signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Seattle to fill a utility role after spending his previous professional career strictly as a second baseman for the Brewers. Weeks has worked exclusively in the outfield the first week of camp, but McClendon said he’ll start taking ground balls at first base later this spring.
“He will be that backup first baseman in case something happens,” said McClendon, noting he’s leaning more toward Weeks than fellow utility man Willie Bloomquist at that spot at the moment.
Bloomquist can play second, short or third base and has been working well this spring while coming back from knee surgery. Since Weeks isn’t seen as a shortstop candidate, there is a spot for both on the 25-man roster.
Cruz is thought of primarily as a designated hitter in Seattle’s plans, but he has started 800 games in the outfield over his 10 years in the Majors, including 80 last year for the Orioles, and he’s working regularly with the outfielders this spring as well.
“He’ll play out there in the season on occasion, because it’s nice to be able to rotate him out of that DH spot and give somebody else a day off and get him back on his feet,” McClendon said. “How much he’ll play in the spring, I’m not sure. But it would be safe to say he’ll play his share of games during the season in right field.”
Other news on Monday morning:
— The 12:30 p.m. MT intrasquad game was canceled due to rainy weather. The game won’t be made up. The rain is supposed to pass through by Monday night, with sunny skies in the forecast the rest of the week.
— Left-hander James Paxton was scheduled to play flat-ground catch up to 120 feet on Monday and is slated to throw off a mound for the first time Tuesday as he returns from a bruised forearm injured prior to camp. McClendon said Paxton should be okay to open the season on time despite his late start.
— The Mariners will hold their final work-only day Tuesday before opening Cactus League play Wednesday against the Padres in the annual charity game at 1:05 p.m. MT at Peoria Stadium. But even after games begin, the club continues working out each morning and fans can come watch those sessions from about 9:30 a.m.-noon each day.