Results tagged ‘ Jack Cust ’

Cust puts on power show; bullpen questions continue

CustBat.JPGJack Cust swung a big bat Saturday with two home runs against the Rangers. (Greg Johns file photo/MLB.com).

Manager Eric Wedge was hoping to learn some things about his bullpen Saturday against the Rangers, running out six candidates who are fighting for relief roles in the rapidly approaching regular season.

Not sure exactly what the Mariners discovered there, other than that Fabio Castro would have been a lot more effective — or fortunate — if he’d only been asked to go one inning instead of two after the Rangers rapped him around in the second frame.

Don’t think I’ve ever seen an inning where each outfielder — Michael Saunders, Ryan Langerhans and Franklin Gutierrez — each laid out for a full-out diving catch and came up with nothing but grass stains for their effort.

Then in the same game, the Mariners came back to hit three home runs in a row on back-to-back-to-back jacks by Adam Kennedy, Mike Wilson and Jack Cust against Texas reliever Darren O’Day in a five-pitch sequence.

The Mariners haven’t hit three straight home runs since 2004 in a regular-season game against the Royals on Aug. 27, 2004 when Miguel Olivo, Jose Lopez and Hiram Bocachica managed the feat against Zach Greinke.

So, yeah,it was a weird day … and one where the ball was carrying out to center field in Surprise much the way it does to right field in Arlington.

Cust took advantage with two no-doubt blasts in the eighth and 10th innings in what turned into a 9-8 win for the Mariners.

Wedge was pleased to see Cust drive two balls to the slightly opposite field as he raised his Cactus League total to three home runs with a 3-for-5 day that puts his batting average at .275.

“Good to see the direction they went, too,” Wedge said. “Both went to center field or a little bit left of center. That’s as important as anything. Obviously he squared ‘em up and hit ‘em a ton, but it was nice to see where they ended up.”

Where the bullpen ends up might be a bigger question for this club. Chris Ray had a nice inning and continues looking like a legitimate late-inning guy … and maybe even a closer option if Brandon League continues to struggle.

Royce Ring got in trouble — and then got out of it with some nice pitching against a pair of left-handers — reminding that he’s best suited for a situational lefty role.

There are questions elsewhere, but it’s looking more and more like David Pauley — who has no options left — is a likely right-handed long man and Josh Lueke the one young survivor with Dan Cortes having been sent down last week.

Cesar Jimenez also is out of options, so he’ll be a tough decision if he shows anything in the final two weeks. Aaron Laffey is another lefty contender and a likelier survivor, but he does have an option.

Complicating matters is the non-roster situation, where the club is going to have to clear spots for a handful of guys who aren’t currently on the 40-man … Adam Kennedy, possibly Ryan Langerhans, possibly Josh Bard if Miguel Olivo isn’t ready and several relievers (Ray, Castro, Ring, Jamey Wright, Justin Miller and Denny Bautista are all non-roster contenders).

Waiving Garrett Olson dropped the 40-man count to 39 and it might be possible to put injured reliever Mauricio Robles on the 60-day Disabled List to free another spot. But that still leaves a couple players who’ll need to be moved off the 40-man and thus exposed to waivers.

In other words, lots of shuffling still to be done. And, frankly, I’ll be surprised if the bullpen in particular doesn’t wind up with a pitcher or two picked up off waivers from other teams in the final days of spring. 

Back-to-back Jack, sort of, in Mariners power display

WilsonJackHR.jpgJack Wilson celebrates with Michael Saunders after hitting a home run Wednesday against the Dodgers. Jack Cust (below) followed suit with his first blast two innings later. (AP Photos/Nam Y. Huh)

No home runs for a week? No worries Wednesday for the Mariners as Jack Wilson and Jack Cust both muscled up and then young third baseman Alex Liddi cranked a grand slam in a 9-4 victory over the Dodgers in Glendale.

As fun as it was to see Wilson whack one over the fence and young Liddi to deliver, the one that mattered most was Cust’s blast off Wilkin De La Rose. Cust is a guy the Mariners are going to need to deliver in the middle of the lineup this season to take some pressure off everyone, particularly youngsters like Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders.

CustHRDodgers.jpgThe long ball was Cust’s first and he went into the inning with one RBI in his first 19 Cactus League at-bats. The dry-humored designated hitter noted that his first bomb came after Wilson — who has six home runs in the past three seasons — had already cleared the fence.

“If I hit as many home runs as Jack, we’ll have a great year,” Cust said, trying not to roll his eyes as his teammate stood nearby.

Cust, who hit 97 home runs over the last four years in Oakland, acknowledged it felt good to bust one. The Mariners had gone a week without a long ball and while it’s early, those things tend to make one wonder about a team that struggled to score runs last year as well.

“You’re constantly searching for that rhythm and timing,” he said. “The last couple games I haven’t felt great. Usually I need a lot of at-bats to get into a groove. Playing two games in a row is nice, to know where your feet and hands are at and where you need to be.

“Any day you hit a home run is a good day,” Cust said.

The burly DH said he caught a fastball up and in. He also caught some grief from teammate Adam Kennedy, who noted that all of the left-handers hits have come off lefties this spring. According to Kennedy’s reasoning, left-handers can’t locate the ball as well early and that allows batters to pull off their pitches and still hit the fastball.

“That made me feel good, like I really accomplished something,” Cust said with his wry style. “I guess you have to be a good hitter to hit righties in spring, so I’ll just keep trying. But, yeah, a home run off anybody is good. Whether they throw with their feet or whatever, if you hit it out, it feels good.”

Cust hasn’t quite pulled off Ichiro look just yet

Jack Cust, who cracked up Ichiro as well as the group of reporters interviewing the Japanese star on Saturday by trying to imitate his unique Ichiro wardrobe, said he’s never really met his new teammate before other than on the baseball field.

 But he is aware of the fashion style of the 37-year-old outfielder.

“Guys just said wait and see. And that you haven’t seen nothing yet,” Cust said Sunday. “So I guess I’ll wait and see.”

When Ichiro was surrounded by media members at his locker on Saturday, the club’s new designated hitter sat at his nearby locker and rolled up the bottom of his jeans to mid-calf level, mirroring Ichiro’s look … with some obvious differences in body type and style sense.

The 6-foot-1, 247-pound Cust told Ichiro on Saturday that he was going to go out and buy the same thin red leather belt he was wearing, then fistbumped him and headed out the door. You can read that full story here.

But, no, he didn’t quite come up with a new belt by Sunday.

“I’m not quite sure where you even buy that stuff,” Cust said.

Cameras aren’t allowed in the clubhouse, so sadly there is no photographic evidence of the Cust or Ichiro outfits. But I will include the photo I got of Ichiro’s first-day look when he arrived in Peoria and worked out on the practice field. And, no, this is not a look that Cust — or many others, for that matter — could pull off.


IchiOutfit.JPG
(Photo by Greg Johns/MLB.com)

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)

Zduriencik: ‘It’s a construction process on-going’

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik added a short-term piece to the puzzle on Friday with the official signing of veteran designated hitter Jack Cust. But he went out of his way to note that the over-arching plan of the club continues to be building for the long haul.

Cust, 31, is the type of veteran the Mariners want to bring in to supplement their young crew. A year ago, Zduriencik brought back Russell Branyan in midseason to provide some protection in the middle of the order and add some leadership.

Now it’s Cust coming in on a one-year deal.

“We’re not going to deviate from the long-range plan,” Zduriencik said. “We want to be as competitive as we can be, but we are still building this organization. We’re laying the cement,we’re putting up the pillars. It’s a construction process on-going.

“But you’d like to be as competitive as competitive as you can at the big-league level and  maybe you’re fortunate and some things happen. Last year we weren’t fortunate. What we’re trying to do is stay the course and build the organization and add pieces when we think they’re appropriate.”

Wedge talks about Cust, Ichiro and other hot topics

The Mariners added some power — and likely some strikeouts — on Wednesday by coming to terms with free-agent Jack Cust.

I talked to the former Oakland A’s designated hitter Wednesday and he’s excited about the opportunity after feeling a lack of love in the Bay Area. Getting sent to the minors at the start of last year left a mark on Cust and he’s thrilled for a fresh start.

You can read that story here.

New Mariners manager Eric Wedge just spoke with the media at the Winter Meetings and said nothing is finalized yet, but he’s happy to have the added bat on the way.

“When we talk about what we’re trying to do offensively, you’ll hear me talk about quality at-bats, good at-bats, strong at-bats, making good outs,” Wedge said. “Working and making i tough on that pitcher and he does a lot of that. It takes time to establish that discipline and put up a good at-bat, stick your nose in their with two strikes and do some of these things.

“If we can get a few other people to help us do that and our young people can watch that, it’s going to help us.”

Wedge also said Ichiro would definitely be his leadoff hitter and he’s also expecting big things from Chone Figgins in a more comfortable situation in his second go-round. He said Figgins remains the second baseman at this point and that Dustin Ackley won’t necessarily be ready to start the season in the big leagues.

And even with Cust on the way,he sounds like there’s a place for Milton Bradley.

“I’m not going to speak on Jack right now, but with Milton Bradley, he’s a guy who can do some DHing for us, but also bounce in the outfield for us. Milton can play left field, right field. Being a switch hitter he gives us great options from both sides of the plate. The health issues for Milton are the biggest question.”

Actually the biggest question might be how Bradley works with Wedge after a dust-up between the two back in ’04 led to Bradley’s release from the Indians.

“I had a good conversation with Milton,” Wedge said. “I think he and I both have a great advantage this time around because he knows what I’m all about and I’m very familiar with him. Obviously we have some history, but we’re goign to work that to our advantage this time around.

“I know that’s what I want and what he wants. That was many moons ago when we were together.”

 

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