Seeking spark, McLaren shuffles lineup
Mariners skipper hopes to spur bats back to expected levels
SEATTLE -- For those searching for reasons why the Mariners have the worst record in the American League, it's right there in black and white.Look at the Mariners' media guide. Look on the Internet for the players' career averages. Or, as manager John McLaren says, check out the back of every player's baseball card. "If we can just get back to what our baseball cards say, we're going to be fine," said McLaren. "The cards tell us what we can do," McLaren added. "But in a lot of cases, we're not even close. I'm not talking about career years. I'm just talking about things we've done year in and year out." Their baseball cards provide career averages, but many of the Mariners' regulars don't measure up to them. Here's a look as some rather unattractive numbers for the regulars: Ichiro Suzuki: Career .333; .272 in 2008, down 61 points.
Jose Lopez: Career .260; .308 in 2008, up 48 points.
Adrian Beltre: Career .271; .247 in 2008, down 24 points.
Raul Ibanez: Career .285; .305 in 2008, up 20 points.
Richie Sexson: Career .263; .195 in 2008, down 68 points.
Kenji Johjima: Career .289; .236 in 2008, down 53 points.
Yuniesky Betancourt: Career .284; .259 in 2008, down 25 points.
Jose Vidro: Career .302; .200 in 2008, down 102 points. Two up and six down for a collective 265 points below their baseball cards. Rookie Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien, called up just 18 days ago, have insufficient data, although they aren't bumping up the team numbers. They are averaging a combined .198 with 42 strikeouts in 106 at-bats. After Friday's 6-4 loss to the Padres, McLaren walked through the clubhouse trying to bolster the players' spirits. "I said, 'Guys, you can't play any harder than you have. But it's just not happening,'" McLaren said. "'You just got to keep believing in yourselves and your teammates. It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when. "'It's been a tough stretch. We've struggled in a lot of aspects of our game. When we hit, we don't pitch well. When we pitch well, we don't hit. The staff and I are trying to do everything we can to get this club in the right direction. We know we're a good team. We just haven't gotten it going yet.'" McLaren hoped that another adjustment in the lineup on Saturday would be the ticket to victory. It included moving Lopez to his third spot in three games. Lopez hit third, the production spot in the lineup. For most of the season, he has hit second, but hit in the five-hole in five games last week during Sexson's suspension. He hit .500 (5-for-10) in that spot. "Lopez has hit anywhere we put him," McLaren said. Beltre moved from third to second in the order. Johjima, hitting .333 at Safeco, slid up one spot to fifth and was the designated hitter. Sexson dropped one slot, down to the six-hole. Jamie Burke was behind the plate and batted eighth. "We went through a period where we were not swinging bats," McLaren said. "There was some tension. Guys were swinging at pitches not even close to the strike zone, pitchers were overthrowing. You could see a frustration level that was pretty good. "I think we're past that, but we're still in the stage we can win on a consistent basis. There is no reason why we can't."
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.