Figgins brings strong work ethic to Seattle
Second baseman sits down for a Q&A with reporter Street
After eight seasons and five American League West championships with the Angels, infielder Chone Figgins has moved north on I-5, beginning the first year of his multiyear contract with the Mariners.
He not only changed addresses, but also moves to a different position -- from third base with the Angels to second base for the Mariners.
The addition of Figgins gives Seattle one of the best top-of-the-lineup hitters in the AL. Leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki reached base via walk or hit 247 times last season while Figgins reached base 285 times, the second-highest in the league.During a break between workouts, Figgins took time for a Q&A with MLB.com.
MLB.com: The media guide has you listed at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, which seems a little heavy. Where are you hiding the 20 or so pounds?
Figgins: Those are the correct figures. I probably have the 20 or so "extra" pounds in my legs. I do so much leg work in the offseason that a lot of my weight goes there. But that's a good thing. It keeps me strong for the season.MLB.com: When was the last time you heard someone say, "You are too small to play in the Major Leagues?"
Figgins: Probably a couple of years ago. It always has been, "Can a man of his stature handle a full season?" I think that's what I train for -- to stay healthy for a full season.MLB.com: Of all the intangibles you bring to the team, which would you most like to have rub off on your new teammates? Figgins: My work ethic. I think when you have good work habits, it carries you into the game and kind of rubs off on others. A lot of great players work hard, but it doesn't get noticed. You end up seeing why they are such good players because of the routine they have that gets them focused on the game. Having a good work ethic is something I learned at an early age because of my size. I knew I had to go over and beyond everyone else to play the game. Fortunately, this is a game where you can be small in stature and still be successful and be a big part of a team. MLB.com: What is the most difficult play for a second baseman to make?
Figgins: For me, it's on a double play to my glove (left) side. You have a runner bearing down on the shortstop and you want to make a throw he can get without being taken out. You have to protect your teammate and a bad throw can put him in danger.
MLB.com: What are the circumstances behind you becoming a switch-hitter?
SHAPING UP THE SCHEDULE
For the second consecutive season, the Mariners launch the regular season with a seven-game road trip. A four-game series against the Athletics April 5-8, followed by a three-game set against the Rangers in Arlington, precedes the Mariners' home opener against Oakland on April 12 -- the first of nine straight games at Safeco Field. Former Mariners star left-hander Randy Johnson will throw the ceremonial first pitch prior to the home opener and the Mariners have their fingers crossed that Cliff Lee, acquired from the Phillies in a blockbuster offseason trade, throws his first pitch in a Mariners uniform at some point during the homestand.
Even with Lee likely to miss at least the first half of April because of a strained lower abdominal muscle, the Mariners can use three starters -- right-handers Felix Hernandez and Ian Snell and left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith -- who were a combined 9-1 with a 2.66 ERA against the Athletics and Rangers last season.Interleague Play
A three-game home series against the Padres on May 21-23 kicks off the Mariners' schedule against National League teams. The Mariners return the favor on June 11-13 in San Diego. The Reds and Cubs come to Safeco Field for three-game series on June 18-20 and June 22-24, respectively. A three-game series against the Brewers in Milwaukee June 25-27 completes the Interleague Play schedule.
Figgins: I was forced to do it by the Colorado Rockies. I never did it before, but they forced me to do it and said it would help my career. It was tough in the beginning. I think I went something like 0-for-25 and I actually quit (switch-hitting) for a game, came back the next day, got a couple of hits and it ended up working out for me.It was in Class A ball and the coach was Rolando Fernandez. He's still with the Rockies organization working with the Latin players and I still talk to him quite a bit to this day. I thank him all the time.
MLB.com: What's the best thing about switch-hitting?
Figgins: The ball is always coming into you as a switch-hitter and you don't get hit a lot.
MLB.com: If you were allowed to change one rule in baseball, which one would you change?
Figgins: I would change the interference call at home plate when a guy is stealing. When one guy is running and the batter is swinging, it's easy for the catcher to fall into the batter and there goes the stolen base. A smart catcher will just go into the batter and hope to get an interference call. It's happened to me (as a runner) quite a few times in the Minors and Majors.
MLB.com: How did you your parents come up with the name Desmond DeChone?
Figgins: My mom and my dad's sister came up with it. The Desmond part I am not sure about, but DeChone they wanted to be different. That's why they spelled it and said it like that. I have been called all kinds of different things, but never Chone (pronounced Shawn). My teachers actually called me Desmond, because that is my first name, but once I started playing baseball, people started calling me Chone.
MLB.com: You have one career grand slam. What do you remember about it?
Figgins: It was my first (Major League) home run. I can't remember who the pitcher was, but it was against the Orioles in Baltimore. A curveball. I remember that. It was a hanging curve. If I hit it out, it had to be a hanger. It barely went over the wall and I actually didn't know it was a grand slam. When I touched home plate I was all excited and noticed that there were four people there waiting for me -- the three runners and the on-deck guy. I said, "Man, that was a grand slam." That was a special moment right there.
MLB.com: Do you think stolen bases are becoming more important in recent years now that home runs are on the decline?
Figgins: We will never see a 100-stolen-base guy again because of the way they are trying to keep guys from stealing -- the slide step, the pitch-out, pickoff moves that a lot of times don't get called balks. And the catchers and pitchers are so athletic, which make it harder for guys to steal bases.Stealing 40, 50 and 60 bases these days is big. That's huge. My goal? I just run. I don't have a goal, other than touching on home plate as many times as possible. Scoring runs is the most important thing for me. I might steal more bases, but I go from first to third so much that it's hard to steal bases. I usually don't stop at second.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.