Figgins getting 'couple of days' off to regroup
Wedge hopes to snap veteran out of prolonged slump
SEATTLE -- Mariners third baseman Chone Figgins, mired in a lengthy slump that has dropped his batting average to .190, will be given "a couple of days" off to regroup, manager Eric Wedge said prior to the team's game against Baltimore on Tuesday night.
Figgins will be temporarily replaced at third base by utility infielder Luis Rodriguez, who was penciled into the No. 8 spot in the lineup.
Figgins has two hits in his past 39 at-bats, which includes a current 0-for-22 stretch. Wedge gave Figgins Friday off in the hope of jump-starting the 33-year-old, but he's gone hitless in 12 at-bats since.
"I'm going to give Chone a couple of days, just to get away from it a little bit," Wedge said. "Obviously we've been doing a lot of thinking about him and a couple of other guys, too. We're just looking to navigate through the best way we feel we can to get him back on track as quick as possible.
"We've got a long way to go. Figgy, when it's all said and done, is going to have a very good year and is going to be a big part of what we're trying to do here. But right now, we're going to give him a couple of days."
Figgins, in the second year of a four-year, $36 million contract, got off to a slow start last season as well and was hitting .198 on May 29. But he came on strong in the second half and finished the season with a .259 average and 42 stolen bases.
The veteran drew loud boos during Monday's 4-3 victory over the Orioles, particularly on a couple of fielding misplays late in the game, and Wedge acknowledged he's trying to take care of the player as well as help his team.
"I want to protect him because he's a good person, a good baseball player," Wedge said. "He's just going through a tough spell right now. I've seen this young man play for a lot of years, and I know what he's capable of doing for the baseball club. It's easy to jump off when someone is struggling a little bit, but that's not my way. I believe in the person, the man, the player. But he's human, and we just need to give him a couple days."
Wedge said Figgins wants to continue playing through his troubles, but he is "strong enough" to handle the current course.
"I just felt like with some of the things I'm seeing, he's probably better suited to getting a couple of days in a row right now," Wedge said. "It's a series of steps. It can go either way. I've seen it go both ways when you make some of these changes, but it's my job to do what I feel is best for him, which ultimately will be best for the team."
Wilson gets extra work with catcher's gear
SEATTLE -- Given that Jack Wilson has largely lost his second-base role with the Mariners in recent weeks, the veteran infielder raised a few eyebrows in the press box when he showed up for early work before Tuesday's game wearing catcher's gear, then proceeded to work on throws to second base -- with backup catcher Chris Gimenez fielding his tosses.
Wilson said he was just having fun and really isn't looking to try a new position, not after already undertaking the transition to second base from his shortstop role this spring.
"I'm just trying to come in every day and find stuff to keep it fun, working every day to do something," Wilson said. "Catching is actually good for your legs. I'm just trying to be ready when my name is called."
Wilson has started just seven of the past 21 games, with Adam Kennedy taking over more of the second-base duties. Kennedy has hit well -- his .283 average leads the team -- but Wilson was swinging a pretty hot bat as well.
The 33-year-old got sideways with manager Eric Wedge early in the season when he asked out of a game in Texas after committing two errors while trying to get comfortable in his new second-base role, then went 0-for-16 after getting benched for three games.
Since then, however, Wilson has hit .284 (19-for-67) to raise his season average back to .248.
While Wilson would love to play, he's not quite ready to take on catching duties in actual games. He said he's often donned the gear during offseasons to work with Minor League pitchers represented by his agent at home in Los Angeles, where he has a full practice field in his backyard.
Could Wilson catch in a Major League game?
"I don't think so," he said with a grin. "These guys throw much too hard and are much too good. I'd be calling all straight fastballs, four seamers, straight as possible."
The Wedge way: full speed ahead
SEATTLE -- First-year Mariners manager Eric Wedge is a no-nonsense sort who preaches hard-nosed baseball and full-out effort. And that style seems to be catching on with his club.
In the past three games, catcher Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan both executed headlong dives into first base trying to beat out infield grounders. And pitcher Doug Fister did a full-out belly flop trying to haul in a foul pop that was out of his reach during Monday's 4-3 victory over the Orioles.
Wedge isn't a proponent of the headfirst slides into first, knowing the potential for injury outweighs any benefit. Not to mention most runners get there faster simply by running through the bag.
But he does love the energy and effort, and Wedge said Fister's dive was another good example of the kind of player he appreciates.
"He's an athlete and an intense competitor," Wedge said. "When you're out there and you're in it -- that's why when you guys hit me up about guys sliding into first base ... hey, you can tell them a thousand times over, and I will -- when you're out there grinding and you sniff that thing out, you'll do everything but rip your face off to get to first base. That's the attitude.
"And I guarantee you, I don't know how close [Fister] came to it -- I don't think it was real close -- but I guarantee he felt like he could get to that ball. And that was his attitude and that's attitude we want. You put your head down and plow."
The Mariners enjoyed their best May record since 2003, when they went 19-8 en route to a 93-69 season. The Mariners were 15-11 this month, a welcome turnabout for a franchise that was 27-57 in May the previous three years.
Just having a winning month of any kind is welcome news for the Mariners, who hadn't pulled that off since June of last year, when they went 14-13. This was the 11th time with a winning May record in the franchise's 35-year history.
Brendan Ryan's 11-game hitting streak is the longest by a Mariners shortstop since Yuniesky Betancourt's 20-game streak in 2007.
Until Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-4 on Monday, he was mired in a 1-for-24 slump that was his worst stretch since 2005, when he also had a 1-for-24 stretch. The only worse stretch of his career was a 1-for-25 span in '03.
How good has the Mariners' bullpen been? Heading into Tuesday night's game, it had allowed only three earned runs over the past 14 games, good for a 0.74 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. Seattle's relievers ranked fifth in the American League with a 3.55 ERA, including a 2.66 mark in May. Chris Ray and Brandon League combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Tuesday's win over the Orioles.