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08/29/08 7:50 PM ET
Three catchers offer Mariners dilemma
Without a hot hand to claim most at-bats, other factors at play
By Andrew Gribble / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Not many teams in the Major Leagues carry three catchers on their active roster before September callups. Then again, not many teams with a $116 million payroll get mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with more than a month left in the season. Just consider the Mariners unique in a number of areas this season. With Kenji Johjima, Jeff Clement and Jamie Burke all splitting time behind the plate, manager Jim Riggleman has been forced to implement a three-pronged strategy in determining who will catch, who will be the designated hitter and who will sit. None of the players have particularly made a case to stay in the lineup with their ability to consistently hit, so Riggleman has been forced to take into account other factors before he makes his decision. "There's a lot of variables in there," Riggleman said. When a left-hander is on the mound -- which has been the case more often than not against the Mariners over the past few weeks -- the nod will likely go to Johjima, especially if he has previous success against the starting pitcher. Though Johjima was 0-for-3 lifetime against the Indians' Jeremy Sowers heading into Friday night's game at Progressive Field, the 32-year-old Japanese catcher was penciled in behind the plate while Clement was at designated hitter. Clement's hot bat of late has made it tough for Riggleman to leave the 25-year-old rookie on the bench. Since Clement finally cracked the Mendoza line (a .200 batting average) Aug. 8, he is batting .341 with six doubles and nine RBIs, which has helped lift his average to .229. Expect Clement to be in the lineup more as a DH in the next few days, as "his knees have been barking a little bit," Riggleman said. When the Mariners face a right-hander, it's almost guaranteed that Clement, the only left-handed batter of the trio, will be in the lineup in some fashion, leaving the other spot up for grabs. "It's about taking those three things into consideration and making a choice," Riggleman said.
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.