02/23/09 5:32 PM EST
Clement getting crash course at first
Mariners backup catcher increases versatility by learning new spot
By Jim Street / MLB.com
That would be Jeff Clement.
"I played first base for something like three innings in the Little League World Series," Clement said. "But I don't remember making any plays."
The Mariners are trying to assemble a versatile roster, and one of the new options being explored is Clement being a potential emergency first baseman.
"[Manager Don Wakamatsu] talked to me about it two days ago and asked me to take some ground balls over there," Clement said. "I borrowed one of Bryan LaHair's old gloves and worked out there for the first time [Sunday]."
Clement, who wears No. 9, said he has a long way to go "before I can feel any kind of comfort over there, but I'll continue to work at it and hope to reach the point where I feel good enough to get into a game if they ask me to."
A college All-American and first-round selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft as a catcher, Clement figures to get most of his playing time this season as the designated hitter and backup catcher to Kenji Johjima.
But the 25-year-old Clement understands the importance of being versatile.
"In baseball, the more you can do the better off you are," he said. "I am going to try to become as good of player as I can over there and see what happens."
A catcher's daily workout already is the most difficult on the team, but Clement is ready and willing to take on a new challenge.
He expects to field grounders every day and work with bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, a former first baseman, and infield coach Bruce Hines about the fundamental responsibilities of the first baseman, such as bunt plays and relays.
"I'm not sure what the plan is, to be honest," Clement said of getting any playing time in games, "but I'm not going to go over there and make a pitcher throw more pitches than he has to.
"You can say what you want about going over there and don't worry about it, but you don't want to cause problems for your teammates. That's the most important thing. What I am doing affects others, not just myself."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.