02/25/11 3:11 PM EST
Cust impresses teammates with outfield skills
Mariners designated hitter prepared to roam grass if called upon
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
The Mariners definitely signed the burly designated hitter for his bat, but the 6-foot-1, 247-pounder drew some "oohs" and "ahhs" from teammates this week when he showed off a pretty good arm during outfield drills.
Cust has started 219 games in the outfield during his eight seasons in the big leagues, compared to 326 at designated hitter. He started just 14 times in the field last year in Oakland, but he started 50 times in '09 and 82 the year before.
So while his new Seattle teammates hooted and hollered a bit when he flashed his arm strength -- Milton Bradley even went for a chest bump at one point as they took turns in left field -- Cust takes pride in being able to play when needed.
"I was a baseball player first," the 32-year-old said. "No matter where they put me, I'm going to give 100 percent. No way am I the greatest outfielder in the world, but I try my butt off to get as good as I can.
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"There are going to be days when I'm out there and I feel comfortable out there. I've been playing in the outfield for 15 years now, so I should be OK. I'm no Gold Glover, that's for sure, but I make the plays and I've got a pretty good arm, pretty accurate."
Cust said he has always taken part in outfield drills to keep himself ready.
"Just because I DH, I still go out and get in all my work," he said. "Before the game, I act like I'm going to play in the outfield. Not as much during the season, I get a little different approach mentally as far as the DH kind of thing. I have to get into a different kind of zone. But when I'm playing the outfield, I get as much work in as I can out there. And Spring Training is the best time to do it."
Cust looks like he might be more of a first baseman with his burly build, but he hasn't played there since high school. He shifted to the outfield once he was drafted by Arizona with a late first-round pick in 1997, the same outfield where his father played for Seton Hall.
"First base is too close to the action for me," Cust said with a grin. "I let the ball slow down before I catch it. These are big boys hitting the ball."
If Cust does see any outfield time in Seattle, he'll be joined by Gold Glove winners Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki -- a fact that provides some comfort.
"That makes it easier, when you've only got to cover a little space," Cust said. "I told Guti, everything to my left I'm expecting you to catch. I got everything the other way. Unless you can run all the way over here and you can get that, too ..."