2/19/2014 7:30 P.M. ET
Mariners' leadoff position up for grabs
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon readily acknowledges that as things stand, Robinson Cano will hit in the three-spot in this year's lineup, with Corey Hart penciled in at cleanup. The team's new skipper likes Kyle Seager as a potential No. 2 hitter. But when it comes to leading things off?
"There are three or four guys [I'm thinking about] right now," McClendon said Wednesday. "We have to sort it out and see how everything shakes out. I'm not ready to reveal who those guys are."
Much depends on who winds up with starting jobs, of course. Brad Miller led off 67 games last season for Eric Wedge, but he is in a battle with Nick Franklin for the shortstop role, which McClendon described as wide open. Franklin started at leadoff once last year.
Endy Chavez (38 games), Michael Saunders (25), Dustin Ackley (6) and Abraham Almonte (2) all led off to start at various times last year and are competing for outfield jobs this spring, but those positions are far from settled. Other leadoff hitters used last year were Jason Bay (13) and Franklin Gutierrez (10), neither of whom are still with the team.
Seattle has not had a traditional leadoff-type hitter since the 2012 departure of Ichiro Suzuki and brought in little speed last season. The Mariners ranked 28th in stolen bases last year with 49, ahead of only the Cardinals (45) and McClendon's former Tigers club (35).
McClendon is not as concerned about stolen-base numbers as he is with being smart on the basepaths.
"We certainly have guys that should be able to steal bases," he said. "But one of my pet peeves and something I really believe in, you don't have to be a fast runner to be a good baserunner. That's one of the things we're trying to stress, being mentally prepared on the bases to do the right thing and anticipate different situations.
"When you talk about closing the gap and winning close games, baserunning does it more for you than any other aspect of the game. Going first to third, taking second on a ball in the dirt, going second to third on a ball in the dirt."
McClendon noted that Tigers star Miguel Cabrera is a very good, instinctive baserunner despite being a big man at 260 pounds. Thus, it is not only road runners who can win a game on the bases.
"I think it's anticipation," McClendon said. "I keep harping on this, and I want my guys to understand, when we talk about mental preparation, it's mental preparation on the basepaths as well. When you've got a guy on the mound that throws two-strike splits that bounce, then you ought to know that and anticipate. So when he does throw one, you're moving up. It's the little things that close the gap for you."
McClendon giving Franklin chance at spot
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Because Brad Miller was the Mariners' starting shortstop for 62 games last year as a rookie while Nick Franklin opened 90 games at second base, one might assume Miller would be the favorite to win the shortstop job again this spring.
But manager Lloyd McClendon reiterated Wednesday that Franklin, displaced at second by the arrival of Robinson Cano, was a legitimate candidate for the shortstop job.
Miller and Franklin shared reps at the position during infield drills over the first two days of full-squad workouts. Both were drafted as shortstops, with Franklin moving to second on a full-time basis only last year.
"Nick came in, and we had a great talk," McClendon said. "One of the things I told him was, 'Look, we've got a Hall of Fame second baseman, and that's just the way it is. This is a new chapter in your career. One door is closing; another is opening. It's an opportunity for you. I'm going into this with my eyes wide open. You have an opportunity to compete for the shortstop position, and I wish you the best of luck.'
"I said I don't have any preconceived notions, and I mean that. I do not have any preconceived notions of who is going to be my shortstop. He's going to have a great opportunity, and I wished him the best."
McClendon values defense at the shortstop position but would be happy with a solid glove man who contributes offensively as well.
"You've got to be able to catch the ball," he said. "I'm looking for a guy that is going to make all the routine plays. We had a guy in Detroit [Jhonny Peralta] that I called Steady Eddy. He wasn't flashy, but everything that was hit to him, he caught the ball and threw it over there.
"Everybody complained he didn't have the range, but you knew when the ball was hit to him, he was going to get an out. And I think that's important. That's what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for flashy play. I'm looking for a guy that is very sound fundamentally, makes the plays consistently and provides offense."
Miller, 24, hit .265/.318/.418 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 306 at-bats last year. Franklin, 22, hit .225/.303/.382 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 369 at-bats. Both have Minor League options remaining and could open the season in Triple-A Tacoma if they do not win the starting job.
Cano's cousin present at Mariners camp
PEORIA, Ariz. -- While Robinson Cano adjusts to a new team, there is one teammate who needs no introduction. At the locker closest to Cano's in the Mariners Spring Training clubhouse sits his cousin, Burt Reynolds, a 25-year-old infielder who played independent league ball the past three years.
Reynolds was signed as a Minor League free agent by Seattle at the same time his cousin inked his $240 million contract in December, a package deal that came with a Spring Training invite for Reynolds.
Reynolds lived with Cano for three years in New Jersey when Cano attended school in the United States for grades seven through nine before moving back to the Dominican Republic. The two reconnected when Cano came back to the U.S. after being signed by the Yankees.
Reynolds was drafted by the Nationals in 2006 and spent three years in the Rays' organization (2008-10), but has never been above Class A.
"This is the first time we've been on the same team," said Reynolds, who was born in the Dominican but grew up in New Jersey. "It's great. Our dream together is to be able to play not against each other in the big leagues, but to play together. Now it's my part to just work hard and see if I can get up there with him."
Reynolds has played third base as well as the outfield in his career. He hit .247 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in 71 games for the Camden Riversharks in the Atlantic League last year.
As for his famous cousin?
"He's going to play his game," Reynolds said. "Obviously he's a great player and has his plan, which is to help the team as much as he can, help the younger guys. He wants to help them win a championship. I try to pick up as much as I can from him. He's a smart guy and knows what he wants. He understands the game and is a very smart player."
The Mariners have previously had family connections whose time with Seattle overlapped. In the organization for a time with Ken Griffey and his son who shared his namesake was another son, Craig, who was on Seattle's 40-man roster at one point and played seven seasons in the Mariners' farm system. Jay Buhner's brother, Shawn, was a Minor League outfielder for the Mariners for six years but was never in Major League camp.
• After working at second base in Tuesday's infield drills, utility man Willie Bloomquist on Wednesday moved to third base and took grounders alongside Seager. Bloomquist can play second, short and third as well as the outfield, which is why McClendon welcomes his veteran presence.
"That was my first signing when I got here," McClendon said. "That was the first guy I thought we needed to go after, because this guy is so important to a ballclub. To have a veteran guy that can move around and do a lot of different things really gives you options on a daily basis. Particularly with the traveling we do, I thought it was really important we target the right guy, and I think we got the right guy."
• After working on bunting drills Tuesday, the Mariners held a session on pickoff drills Wednesday. One season each day of camp will focus on a different fundamental.
• Coaches threw batting practice again Wednesday, but hitters will switch over to live batting practice against their pitchers starting Thursday. Hitters typically do not swing at pitches much the first day or two of live BP in order to get their timing down and work on tracking the ball.
About half the pitchers in camp threw bullpen sessions Tuesday, including James Paxton, Randy Wolf, Brandon Maurer, Fernando Rodney, Mark Rogers, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Bobby LaFromboise, Zach Miner, Hector Noesi, Yoervis Medina and Logan Bawcom.
Also throwing were Minor League invitees Jonathan Arias, Stephen Kohlscheen, Carson Smith, Roenis Elias and Ramon Ramirez.
The other half of the pitching staff will take the mound for live BP sessions -- including Erasmo Ramirez, Tom Wilhelmsen, Lucas Luetge, Blake Beavan and veteran non-roster invitee Joe Beimel -- though Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker are on a slower schedule and will instead throw their second bullpens of camp on Thursday.