PEORIA, Ariz. – It was the second spring training welcome Eric Wedge has made with the Seattle Mariners, and he told the 67 players now in camp two things Saturday.
The first: Expectations are higher this season, and players’ expectations should be higher for themselves, their teammates and the franchise.
The second: The Mariners are much further along than in 2011, a much better team.
“Last year we laid a foundation,” Wedge said. “Respect the game and your teammates, play nine hard innings. We had some tough, tough stretches and those made us better.
“I told them I believed in them, and I want them to know why they should be good players.”
Afterward, the full squad worked out enthusiastically – taking ground balls, fly balls and batting practice.
“It was good to play some baseball,” Wedge said. “I told the guys, this camp is all about preparing to win.”
The last time he was a Mariners player, Carlos Guillen was 28 years old and coming into his own as a fine big-league hitter – a skill he would see blossom with the Detroit Tigers.
Now he’s back in Seattle at 36, trying to win a spot on the bench for the first big-league team he ever played for.
“I work out two or three times a week on my legs – for the rest of my life,” said Guillen, whose long history of injuries have plagued his career. “I feel good.”
One of the older players in a youthful camp, Guillen is delighted by the situation.
“It’s fun, it makes me feel young,” Guillen said.
Guillen will be trying to make the team as an option at first and third base and a bat coming off the bench. A .285 career hitter – and a switch-hitter with some power – Guillen’s main competition could be his own health.
“He moved around well,” Wedge said of Guillen. “Carlos is a pro, we’re going to look at him at both corners of the infield.”
First day of batting practice was against coaches, so all hysteria should be restrained, but and Mike Carp stood out.
He hit hard line drives, long home runs and then a monstrous shot that cleared the batters eye in center field. No one else came close.
Other impressive first day swingers: Jesus Montero, Franscisco Rodriguez and Michael Saunders, who worked all winter hitting the ball up the middle.
In his first round of batting practice, Saunders hit the screen in front of the mound four times, each with a line drive.
Montero? The right-handed hitting rookie nearly hit a truck driving down a street that’s well beyond the left field fence.
Outfielder Mike Wilson, designated for assignment last month when the team signed relievers Hong-Chih Kuo and Shawn Camp, signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He reported to camp Saturday. Wilson, 28, is among 12 outfielders here and will wear No. 94. For the first day of camp, he wore No. 97 – and was the only player on the field without his name on his jersey.… The Mariners’ ever-expanding spring schedule added a “B” game at the Colorado Rockies at 9 a.m. (PST) March 8. … Looking for the early choice for “colorful character” in camp? Try Japanese infielder Munenori Kawasaki. When taking grounders at shortstop, Kawasaki would yell something before each one. Not before most of them, all of them. That delighted Wedge: “He has a lot of fun out there, he let’s his personality out. I told them today – do what you do, be yourself. He’s fun to be around.” … Tacoma designated hitter Luis Jimenez had a fine run with the Rainiers last season, batting .285 with 12 home runs and 57 RBI in 74 games. He’s in camp, but Wedge’s insistence on players being in shape mean trouble for Jimenez. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds. , and looks at least that big.