The Seattle Mariners could invite veteran Mike Sweeney to spring training this month - although he'd have no chance of making the team.
So why bring him to Arizona?
Sweeney, 36, teamed with Ken Griffey Jr. last spring to completely re-invigorate what had been one of the worst clubhouses in baseball. With unhappy players like Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro and Carlos Silva - and the June firing of a manager and general manager - no one had fun in the Seattle locker room in 2008.
And the team lost 101 games.
Griffey and Sweeney, backed by manager Don Wakamatsu and his staff, turned an emotional black hole into a place where teammates showed up five, six hours before games. That camraderie led to a closeness on and off the field and contributed to an 85-win season last year.
Sweeney, a right-handed hitting free agent, hasn't had an offer after batting .281 in 74 games a year ago. Healthy again late in the summer, he batted . 381 in his last 25 games.
The Mariners have great affection for Sweeney, a five-time All-Star, but no place to put him on their opening day roster. For one thing, he's no longer a viable position player.
Like Junior, Sweeney would almost certainly need a pinch-runner late in games if the Mariners trailed by a run. On a roster that might feature 12 pitchers, Seattle can't have two players who can't play in the field.
Still, Sweeney has been told that, if no other team makes him an offer, he's welcome to come to camp with Seattle. There he'd get the chance to get into regular-season shape, play in some spring games, show he's healthy and perhaps draw the interest of another team.
And, meanwhile, the Mariners would benefit from his presence. It wouldn't cost the team much - players aren't paid until the regular season, and given only meal money in spring training. Sweeney could be invited in on a minor league deal.
If no one pursued him as camp drew to a close, Sweeney has said he'd likely retire. An invitation to camp with the Mariners would likely be a win-win for Sweeney and the team.
Sweeney may get one more spring in a Seattle uniform - with the hope or wearing someone else's one the 2010 season begins.
Now, a few links:
- Willie Mays has a biography coming out this month, 37 years after he retired, and since it's the first book he's ever contributed to, he's promoting it with interviews. Good!
- Coming off back surgery, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is under orders to swing less and show up late for camp this spring. Morneau will carry the Olympic torch to help open the winter games this month.
- Dustin Ackley thought he might be traded this winter, but his work at second base has him - and the Mariners - excited this spring.
- Columnist Terry Pluto writes about all things Cleveland, and among his Sunday topics was the Indians and their interest in first baseman Russell Branyan.
- Johnny Damon and agent Scott Boras keep turning down offers like the Yankees one-year, $6 million deal, but Damon seems unconcerned that he may be running out of teams and time.
- In case you missed it, Alex Rodriguez was up to his media tricks again last week, telling a YES iterviewer how he feared hip surgery would end his career - but that he did it for the team. It's the same surgery Mariner catcher Rob Johnson had this winter - on both hips.
- New York Post columnist Joel Sherman wonders what might have been had the Mets held on to Jack Zduriencik when he was in their front office years ago. He suspects the team would have improved.