Mike Sweeney knows all about being a longshot to make a big-league team. In Kansas City 11 years ago, in Oakland in 2008 and Seattle in 2009, his chances of making the opening day roster were all but nonexistent.
Sweeney made those teams. Now, back in camp with the Seattle Mariners as a non-roster invitee, he's under no illusion that what he did last year will count for much.
"My chances are slimmer this year than they were last spring," he said. "I had the chance to go to camp with two other teams, but this was a no-brainer. It’s an opportunity. It may not be easy, but my goal is to make the people around me better."
Without question, general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Don Wakamatsu thought Sweeney had that effect in the Mariners clubhouse in 2009.
"He's a force of nature," Wakamatsu said.
Sweeney, 36, also held up his end at the plate, batting .281 as a parttime designated hitter and occasional pinch hitter. This spring, when versatility is an issue - can the team have Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. on a roster even though neither can play in the field? - Sweeney is optimistic.
"I talked to Don and told him, 'I have my third baseman glove, I’ll play the outfield ... They know I can hit," he said.
"I like to think I had an impact last year. With the new guys in camp, (Casey) Kotchman, (Ryan) Garko, even Milton Bradley, I'd like the chance to embrace them this year."
More likely, Sweeney will come to camp, play in exhibition games and - at best - get a chance to sign on elsewhere with a big-leaue team. He's aware of that.
'Whether it's for the next six weeks or next two years, I'll always be grateful for the 009 season and the love I had for the guys in that clubhouse," he said. "Last yearwas the most enjoyable of my career. When I walk away, I want to leave no stone unturned. I don’t want to live the rest of my life looking back.
"Jack made it clear, if I wasn’t going to make the Mariners he’d do everything in his power to put me on a big-league club somewhere else if there’s interest," Sweeney said.
"I don’t want to step away. I want to continue playing. My focus is on playing. If I’m not on the team April 3, not in the big leagues, I’ll be home with wife and kids. This will work out. I believe that."