I was standing in the clubhouse when Mariners coach Ty Van Burkleo posted today's lineup. At first glance, it seemed relatively normal and then I happened to notice that Mike Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. were in the lineup at the same time.
Obviously it seemed a little strange, but Sweeney is getting the start today at first base for a few different reasons.
"He's swinging the bat well and obviously with a day off tomorrow we can be alright to play him at first base," Manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Right now, he's swinging the bat as well as anybody."
Right now, the Mariners can't afford to not have him in the lineup. Of course, the logical thing would be having him continue to DH instead of Griffey. But I think we've come to the realization that Wakamatsu is going to still play Griffey at least two to three times a week.
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Another reason the Mariners are playing Sweeney at first base today is to see if he is a viable option there when they go on the road in interleague games in San Diego and St. Louis in two weeks or even in the near future.
"It would give us options and we've thought about it," Wakamatsu said.
Of course there are concerns about having Sweeney at first base. Even in his younger days, Sweeney was an average defensive first baseman at best. And he isn't so young anymore. He usually takes ground balls at first base during batting practice, but there is more to playing first base than just taking ground balls.
Sweeney's started five games at first base last season - all early in the season. His last start came on May 25th, 2009 in Oakland. In his career he's appeared in 571 games as a first baseman and 595 as a DH. Heck, in our photo database, I only found one photo of Sweeney with a glove on his hand.
And while first base has often hid some horrible defensive players, there's more to it than just catching balls from fielders. Because the Mariners are so inconsistent and anemic offensively something as simple as not digging a ball on a low throw could cost Seattle a base runner or a run or a win. Casey Kotchman is fantastic at it. He's saved the M's runs. But he also isn't hitting.
"You look at these one run ball games and you want to be able to manufacture or drive in enough runs to give you a chance to win that," Wakamatsu said. "Having Sweeney, Bradley and now Griff in there, it gives us a chance to have a little more depth maybe."
Another concern is Sweeney and his health. Keeping his back healthy is a fight and playing the field could aggravate it, similar to what happened to Russell Branyan last season. But Wakamatsu wasn't too concerned.
"We've talked about it, but Mike comes in every day and says he's good to go," he said. "But you look at the home runs and way he's swinging the bat, that kind of tells you his back is okay. So we'll keep going with it."
Obviously if the Mariners do have a lead late in the game. Kotchman would come in as a defensive replacement, which Wakamatsu mentioned.
While the Sweeney news was interesting, the news about Erik Bedard and his surgically repaired shoulder continues to grow worse.
Wakamatsu said Bedard felt discomfort in the shoulder on Saturday when he played catch, and they tried to have play catch today and there was still discomfort. Bedard is going to meet with the Mariners team doctor today have the shoulder examined.
- Will Venable RF
- David Eckstein 2B
- Adrian Gonzalez 1B
- Chase Headley 3B
- Matt Stairs DH
- Oscar Salazar LF
- Nick Hundley C
- Everth Cabrera SS
- Tony Gwynn Jr. CF
RHP Mat Latos (3-3, 3.28 ERA)
- Ichiro RF
- Chone Figgins 2B
- Franklin Gutierrez CF
- Mike Sweeney 1B
- Milton Bradley LF
- Ken Griffey Jr. DH
- Matt Tuiasosopo 3B
- Rob Johnson C
- Josh Wilson SS
RHP Felix Hernandez (2-3, 3.95 ERA)