The pregame media session on Sunday's can be a little mundane because you can often times be searching for questions to ask. But other times it can be pretty interesting because of that. You find yourself asking different questions and managers will often discuss bigger picture topics and baseball philosophy.
Eric Wedge's morning meeting covered a variety of topics, ranging from Ichiro's day off, when you should steal third and Jack Cust's struggles.
Let's get to it ...
Ichiro gets a "day off" today as the designated hitter. Wedge said he talked with Ichiro about it and knew he wanted to do it sometime soon with the Mariners on a long stretch of games without an off day.
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"As we got into it, after talking to him a little bit, it might be the best thing to do to couple it with the off day," he said. "It gets him off his legs for a couple of days here."
With Ichiro at DH, it means Jack Cust will get a break from his struggles.
How bad has Cust been?
He's hitting .171 (5-for70) with just one extra base hit - a double on April 8 against Cleveland. It means he's slugging .186. That is awful. According to Fangraphs, not only is it the worst slugging percentage amongst full-time DHs, but next worst is Bobby Abreu at .324. Cust also has the most strikeouts with 25. He has three hits in his last 30 at-bats and one of them was a groundball that got past Ryan Raburn, and even Jose Lopez probably gloves.
But the bigger concern isn't that Cust isn't just hitting, it's that he isn't hitting the ball hard when he does make contact.
"He’s been a little bit off," Wedge said. "He’s working at it. I think he feels like he’s getting a little bit closer. We are not seeing the results we want to see from Jack right now. And obviously being in the middle of the lineup, we want to see him get it going. I’ve had conversations with him. I will continue to have conversations with him. I think he’s still confident and still feels like it’s going to come. I still fee like its going to come for him."
Is it a mechanical flaw?
"There’s always mechanical side of it," Wedge said. "With him, it’s more about approach and feel and timing. I think that’s what he’s focusing on."
Some people might question Cust's approach. He's beyond patient, looking to draw walks and find the perfect pitch to hit. He is second with 16 walks behind Abreu's 19. And Cust has four bases loaded walks this season. But it can be frustrating watching him get behind in the count as he seemingly lets good, hittable pitches go by in the quest to get on base.
"He’s always been kind of an exact type of hitter," Wedge said. "He’s always had a great eye. I think it sticks out more now because he is struggling."
And yet Wedge wouldn't mind seeing Cust take an occasional hack before he has two strikes.
"I’d like to see him be a little bit more aggressive at times," he said. "But I think part of him getting himself going is walking that line. He has a reputation of having a very good eye. But I think ultimately have to see where you are right now and make some adjustments. You can’t be too stubborn with it."
Basically Wedge's philosophy on hitting is simple.
"You know what we are looking for here: We want to be aggressive mentally and ready to hit," Wedge said. "I feel like if you do that, then you are ultimately going to be more disciplined too. What I don’t want is to be passive and looking for just for something perfect and getting something in between. I want us to be more aggressive."
And how are his hitters doing with it?
"I think collectively we’ve shown baby steps," he said. "We are by no means as far along as I’d like us to be now. But we are 22 games in. I think they have an understanding of what we are trying to do and what we need to do. We have to go up there and be in a position mechanically where we are ready to hit. And mentally we need to be in a position where we are looking to hit, where we are hunting the baseball."
Last night Michael Saunders was thrown out stealing third in the third inning, making the third out of the inning. While Wedge isn't above allowing players to steal third - we've seen it several times this season - that wasn't one of those times.
"We didn’t want to do that last night," he said. "That was a mistake. But it’s a learning moment. It’s a teaching moment. When you got a left-hand hitter up there with two outs, if you’re going to go there, you have to know you’re going to make it. Even with a right-hand hitter up there."
So does he follow the rule of thumb of --- only steal third if you are guaranteed of making it?
"There’s some rule of thumb there, but there are always exceptions," he said. "I don’t want to go straight by the book. It’s not the way I am, it’s not the way I want to be, I don’t think it’s the way we need to be. But we don’t want to push bad plays, either. There’s points in time we might be a little more risky, but that’s not one of them there."