Seattle Mariners

Rickie Weeks getting a look at filling leadoff role in Mariners’ lineup

Don’t use ink when writing in Austin Jackson atop the Seattle Mariners’ lineup card. Not yet, anyway.

Rickie Weeks batted leadoff in Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs and this time, apparently, it wasn’t because he needed to make an early departure for a dental appointment.

Manager Lloyd McClendon, while saying he’s “just playing with things” also acknowledged, “I like Rickie as a leadoff hitter, too.”

Weeks, 32, is no stranger to the duty.

He served as the leadoff hitter in 623 of his 1,026 career starts over an 11-year career with Milwaukee prior to signing Feb. 18 with the Mariners as a free agent.

Most notably, he has a .353 on-base percentage in his career as a leadoff hitter, slightly better than his overall .347 career mark.

“Over time, I had to adapt a little bit because I was always told that when you’re leading off, you’ve got to see pitches and take pitches,” Weeks said. “But I found I’ve just got to play my game.

“It took me a while to figure that out, to just play the same way.”

Jackson batted second on Wednesday — a move McClendon made twice earlier this spring when speedy James Jones batted leadoff. At the time, McClendon cited Jackson’s ability to “move the ball around.”

While Weeks lacks Jones’ speed, McClendon still likes Jackson’s potential as a No. 2 hitter behind Weeks and in front of Robinson Cano.

“Austin is a speed guy who hits a lot of triples and doubles,” McClendon said. “They both bring a lot to the table.”

The only other time this spring that Weeks batted leadoff was March 18. He had a dental appointment that day, and McClendon made the move in an effort to give him the best chance for three at-bats before departing.

Not this time.

Even so, the idea of Weeks as a leadoff hitter is merely a consideration at this point; Jackson figures to remain the leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers when Dustin Ackley replaces Weeks in left field.

But when the Mariners face a lefty, Weeks appears likely to bat first or second in the lineup.

“Rickie has close to 3,000 at-bats in the leadoff spot,” McClendon said. “I think he has 100 home runs in the leadoff spot. There’s a lot to like about him there.”

FORBES VALUATIONS OUT

The Mariners’ franchise value jumped an astounding 55 percent over the past year to $1.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine in its annual MLB financial report.

Forbes took note of the club’s new deal with Root Sports, which it said would generate about $103 million a year over the life of the 18-year agreement.

MLB does not release it financial reports and has long disputed Forbes’ annual findings.

The magazine defines franchise value as the value of the club based on its current stadium deal without deduction for debt other than stadium debt.

Forbes also reported that, despite the Root-generated windfall, the Mariners actually dropped two slots — to 14th — in terms of franchise value compared with the other 29 teams.

The Mariners’ value is also slightly below the overall major-league average of $1.2 billion per franchise.

The New York Yankees rank first in value at $3.2 billion. The Los Angeles Dodgers are second at $2.4 billion, followed by Boston at $2.1 billion, San Francisco at $2 billion and the Chicago Cubs at $1.8 billion.

The Mariners are third in value among AL West teams.

The Los Angeles Angels rank eighth overall at $1.3 billion; Texas is 11th at $1.22 billion; Houston is 26th at $800 million; and Oakland is 27th at $725 million.

CORA ON OPENING DAY

Former Seattle second baseman Joey Cora will mark the 20th anniversary of the Mariners’ first postseason club by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the season-opener April 6 against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.

Cora, now 49, played for the Mariners from 1995 until an Aug. 31, 1998, trade sent him to Cleveland for third baseman David Bell. Cora batted .277 in an 11-year career for four teams.

Pregame ceremonies for the opener start at 12:30 p.m. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

The Mariners report only scattered single tickets remain for the opener.

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