Talk to scouts around the American League and they'll tell you Yuniesky Betancourt is among the best shortstops in the game. None will tell you he's as good as he could be.
This spring, manager Don Wakamatsu and his staff have taken on Betancourt as something of a project. They're not asking much – just better pre-game preparation, dedication to the team game of small ball, a jump of, say, 25 per cent in his stolen base success rate …
It's a long list. It includes everything Betancourt does.
The best interests of Betancourt and those of he Seattle Mariners are not at odds, and coaches trying to help a 27-year-old man-child finally grow up is no sign of desperation.
The Mariners want Betancourt at his best, and that could be very good indeed. On the off chance that he doesn't respond, the Mariners this year have Plan B – Ronny Cedeno.
Cedeno has shown not just the ability to bunt, hit-and-run and draw a walk at the plate this spring, but an affinity for it. If it helps win a game, he's for it. As an infielder, he's solid. As a hitter, he's disciplined.
Betancourt likekl will keep his job, but only if he embraces the coaching he's getting this spring. A more complete Betancourt would be a very good shortstop, indeed. No one questions his athletic ability. If, for instance, he worked as hard before a game as Adrian Beltre or Icihro Suzuki, Mariners fans might finally have the player they saw flashes of in his first few years.
The one thing Betancourt can't do this year is get comfortable with less than total effort. If he does that – and in the past, he has – Seattle has an option.