There was a new, but familiar face in the Mariners clubhouse on Sunday morning. Outfielder Endy Chavez was unpacking his gear.
The 35-year-old outfielder has signed a minor league contract with the Mariners, but has joined the big league club for spring training. Chavez was released from his contract by the Royals on Friday.
"I'm glad to have this opportunity," he said. "I just have to go forward and work hard and be healthy. I believe this is opportunity is better for me. It's more clear for me. And I feel more comfortable."
The move is really about adding depth to an outfield spot, which seems strange. However, past the big league level, there is an issue at the Triple A Level. Right now, Tacoma would have to use Abe Almonte - acquired in the Shawn Kelley trade, or recent outfield convert Francisco Martinez in center field. Adding Chavez gives them some depth at the position.
"I'm not expecting anything crazy," he said. "I know I have to start in Triple A. That's good for me. I think I'm getting the opportunity to play baseball and that gives me a good chance to get back to the majors."
Does this have some deeper meaning for the slumping Casper Wells, who is fighting to make the 25-man roster or risk being designated for assignment? It's hard to tell. If the Mariners decided to keep Jason Bay over Wells, they do run the probable risk of losing him. They would likely try to trade him and get something in return instead of losing him for nothing on a waivers claim. Chavez gives them an emergency outfielder, who can play center, down in Tacoma waiting if/when Franklin Gutierrez gets hurt.
Wells' numbers this spring are not pretty. He, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch yesterday, dropping his batting average to .188 (9-for-48) with 17 strikeouts. Wells is just 2-for-25 with 10 strikeouts after missing a few days with stiff neck. Of his nine hits this spring, five of them came in back-to-back games right before he was injured.
But his defense and ability to play all three spots at high level is big value.
Chavez played in 64 games with Orioles last season as a bench player. He hit just .203. Obviously, he's not an every day player. But when used properly he can be effective. In 2012, he played in 83 games with the Rangers in a similar role. He hit .301 that season with
"In Texas, I started in Triple A and I showed them I could still play the game," he said.
Chavez played 54 games with the Mariners in 2009 before his season came to an abrupt end when Yuniesky Betancourt plowed him over on a blooper at Safeco Field, tearing Chavez's ACL.
"The knee is good," he said."It took almost two years, but I did it."