PEORIA, Ariz. — Start with this: Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has an aversion to the word “platoon,” primarily because, he believes, the term is generally viewed in absolute terms.
Even so, he acknowledged plans Monday to start the season with what amounts to a pair of de facto platoons in the outfield: Dustin Ackley and Rickie Weeks in left field; and Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano in right.
“Now, having said that,” McClendon stressed, “if there’s a favorable match-up — whether it’s left or right — where a guy hits (an opposing pitcher) really well, you’ve got to put him in there.
“That’s why I’m not crazy about the word, `platoon,’ because it puts you in a box. You want to be a little more dynamic than that with your managing skills.”
McClendon is merely confirming what appeared likely: That Ackley and Smith, who are left-handed hitters, will play against right-handed pitchers; while right-swinging Weeks and Ruggiano will start against lefties.
The left-right splits for all four players generally validate the platoon approach.
***Ackley has a .249/.315/.377 career slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers, but those numbers dip to .236/.295/.342 against lefties.
***Weeks shows the least disparity over his career at .261/.385/.448 against lefties and .244/.332/.416 against right-handers. But his slugging percentage gap widened considerably last season to .504 vs. .395.
***Smith has the biggest disparity. His slash is .277/.358/.481 against right-handers but only .205/.291/.314 against right-handers.
***Ruggiano shows far more pop against lefties with a .266/.329/.508 slash but dips to .252/.314/.390 against right-handers.
McClendon also identified Weeks as the projected primary backup to first baseman Logan Morrison. That also provides the Mariners with a left/right option since Morrison is a left-handed hitter.
“At some point this spring,” McClendon said, “(Weeks) will start to take ground balls at first base. He will be that backup first baseman, in case something happens.”
Utilityman Willie Bloomquist spent time last season as a backup at first base but now appears ticketed for reserve duty at second base, shortstop and third base.
Any injury to Morrison would likely trigger a roster move to add a first baseman. The likeliest in-house candidate at this point is Jesus Montero.
McClendon also reiterated plans for Nelson Cruz, the club’s primary designated hitter, to draw time in the outfield.
“How much he’ll play (in the outfield) this spring?” McClendon pondered. “I’m not sure. But it would be safe to say he will play his share of games, during the season, in right field.”
That would enable other players, such as Robinson Cano, to spend occasional time at DH, but it also permits the Mariners, by putting Weeks at first, to stack their lineup with right-handed hitters.