Perhaps one day the Mariners, desperate for some big boppers, could have a dream outfield that possesses size, power, speed, athleticism and arm strength.
Precocious Carlos Peguero only took four at-bats to learn how to be a Mariner.
With three strikeouts and four runners stranded Wednesday afternoon, he played the role like an Academy Award winner.
Since he was invited to join a cast of hapless hitters, well, what did you expect? Peguero did what any other Mariner might do. It wasn’t the debut of his dreams, but new Mariners manager Eric Wedge might say the same about his team’s 6-13 record. This has been a year of hard knocks already. It figures Peguero’s surprisingly early introduction to the big leagues would come with similar misfortune.
Peguero, an intriguing young talent who has been called up from the minor leagues temporarily because first baseman Justin Smoak is on bereavement leave, went 0 for 4. He hit a long fly ball in his first at-bat. Then, in each of his final three plate appearances, he struck out swinging. Of the four runners he left on base, three were in scoring position. But, hey, as a team, the Mariners were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in this game, dropping their average to .198 in those situations this season.
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He could’ve been any veteran on the roster, really. But in a season that’s mostly about the young ‘uns, at least there’s an upside to the experience Peguero received.
“I learned a lot,” Peguero said. “I learned about my game, my approach. I learned a lot of things.”
Though Peguero didn’t come through with a big hit, his talent is evident. At 6 feet 5 and 245 pounds, he is among the growing list of big, athletic outfielders that the franchise is trying to develop. The most advanced players on that list also include Michael Saunders, who is getting his chance to play often right now; Greg Halman, who broke his wrist recently playing for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers; and Johermyn Chavez, an impressive 22-year-old talent playing for the Mariners’ Class AA affiliate in Jackson, Tenn.
Perhaps one day the Mariners, who are desperate for some big boppers in their lineup, could have a dream outfield that possesses size, power, speed, athleticism and arm strength. Prepare to wait awhile, though. It’s a process, as Peguero reminded everyone.
“Hey, you know what? Exciting stuff,” Wedge offered when asked about Peguero’s debut. “There’s only one first game, and he has that under his belt now. And we’ll work from there.”
Peguero provided some mini — but fruitless — thrills. Call them prodigious whiffs. He never gets cheated on a swing. He’s a 400-foot homer waiting to happen. But this is also why Peguero has averaged 175 strikeouts a season the past two years. He’s still raw, very raw. He must make contact more consistently before you can envision him as a full-time major-leaguer.
But a player’s first big-league start is special, no matter how many flaws are exposed. Wedge remembers his. It was Aug. 21, 1992, and the Boston Red Sox were playing the Mariners at Fenway Park. Wedge, a catcher, started at designated hitter. And Randy Johnson was on the mound.
Wedge recalls the experience pretty accurately. He struck out the first two times against Johnson. In his third at-bat, he hit a long fly ball that Ken Griffey Jr. caught.
By the time Wedge came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, Johnson was gone, having pitched seven shutout innings, and Wedge celebrated with a two-run homer off Shawn Barton. The Mariners won the game 5-2.
Wedge simply wanted Peguero to enjoy his first start. He wanted to see him let loose and swing the bat, especially on that first pitch.
“I’m a big believer in it,” Wedge said. “I think you should. You only get one first pitch. Short of it being out of the catcher’s reach, what the hell, man? Go after it.”
Peguero actually took the first pitch. On the second, the left-handed Peguero hit Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello’s offering about a foot shy of the warning track in left field. That would be his best plate appearance of the day.
A 3-2 loss to Detroit ended with Peguero striking out and leaving Saunders on second base. The big outfielder took that slow, disappointing walk back to the dugout. Afterward, though, he spoke with a veteran’s perspective.
“I was so excited,” Peguero said before sighing and recalling his performance. “It’s something that happens. It’s part of the game. I’ll keep my head up. We’ll get ’em tomorrow.”
They’re the young and the zealous, these 2011 Mariners. In a season that feels especially long for late April, at least they have that going for them.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer