Nick Franklin still carries one visible reminder of his minor-league days — a double-flapped batting helmet he wears during every at-bat. Helmets covering both ears are required in the minor leagues, and Franklin found he likes the way it feels and sees no need to give it up now.
The Mariners also simply don’t have a double-flapped helmet of their own to give him that fits the way he likes, so Franklin continues to use the one he did in the minors.
“It’s comfortable,’’ he said. “It’s something that kind of makes me feel like I’m locked in.’’
Everything else about Franklin’s game, though, has proved to be decidedly major-league quality since he was called up by the Mariners on May 27.
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The switch-hitting second baseman is hitting .283, has shown some power with four home runs and has proved steady enough on defense.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been surprised,’’ said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. “I’ve just been excited about his progress.’’
And maybe as much as anything by Franklin’s ability to, as Wedge puts it, show “no fear.’’
That’s a philosophy Wedge is trying to make a cornerstone of the organization as the team spends yet another season rebuilding, but a trait not every young player on the team has been able to portray.
“He’s not afraid to fail,’’ Wedge said of Franklin.
As proof, Wedge pointed to Seattle’s 7-5 win over Oakland on Saturday night.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the Mariners trailing 5-2, Franklin became impatient and swung at the first pitch, a high fastball he popped up to second base. Wedge, though, noticed that Franklin simply took off running as fast as he could, showing no sign of frustration.
In his next at-bat an inning later, Franklin came up with two runners on, and on a 2-2 pitch lined a single for the winning runs in a 7-5 victory.
“That’s what you’ve got to do,’’ Wedge said of Franklin’s ability to fail one inning and then succeed the next, saying that an important lesson for the young players on the Mariners is that “there is no perfection’’ in baseball.
Franklin says the key is to simply treat such situations the same as any other.
“Honestly, I just take it as if it’s any other game I’ve been playing since I was 3 years old,’’ he said.
“Like the days when I had an AAU game on a Sunday or something. It’s the same feeling. Just because I’m now on a different level doesn’t mean I’m going to change anything or change how I feel. It’s just baseball in general and that’s what I love to do.’’
Wedge says Franklin has shown enough so far to deserve another of the manager’s ultimate compliments.
“How do you feel when certain guys get to home plate?’’ he asked. “You feel one way or another. How do you feel when he comes up to home plate? You feel pretty good.”
Still, as smooth as Franklin’s ride has been so far, Wedge also sounds a hint of caution.
“We were having this same conversation about Dustin Ackley a couple of years ago,’’ he said.
Indeed, Ackley hit .273 in 90 games in 2011 after his call-up at a similar time in the season, a solid major-league career, if not stardom, appearing a given. Now, though, Ackley is back in Tacoma attempting to dig himself out of a year-and-a-half slump, Franklin having taken his place at second base with the Mariners.
As all players do, Franklin too will inevitably hit a rough patch.
“He will at some point,’’ Wedge said. “But you know what? We’ll see how he handles it.’’
In fact, a good test could come as the season hits its second half and Franklin begins to face opponents for a second time — teams that now might have a better scouting report on him.
Franklin, though, displays the same “no fear’’ approach to that, as well.
“I don’t try to put things in my head that the other team is trying to do to me,’’ he said. “I’m just going to worry about what I’ve got to do and my approach and how I’m going to attack them.’’
Which is how Wedge would want it.
“He’s a cocky kid, believes in himself,’’ Wedge said. “That is one thing that makes him different versus some of the others, without a doubt. That’s a positive thing. Because he knows what he will be and that it will iron itself out in time.
“He will hit the bricks at some point in time, but I think he will survive it.”
|Nick Franklin, by the numbers|
|Nick Franklin, called up by the Mariners on May 27, is off to nice start to his major-league career.|
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.