Utility player for Seattle batting .417 as a September call-up
Common sense would dictate that a player’s second major-league call-up brings marked improvement from the first.
That initial September can be a whirlwind, a blur of emotions and biting sliders that players don’t have to deal with at the Class AAA level. Get your feet wet, as they say, make adjustments in the offseason and come back stronger.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
“Some guys never get it,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “The game is just too fast for them at this level. That’s why they’re called Four-A players.”
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By diving deeper into game-day preparations and making tweaks as subtle as concentrating on his breathing, Mariners utility man Shawn O’Malley has been able to find the all-important speed dial and slow the game down.
Monday night at Safeco, O’Malley got to show the team that gave him his first taste of the majors — and cut him loose last offseason — how much difference a year can make, getting the start in center field against Los Angeles.
O’Malley struggled last September with the Angels, hitting just .188 in 11 games and getting released in the offseason. But the Kennewick product has been a surprise standout for his favorite team growing up, hitting .417 this month after going 2 for 4 with an RBI on Monday.
O’Malley says sessions in the Mariners’ video room have made as much difference as anything he’s done on the field.
“It’s not like Triple A, where it’s ‘Hey, we’ve got a lefty tonight,’ ” O’Malley said. “(In Seattle), we’ve got video and stats and charts and numbers. You can see a guy’s pickoff move before you even see him in person. … I want to be as prepared for a game as I possibly can.”
This time of year, those study sessions can be daunting. With rosters bloated with call-ups like O’Malley, hitters have to prepare for a seemingly endless range of bullpen options.
Friday at Safeco, the Rockies used five relievers in a single inning. That same night, McClendon complimented another part of the O’Malley’s game: His poise. Entering as a pinch-hitter, O’Malley didn’t press. He earned walks in both the eighth and ninth innings.
“I think it’s just something that comes over time,” said O’Malley, 27. “I felt confidence coming off the bench … slowing the game down as best I can, taking the anxiety and the nerves out of it. It’s just baseball. It’s the same thing (I’ve) been doing for the last nine years.”
‘Tonight will be real’
Part of the challenge of assessing September call-ups is the varying level of competition, the sliding scale of stakes.
The weekend series against the bottom-feeding Rockies felt almost like spring training. Seattle’s three-game set against the Angels this week is a different story.
While the Mariners are all but out of the hunt for the second American League wild-card spot, entering Monday seven games back, Los Angeles began the week just three games out.
“The evaluation process tonight will be real,” McClendon said Monday. “The team on the other side is getting after it. Playing Colorado, I don’t know.”
Cano plays through
Despite a lingering abdominal strain, Robinson Cano was in Seattle’s lineup — and likely will be all the way through the final series. McClendon said he doesn’t plan on giving Cano any more off days.
“He’s a tough SOB,” McClendon said. “It’s unfortunate people think he’s dogging it when he’s not. He’s actually going and posting up every day when most people haven’t been able to go. And he’s been productive, too.”
Cano is batting .323 with 12 home runs and 39 runs batted in since July 1.
“That’s just Robbie being Robbie,” McClendon said. “Check the back of the bubble-gum card. He’s done it for 11 years.”