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The lineup has a slightly different look today at first base with Rickie Weeks making his first start of the spring or his career at first base. The one-time all-star second baseman has been asked to take on a different role with the Mariners this season. He’s not quite a utility player, but he’s no longer a second baseman. Instead, Weeks will get his playing time in left field and perhaps at first base.

Weeks started working out at first base a few weeks ago, taking ground balls working with infield coach Chris Woodward. The Mariners feel comfortable enough with his work to put him in a game.

So what does manager Lloyd McClendon want to see from Weeks?

“Just catch the ball,” McClendon said. “I don’t think he’s going to be a gold glover the first time out. He played second base for several years so I’m sure he’ll be fine around the bag.”

There is a perception that anyone can play first base. Just hand them a first baseman glove and let them go. But it’s not quite that simple.

“That’s the furthest thing from the truth,” McClendon said. “First baseman handles the ball more than anybody (well, except the catcher), and  if you want an out on the infield it has to go through them. You better be pretty good over there because you handle the baseball so much. Anybody can field a ground ball. But the footwork that’s involved  around the bag, holding runners on, a throw to first and getting back to the bag, it can be difficult.”

Here’s my story from today’s paper and “river” on Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker’s performance in yesterday’s performance. While McClendon is genuinely happy with their showings this spring, he knows there is some work yet to be done in terms of pitch selection when Walker is on the mound and Zunino is catching.

“Sometimes you can lead pitchers into danger,” McClendon said. “To the naked eye, you can’t see it. But I do.”

McClendon gave an example.

“You get two quick outs in an inning, but then you start a guy off with breaking ball, and then a change-up and backdoor slider and now it’s 3-0,” McClendon said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘what are you doing? Because you just led your pitcher into danger. A .220 hitter that’s hitting 3-1 now becomes a .300 hitter. So you want to stay away from those types of things.”

Minor league roster moves

Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and pitcher Joe Saunders have been released from their minor league contracts and have re-signed Class AAA contracts with the Mariners. Why? Well, the Mariners would have had to pay $100,000 retention bonuses to both Gutierrez and Saunders if they stayed on their old contracts.

Outfielder Endy Chavez has opted out of his minor league contract and has been released.

Notes

*** Seth Smith is not in the lineup for the second straight day. But with lefty Bruce Chen on the mound, Smith wasn’t going to be in the lineup today anyway. It’s why McClendon gave him Monday off as well.

“He could have played yesterday,” McClendon said. “But he wasn’t going to play today so it made sense to give him two days off.”

The swelling in Smith’s ankle is starting to go down and he should be ready for opening day.

*** The Mariners have an off day on Thursday. Hisashi Iwakuma does not. He’ll pitch in the Class AAA game on Thursday against the Padres on the San Diego side of the Peoria Sports Complex. That should be at 1 p.m.

*** McClendon said he hopes to not have to push up against the noon deadline on Sunday to finalize his 25-man roster.

*** McClendon has ordered Brad Miller to cut his long 70s style hair. Miller wasn’t sure how much he had to trim off. He’d already cut about 2 inches off this spring.

 

Linkage

Here’s a story from MILB.com on Alex Jackson and D.J. Peterson

Paul Lukas of UniWatch checks in on the uniform changes around baseball.

Jim Caple looks at the 20 year anniversary of the strike ending. 

Jerry Crasnick toys with the idea of bringing back the bullpen carts to speed up the game. What would Fernando Rodney’s bullpen cart look like?

Reserves for today’s game