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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 6, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Kyle Seager started opening eyes in spring training

The Mariners’ youth movement continues. After another maddening day of non-existent offense undermining more strong pitching, leading to a 2-0 loss in Oakland, they have called up Kyle Seager. The 23-year-old, left-handed hitting infielder has spent all of 12 games in Triple-A since getting promoted to Tacoma from Class AA Jackson on June 23.

Seager will be in uniform in Anaheim tomorrow and join his former North Carolina teammate Dustin Ackley (also 23), Greg Halman (23), Carlos Peguero (24), and Justin Smoak (24) on the major-league roster, with Mike Carp (25) not gone long from the team.

(You have to feel badly, on the other hand, for 30-year-old Jose “We Hardly Knew Ye” Yepez, who was designated for assignment to make room for Seager. Yepez kicked around the minors for 10-plus years, finally got the call last week, spent four games in a major-league uniform — and never appeared in a game. If he never gets back to The Show — and frankly, the odds are against him — Yepez won’t even make the Baseball Encyclopedia. Even the fabled Moonlight Graham appeared in one game, even though he never got an at-bat.

When I think of Seager, I immediately flash back to an intersquad game in March on a back field in Peoria. Rather than let the Oakland A’s see Felix Hernandez, the Mariners decided to have Hernandez get some work against a team comprised of minor-leaguers, one of whom was Seager. I wrote a column about that game, which included this depiction of Seager’s memorable day:

Hernandez was particularly impressed with one sequence by Seager, who last year, his second as a pro, led all minor-leaguers with 192 hits while batting .345 for Class A High Desert.

“I throw a good pitch — a changeup — that any big-leaguer swings at, and he takes it,” Hernandez said. “It’s a 1-1 count. I say, ‘Boy, you are good, man.’ ”

The relayed praise made Seager glow.

“I was kind of looking for a fastball over the plate, and it was a little in,” he said. “Thankfully, I didn’t swing at it, because it was a really good pitch.”

Seager wound up singling in one at-bat, and striking out in another, enough exposure to Hernandez to understand what all the fuss is about.

“That was the best stuff I’ve ever seen,” he raved. “Everything was moving. The fastball was moving. That fastball’s hard. He has a really good changeup, and he threw me a couple of curveballs that were really tight and really hard. The spin is so tight you can’t pick it up very well. He’s got pretty much everything you’d want going for him.”

Which is why Seager is going to savor the fact he got a clean single.

“Absolutely. I’m going to take pride in both at-bats, actually. I felt I had two pretty solid ones, just to see the pitches. This was a great thing for me, for sure.”

If Seager thinks it was a great thing to get a hit off Hernandez on a back field in Peoria, imagine what it’s going to be like facing the Angels in Anaheim. I’d interpret this move as a sign that the Mariners are at the end of their rope with Chone Figgins, who is showing no signs whatsoever of a revival. Whether they’re getting frustrated enough to swallow the reminder of Figgins’ salary remains to be seen, but with Seager (who played a lot of third base in Tacoma) on hand, as well as Adam Kennedy, Figgins’ playing time will shrink even more (please hold your applause until the end).

I’d imagine the presence of old buddy Ackley will be a settling influence on Seager in the stressful scenario of making one’s major-league debut. One thing’s for certain: If Seager shows he can hit big-league pitching, he’ll get plenty of playing time.

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