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February 23, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Vinnie Catricala tries to get back on fast track

Photo by Associated Press

Last spring, Vinnie Catricala seemed to be on the Mariners’ fast track. He had torn it up in the minor leagues in 2011, hitting a combined .349 with 25 homers and 106 RBIs at High Desert and Jackson. That earned his first trip to big league camp, and some people even thought he had an outside shot to make the team. But after hitting .313 in the Cactus League, Catricala was sent to Tacoma, seemingly just a hot start away from The Show.

It never happened. In fact, Catricala suffered through a miserable season, hitting just .229 in 122 games with the Rainiers. His on-base percentage dropped from .421 to .292,  his slugging from .601 to .348. Catricala hit 10 homers and drove in 60 runs, not nearly the production he, or the Mariners, had hoped for. Back now for his second big  league camp, Catricala views his struggles as something he can grow from.

“I had large expectations,” Catricala said. “I had a real good camp and thought, ‘I’ll spend my time in Triple-A and get up to the big leagues.’ It didn’t pan out that way, and I ended up learning a lot about myself and a lot about baseball. It was the first time I really struggled in pro ball. It put things into perspective – baseball’s not everything. It allowed me to have more fun this year. I went to the Fall League and had fun, I’m back here, I’m having fun; so it kind of put it all into perspective. Baseball’s not the end of the world.”

 Basically, it came down to the fact that he could taste the big leagues, and he started to press.

“Exactly. You’re trying to make things happen, instead of letting them happen. I got away from my approach and doing what I do best. I was just tried to do too many things, trying to make it happen. I felt like I was so close, I’m just going to make it happen. I just went the complete other way. It was a learning experience, definitely.”

The Mariners certainly have not given up on Catricala, who won’t turn 25 until after the season. He was a 10th-round pick out of the University of Hawaii in 2009. He says his goal this year is to stay more even keel and show more consistency. He remains, like Stefen Romero, a man without a definite position. Last year, he played mainly at third base for Tacoma. He made his spring debut yesterday at first base. He can also play the outfield.

Healthy: For the most part, I was healthy all year. At the end of the year, I got hit in my wrist, kind of took a few weeks off. Played with it. I needed to take time off, but I didn’t’ want to take any time off. I wanted to at least finish the season up, I had gone that far. For most parat, I was healthy, and healthy now.

“I have five gloves, so I’m prepared to go play outfield, first base, third base, wherever they need me,” he said. “Just as long as I’m in the lineup, I don’t care where I’m playing defensively.Last year, they said, ‘We want to get you a good look at third,”  and I think they got a pretty good look at me. They saw I could play it pretty well. That’s always there. Now maybe they’re exploring other options.”

Manager Eric Wedge said earlier this week that he likes the versatility shown by both Catricala and Romero, because it will give them more avenues to the big leagues.

“That’s good,” Catricala said. “If I’m more valuable to a team than playing one position, I’ll do that. I’ll try to perfect and master first base, third base, and outfield, as opposed to one position. It will make me more useful, maybe let me play a little longer.”

Catricala, most likely slated to start back in Tacoma, is eager to turn the page.

“Just kind of get it going, forget about last year, start fresh and just take things as they come, day by day, not try to look ahead too far,” he said.

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