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February 20, 2009 at 5:38 PM

Carp makes first impression

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See Adrian Beltre, above, taking batting practice this afternoon.
Mariners first base prospect Mike Carp, one of the players obtained from the Mets in the J.J. Putz deal, is already getting noticed in camp. He took his first batting practice today, after arriving late to camp because of a car crash in California.
“Some of the hitting coaches came up to me and said ‘That’s a good swing’,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “It’s short and compact. It’s BP and 50, or 60 mile-an-hour arms, but you look at different swings and you go ‘That swing could work in the game.’
“I talked to (Mets instructor) Sandy Alomar Jr. over the winter and he had some good things to say about him. He had a good spring two years ago where he really pushed to make the club two years ago. So, comments like that on a guy make you really want to focus on a guy and take a good look at him.”
Carp told me he escaped the crash, on Interstate 91 near Anaheim, Calif, with only bumps and bruises. He had been driving from the Los Angeles area to Peoria for spring training early Tuesday when the accident occured. His car, a 2003 Mustang Cobra, is still being examined to see if it can be salvaged. But whether it is or not, Carp still seems a little unnerved by it all. He drove here in an old 1995 Sonoma truck he hadn’t used since high school. When he first merged on to the highway, some 18-wheeler trucks came roaring up beside him. The vibrations they made frightened Carp so much that he had to pull over to the shoulder and regain his composure.
Like I said, a scary time. But he’s here. Now, he wants to make the team.
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That likely won’t happen — yet. The M’s have Russell Branyan, Mike Sweeney, Chris Shelton and Bryan LaHair vying for a first base job. Also, Carp has yet to even play at the Class AAA level.
But he’s getting close. The M’s will take a real serious look at him this spring.
“This last year, I think I figured out a few things,” he said. “I became a more patient hitter, more selective. Hit by pitch. If they don’t throw it to me I’m not swinging at it. I’ll take my walks.”
Carp took 79 of them in Class AA last season, posting a .403 on-base percentage. That type of OBP seems almost illegal in this organization, which is why the Mariners see such potential. He’s not a deep power threat, though he did hit 17 homers in 478 ABs last season. He’s more of a doubles gap hitter, notching 29 of them in 2008.
The knock on him in the past was that he can’t hit lefties. But Carp is working on that as well, and said he has an easier time against southpaw starters than relievers.
“The starters, I have a plan in the at-bat,” he said. “I look for a certain pitch. We the reliever, he’s trying to get you out, so he can throw any pitch he wants. I can’t go up there with a plan, looking for something because I really don’t know what he’s going to do.”
Speaking of lefty starters, don’t forget to check out our Jarrod Washburn bullpen video from earlier today.

Here’s a good batting practice story involving first baseman Sweeney, known to many as The Nicest Guy in Baseball. Seems he was taking BP today and didn’t swing at a pitch even though it was pretty good. Sweeney actually stopped and apologized to the coach who was throwing BP for making him waste a pitch.
“He’s an adder,” said Wakamatsu, who he saw in Oakland last year as an A’s coach. “He walks into a room and makes three or four people better just by his presence.”
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Wakamatsu (pictured above, with GM Jack Zduriencik) noticed another little thing about Sweeney yesterday. Players were taking live BP — no swings, but tracking the ball — against M’s pitchers and Sweeney was the only one who Wakamatsu saw turn and ask the catcher beforehand about what type of pitches the pitcher threw.
“Those are the kinds of things we’re talking about,” he said. “Those little details. A lot of them will go ‘Oh, was that a slider?’ after he threw it, rather than prepping himself and just having that mindset. That’s why he’s been a great hitter throughout his career.”
Clubhouse chemistry indeed! Let’s wrap things up with a word from our new Seattle Times headline writer. Thanks for the advice.

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