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May 21, 2009 at 12:13 AM

Yuniesky Betancourt, rest of Mariners defense steps up as trade talks swirl

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A much better night for Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop, turning in a number of fine plays on ground balls. He looked locked-in tonight, as did Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre and Ichiro with their gloves.
“I’m much happier playing the defense, doing the things we did tonight, as opposed to last night,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
No kidding. Fielders did not miss balls. And pitchers held runners on base. Mark Lowe has really worked on that aspect of his game and it showed in the eighth when — after legging out an infield hit — the speedy Chone Figgins went nowhere after that.
Ken Griffey Jr. reached base three times on two singles and a walk and drove in the game’s only run. Maybe he’s seeing better pitches with somebody other than Beltre behind him? Who knows? The “protection theory” in baseball is often hotly debated. But Griffey did the job tonight. The rest of the team can take some notes on his plate approach.
Anyhow, back to the defense, particularly Betancourt. I mentioned yesterday that the Mariners were talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates about a potential swap for shortstop Jack Wilson. Well, we also know that more than one team has expressed an interest in dealing for Betancourt. I was told that much this week when it was explained to me that the reason Betancourt was in the lineup day-in, day-out, for much of the previous road trip was because he was being showcased for a possible deal.
Well, I’m now told the Mariners have discussed a Betancourt trade with the San Diego Padres as well. The Padres need a shortstop, having just placed Luis Rodriguez on the DL with a sprained ankle and having claimed Josh Wilson off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Rodriguez has been a part-time player much of his career up to now and hasn’t been overwhelming in his first full-time gig at age 28. Remember, Khalil Greene, who manned the position the past few years for the Padres, is now in St. Louis.
Two names I’ve heard mentioned as trade returns for the Mariners would be either a package of, or choice between switch-hitting left fielder Chase Headley and Class AAA second baseman Matt Antonelli. I’m trying to pin down whether it is one or the other, or both, being offered up.
Second-year player Headley is 25, while Antonelli is 24. Both were the No. 1 and 2 ranked prospects in San Diego’s system at the start of the 2008 season.
Headley currently has an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .684 with the Padres, while the right-handed Antonelli had a .573 OPS in 57 big-league ABs last year and is coming off a knee problem.
In Headley’s case, his power potential is of interest. He posted a .931 OPS in Class AAA last season, then hit nine homers in 331 at-bats for the Padres after a big-league promotion. The Mariners lack power in their outfield, though Headley is certainly no Endy Chavez on defense.
Antonelli, a first round pick in 2006, had a dismal 2008 campaign for Class AAA Portland where he hit .215 with a .667 OPS.
But right up through Class AA the prior year, his OPS was .871. He is also known for drawing walks and a patient approach at the plate.
Thing is, though, he’s a second and third baseman. I don’t know who would play shortstop if a Betancourt deal ia made with San Diego. The Padres are said to have dangled those names, so I don’t know that the Mariners would go for it or what the backup plan is if Betancourt were to move on.
So, anyhow, that’s what has been discussed for now. Will a trigger be pulled soon? The Padres are looking thin at the position right now. But I don’t control what happens from here.
Anyhow, a big win for the Mariners. I’ve already got my game story out online, so I won’t repeat all the quotes here. But a much better game played all around by the Mariners. They still need offense, though, as witnessed by the lone run and inability to cash in four baserunners the final two innings.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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