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February 18, 2011 at 2:28 PM

Looking at the left field battle in Mariners camp

Several of you have asked about whether I could film a Michael Pineda bullpen session. Well, I did that for you this morning. Pineda is fast becoming a hot commodity for autograph seekers here. Several of them followed him into the stadium parking lot today in search of his signature (if he’d just park in the players’ lot, which is barred to the public, he would not have that crush around him).
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Anyhow, Pineda was probably the biggest draw in today’s bullpen session. Erik Bedard normally is, but was given a day off as manager Eric Wedge had previously said he would do for all pitchers.
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I asked Wedge a bit about the coming battle for left field and where things were headed between Michael Saunders, Milton Bradley, Jody Gerut and Gabe Gross. Specifically, I asked about Saunders and whether Wedge felt he’d have to show he could handle an everyday job in spring training.
The idea being that, if the M’s didn’t feel Saunders could play regularly, they might opt to begin the year with him in Class AAA to keep his bat fresh. But Wedge said that, no, the organization doesn’t feel it neccessary for Saunders to prove his every day worth down here.
“That’s not something we have to decide in spring training,” Wedge said. “With Michael, I think it’s important for me, Chris (Chambliss), all the coaches really, to get a good feel for him on the field. Obviously, particularly at home plate. But I don’t think we need to make that determining factor in spring training. What we need to figure out initially is, just, how is he going to be a part of this thing as we move forward? Where do we see him at now and where does he need to be?”


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Wedge said a lot of what he’s seen of many of the players he’s inherited here has come from video.
“We’ve already had some good conversations with him,” he said. “And now we just need to watch him a bit.”
Wedge was asked whether the left field battle will come down to Saunders or Milton Bradley. The manager replied that this wasn’t necessarily the case, given that Gerut and Gross are here as well as some youngsters.
But realistically, the only two players in camp who have had any extensive day-to-day experience in left the past few years at the major league level are Saunders and Bradley. The other guys are either just getting their feet wet, or, in the case of Gerut and Gross, have been limited to backup roles for several years.
Wedge was asked where Bradley fits into his plans.
“I see him in left field and DH both,” he said. “Jack (Cust) is obviously going to get the bulk of time at the DH spot. But with Milton being a switch-hitter, that helps him.”
Wedge was asked whether he’ll spend tonight pondering the final details on what he’ll say to the team tomorrow prior to their first full-squad workout. There is a team meeting scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time.
“Yeah, a little bit of time. I’ve been thinking about it. Some of these guys have heard me here in the short-term a little bit. Some of them know me from before and have been through a lot in regard what I’m going to say. But this is a new beginning here. And tomorrow it’s important that I get across to them what I’ve got to get across to them.”
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By the way, Ichiro was the final Mariners player to make it into camp today, arriving just after 2 p.m. PT. The crowd in the photo above was on-hand to greet him.

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