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April 8, 2011 at 8:48 AM

Playing second base in MLB is a spot where newbies can literally get “broken” in

Just a reminder that we’ll have Geoff Baker Live! as your pre-game show at 6 p.m. PT today, from FX McRory’s Steak, Chop & Oyster House in Pioneer Square, just blocks from Safeco Field.
We’ve been writing the past few weeks about the adjustments that Jack Wilson has to make in moving from shortstop to second base. And it isn’t simply a matter of getting used to different angles on balls hit to the right side of the infield rather than the left.
Getting the footwork down on double-plays, particularly in learning to avoid takeout slides from players coming in on what is essentially a fielder’s blind spot at times, can be the hardest adjustment to make.
Just ask Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Minnesota Twins. He came over to the majors this season after eight years as primarily a shortstop in Japan (with some second base experience as well). The Twins moved him to second base full-time and it’s been quite the learning experience.
A tough one indeed, since he got his leg broken Thursday on what was said to be a clean takeout slide by Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees.
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Reading the links provided in the USA Today story, you can see that takeout slides at second base are not all that common in Japan. Throw in the fact that Nishioka was moving over from shortstop and…well…not a good recipe.
Last week, when Wilson got both ankles banged up in a takeout slide his very first game in Oakland, he told me he’d only been hit like that two or three times his entire shortstop career.
So, yes, it is a huge adjustment to make. There’s a reason why teams don’t often try to do it in-season, unless a player has some prior experience at the second base position.
In other words, don’t expect miracles. There will be some bumps and bruises for Wilson along the way. Doesn’t make him any less an infielder. And though his throwing error in Texas came right before he was taken out by a hard slide, you have to imagine that his mind was filled with thoughts on how to be properly positioned and avoid getting killed out there.
Wilson will never admit it. He ruled out the slide as having any impact on that error play — which led to two runs — altogether.
We’ll see.
And we’ll see how quickly Wilson adjusts. This is one reason we suggested after Wednesday’s game that the Mariners might want to closely monitor the situation and perhaps re-evaluate how quickly Wilson can adjust. Nobody’s giving up on Wilson at second. But the team saw fit to pull him from the game, perhaps (from what we can surmise) figuring he wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to continue on. If it’s to that point already, less than a week into the season, then it’s quite possible this won’t be just a one-day occurence. And as we’ve said, this team simply doesn’t have that many wins that can be regularly thrown away.
On the flip side, it’s possible the natural athlete in Wilson will shine through and make us forget all about this rare, two-error inning from him in a matter of weeks.
Like I said, we’ll just have to see.
But as Nishioka has just shown, there is good reason for fielders to become distracted trying to learn second base at the MLB level. This isn’t a game. The stakes are pretty high. And this adjustment, no matter what anyone tries to suggest, is one of the toughest any baseball player can make.



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