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August 7, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Trayvon Robinson looking un-“flap”-able so far for Mariners

Some of you watching Trayvon Robinson make his debut the past two nights may have noticed he wears a double-earflap helmet. Only a handful of guys in the majors do that, including Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Orlando Hudson of the Padres.
Robinson began using the helmet — which covers the ears on both sides of his face rather than the one closest to the pitcher — because he needed more room in his spring training bag this past March.
“I was carrying two helmets and two sets of shin guards,” said the switch-hitter, who’d wear one set versus lefties and then another when facing righties. “And I just got tired of doing it. I had no room.”
The other thing that prompted the change was when he was coming up the dugout steps one day to prepare for an at-bat. He had the right shin guard on, but realized he had the wrong helmet and would be exposing his naked ear to the pitcher on the mound. Robinson quickly hustled back down the steps to get the right helmet.
“That doesn’t look good,” he said. “You don’t want to be doing that very often.”
Now, he no longer worries about it. In fact, when he’s on the bases, he’s now got better protection for his head if there’s a southpaw on the mound and he has to dive back into first base on a throw to the bag. Before, he’d be wearing the ear flap on the left side and his right ear would be exposed to the ball when diving back in. Now, not a problem.
The Mariners are looking at more than Robinson’s ear flaps as they try to evaluate him these final months of the season.
He came to Seattle with a reputation for having a hole or two in his swing, leading to high strikeout totals in the minors. That’s one thing being cited by those looking for reasons why the Dodgers would trade away a Class AAA outfielder with speed and power in exchange for the minor leaguers they received in the Erik Bedard deal a week ago.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said this morning that he believes you can teach hitters with high strikeout totals in the minors how to be better disciplined in the majors.
“If you’re a high strikeout guy in the minor leagues, does that mean you’re going to be a high strikeout guy up here?’ Maybe,” Wedge said. “But can it be fixed? Yeah, I think it can.”
“A disciplined hitter, that’s a separator,” he said.

Wedge wants his hitters to be more disciplined, starting with the instruction they receive in the minor leagues. He wants them to also toe-the-fine-line between being too disciplined and too aggressive.
As we all know, Wedge wants his hitters to swing at the hittable stuff and lay off the non-hittable pitches. Hitters in the big-leagues can see more strikes thrown than in the minors, so that can help. But in the end, Wedge said, it will come down to the discipline.
He cited two examples from his Cleveland Indians days, one being Travis Hafner, who he felt was “almost too disciplined” at the plate and not being aggressive enough.
The other was Grady Sizemore, who could hit but also tended to be “overly aggressive” with everything.
“We were able to reel both those guys in,” Wedge said. “Push Haf a bit and pull Grady back a little bit. So, yeah, it can be done. But the ability, you can’t teach. You’ve either got it or you don’t.”
And so, while Robinson may never get his strikeout totals under 125 per season, he’s a guy who could be valuable with a high on-base percentage brought about from making the most of hittable pitches and taking some walks when they aren’t there.
It’s also worth noting his .404 OBP in AA last year and the .374 he had this season in AAA.
Replicate anything higher than .370 in the big leagues and throw in some extra-base power and you can live with a guy who strikes out. What you can’t live with are the sub-.320 OBPs that come with huge strikeout totals. Those are career-killers. The Mariners are going to watch these next two months and see which type of hitter Robinson projects to be, then work on the needed fixes.
Speaking of the Erik Bedard trade, there was a lot of talk a week ago about why the Red Sox suddenly pulled out of a trade for Rich Harden and then went for Bedard.
Well, I’ve been asking around and here’s what I’ve been told.
The Red Sox apparently were not surprised at all by Harden’s medicals. Supposedly, they went into the trade talks already knowing the full extent of Harden’s physical ailments and what they’d see when the medical files were shipped their way.
The only reason they asked for the files in the first place, I’m told, was to try to use them as leverage with the Oakland Athletics to get a better deal in the trade they were trying to work. At the last minute, they planned to force A’s GM Billy Beane to drop his asking price and let the Red Sox keep one of the prospects Oakland would have received.
When Beane wouldn’t budge, the Red Sox scuttled the deal and went solely with Bedard, who was always in their plans and would have been acquired even if Harden had also been secured.
Sort of explains why Harden was able to look pretty good going seven innings against the M’s the other day. Well, that, and he was facing the M’s. But guys with medical issues don’t often go seven innings.
The Red Sox liked Harden just fine. Just didn’t want to pay Beane’s asking price.
Justin Smoak is still out today, though he’s feeling better and could be back in there tomorrow night against Texas. Brendan Ryan is still a little sore and still day-to-day.
Mariners (49-63)
51 Ichiro Suzuki (L) DH
2 Jack Wilson SS
13 Dustin Ackley (L) 2B
20 Mike Carp (L) 1B
33 Casper Wells RF
3 Josh Bard (S) C
21 Franklin Gutierrez CF
12 Trayvon Robinson (S) LF
15 Kyle Seager (L) 3B
34 Felix Hernandez RHP
Angels (62-52)
2 Erick Aybar (S) SS
47 Howie Kendrick 2B
48 Torii Hunter RF
53 Bobby Abreu (L) DH
10 Vernon Wells LF
6 Albeto Callaspo (S) 3B
44 Mark Trumbo 1B
25 Peter Bourjos CF
46 Bobby Wilson C
54 Ervin Santana RHP

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