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February 24, 2012 at 9:32 AM

Will be interesting to see how Casper Wells plays out for the Mariners

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ADDITIONAL NOTE (10:19 A.M.): Hate to do this, but they’re running the annual Media Bracket Challenge on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk show and it seems my first round opponent, Matt Pitman, is running a southern-fried, jingoistic smear campaign against me. Time to get out and cast your vote for yours truly (Geoff Baker), the only guys actually down here working in Arizona. Thank you.
Some of you may have caught my story on Casper Wells in today’s paper. Wells is vying for a left field job with the Mariners, though, if you read my post yesterday, that gig has already been pretty much locked up by Mike Carp.
Part of the problem is, when Wells got drilled on the nose by a Brandon Morrow fastball last August, his chances of making a lasting impression on the Mariners faded fast. It was Carp who got to showcase his abilities for the coaching staff and who maintained that momentum heading on through the winter.
As for Wells, his quick start at the plate in a Mariners uniform was overtaken by a 3-for-45 finish to the season in which he says the lasting effects of being beaned wreaked havoc on his nervous system. Wells experienced some dizziness and vision issues, which made it tough for him to make contact.
His strikeout rate soared up near 30 percent for the season, which is too high.
But he is an intriguing player to say the least: very good in both outfield corners and with the ability to play center field as well without embarrassing anyone.
In other words, he seems right now like he’d make a good fourth outfielder on a good team. And that’s something the Mariners haven’t always had. They’ve had good fourth outfielders in starting roles the past few years, but none who were in backup status because they were beaten out by guys better than them.


Carp will get first crack at left field, as I mentioned. The plan is to use him against both left-handed and right-handed pitching, since he enjoys pretty good splits. Wells will likely see some playing time in left early on, but it won’t be in a strict platoon situation unless something goes very wrong with Carp. At least, not early on.
That could change and much of it will depend on Wells and his ability to hit.
Don’t forget, he hasn’t made the team yet. But he has to be considered the odd-on favorite as the fourth outfielder, based on the limited power he did flash before getting hurt.
Wells piled up plenty of home runs in a big hurry in the majors for both Detroit and Seattle and was riding an OPS greater than .800 before he was beaned. That’s much more impressive than what his main competition, Michael Saunders, was able to do during an extended look with Seattle last year.
Now, Saunders has completely revamped his approach at the plate and we’ll see how he looks once the games here begin. But he’s got a long way to go before he beats out Wells, as long as Wells doesn’t return to how he looked the final six weeks of last season.
Wells says he’s healthy now, so we’re assuming he won’t.
But this will be an interesting storyline to follow in that Wells certainly flashed some talent after the Doug Fister trade brought him over here. If he can make more contact and have plenty of it go for extra base power, then he’ll certainly keep Carp on his toes as everyone waits to see whether the latter can maintain the pace his displayed in the second half of last year.
If Carp can’t, then look for Wells to be given more playing time in left field.
For now, the Mariners need a fourth outfielder who can play center because they are not willing to play Franklin Gutierrez out there six or seven times per week. Not early on in any case. The M’s don’t want Gutierrez running out of gas in the second half and were talking about limiting his playing time even before that stomach condition took over and helped ruin his 2011 season.
Saunders is the best center fielder this team has in camp besides Gutierrez, but he’d need to take his bat to a whole different level this spring to have a chance at unseating Wells. The fact that Saunders is also a left-handed bat works against him because Gutierrez is right-handed and the team needs righty bats to offset the largely left-handed presence in their lineup. That’s where Wells and his right-handed bat come in.
The Mariners also have non-roster invitee Darren Ford in camp should both Saunders and Wells plummet off the same cliff.
But no one really expects that to happen.
If Wells can hit, he’ll make the team. If he continues to hit real well, things could get interesting between him and Carp.

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