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April 25, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Prince Fielder says winter talks with Mariners were “all right” but not serious enough to go down to wire

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Spoke to Prince Fielder in the Tigers clubhouse pre-game and asked him about the winter-long leadup to his signing with the Tigers, with all the drama over whether his agent, Scott Boras, would be able to land the $200-million deal he’d been seeking. So, I asked, were the Mariners in the running right down to the wire?
“I don’t think it was that serious,” Fielder said. “I think Scott (Boras) was definitely not turning them away.”
But in the end, it came down to teams like the Washington Nationals and the Tigers, who swooped in out of nowhere.
“Actually, these guys were last-minute, really,” he said. “They called me Tuesday and it was done Thursday.”
Fielder said he knows the Mariners were interested to a degree.
“I guess it wasn’t serious enough,” he said. “But it was all right. There were talks. I know Jack (Zduriencik) over there. I know him pretty well. I like him. He’s a good friend of mine. Yeah, it definitely, it was a possibility. But like I said, it just didn’t happen.”
Fielder was one of the final ballplayers to spend any time with former Mariners outfielder Greg Halman before he was stabbed to death last November. Fielder was part of a small group of travelling major leaguers doing baseball clinics in Europe and got to meet and know Halman a couple of weeks before he died.
“He was cool,” he said. “A cool, laid back guy. He was a lot of fun to be around. It wasn’t hard to get to like him.”
One current Mariners player Fielder got re-acquainted with here is relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen. The pair teamed together in Class A ball with the Brewers in 2003 before Wilhelmsen was eventually suspended by the team for marijuana use and walked away from baseball for several years.
Wilhelmsen was surprised Fielder even remembered him. But Fielder said he remembered quite a bit.
“We went to the (Class A) all-star game together,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.’
Fielder also remembered the mop-top hairdo Wilhelmsen used to sport. Wilhelmsen showed up to spring training two years ago for a one-shot tryout in front of Zduriencik sporting the same look. He has since trimmed and cropped the hair for a much cleaner look under his cap.
“Yeah, that hair,” Fielder said. “That was the hair he had, the exact same. That’s what was unbelievable. It was always the same haircut. I wish I could do that, but I can’t.”


Enough of Fielder for now. The Mariners will try to win the series here behind the pitching of Felix Hernandez tonight.
They have made some lineup changes, with Chone Figgins getting a planned rest and Dustin Ackley moving to the leadoff spot. Brendan Ryan has moved up to the No. 2 position he occupied a fair part of last year.
Justin Smoak is back in at first base, while last night’s star, Alex Liddi, gets another start at third base as Kyle Seager sits against the left-hander. Jesus Montero will catch Felix Hernandez for the first time in the regular season — he caught him this spring — while Miguel Olivo is the DH.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he wants Montero to catch an assortment of the team’s pitchers and plans to have Olivo in there catching the afternoon finale tomorrow, so this gets him a quasi rest.
Wedge had good things to say about Liddi once again and mentioned that the team will take a look at him in the outfield at some point. Wedge said “there is not one glaring area” Liddi has to improve upon to be an everyday player and that right now, it’s just a matter of performing a balancing act to get certain players into games.
One area Liddi was often criticized for last season was having a huge “hole” in his swing that led to a plethora of strikeouts to go with his power. But Wedge said much of that has already been eliminated by Liddi.
“He’s shortened up his game,” Wedge said. “His swing’s shorter. He looks better defensively. He’s getting a better feel for the basepaths. He’s more versatile.”
Wedge has some decisions to make on players — including Liddi — once Mike Carp is ready to return. Carp has been given a few days off in Class AAA after some shoulder soreness the team has dismissed as being the result of all the work Carp has put in getting ready to play again.
As to how much longer Carp will need to spend in AAA, Wedge at one point let slip that “it may be as long as another week” which implies the return could actually be coming soon — as in possibly this road trip.
So, we’ll see. I asked Wedge who his starting third baseman will be at that point. He wouldn’t bite and would only say he’ll manage to get everybody into games somehow.
One minor point. Since the start of spring training, Wedge has maintained that Chone Figgins is his regular third baseman. He didn’t do that today. Maybe it was just his choice of words. Or maybe, Kyle Seager is forcing the issue and will be at third base the majority of the time going forward.
We’ll know more in another week or two.
The lineups:
MARINERS
2B Dustin Ackley
SS Brendan Ryan
RF Ichiro
1B Justin Smoak
C Jesus Montero
3B Alex Liddi
DH Miguel Olivo
CF Michael Saunders
LF Casper Wells
RHP Felix Hernandez
TIGERS
CF Austin Jackson
RF Brennan Boesch
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
C Alex Avila
SS Jhonny Peralta
2B Ramon Santiago
LF Don Kelly
LHP Adam Wilk

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero

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