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May 3, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Mariner road trip ends with Chone Figgins’ future as Topic A

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(Tampa Bay’s Jeff Keppinger is congratulated by Will Rhymes after his second-inning homer off Kevin Millwood on Thursday. Photo by Associated Press).
When the Mariners left on a tough roadtrip fresh off losing four straight at home, including a perfect game against them, the prospect of a 4-6 record probably didn’t sound so bad. But when you win the first four games and finish 4-6, it is bad.
The Mariners, of course, will take a six-game losing streak into the homestand that opens tomorrow against the Minnesota Twins (the other member of the exclusive, but not prestigious, “teams that have already been no-hit in 2012” club).
The Mariners’ four-game sweep at the hands of the Rays, in which they lost by a total of five runs, showed just how maddening this team can be. They would have won the opener had closer Brandon League held a lead. And they could have won at least two more with better clutch hitting. Of course, striking out 46 times in the four games didn’t help at all.
Certainly, today’s 4-3 loss hinged in large part on their failure in the sixth inning to score John Jaso after his leadoff double. Three young players whose progress is considered key to this season — Mike Carp, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders — each struck out. Some were wondering why manager Eric Wedge didn’t bunt Jaso over to third. He said they need to learn to advance the runner by hitting to the right side.
“You’ve got to get him over,” he said. “I’m giving our guys a chance to do that because they have to learn to do that. You don’t always want to give up outs. They have to learn to hit the ball the other way, or pull the ball if you’re left handed, because a lot of times you get more than just getting them over. In certain situations, you’re not just looking to bunt the ball. We work on it every day. They have to make sure it translates to the baseball game.”
Those three, all early in their careers, are entitled to growing pains. But patience is clearing running out with Chone Figgins, who went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .189. Figgins is hitless in his last 19 at-bats and was 4-for-31 (.129) on the road trip. He has struck out 28 times in 95 at-bats. The last two nights, Figgins has faced two starting pitchers, James Shields and Jeff Niemann, against whom he had a career .419 average (18-for-43) and still couldn’t get a hit.


Here’s what Figgins said after the game: “”I’m taking some aggressive hacks. I’m just not having anything to show for it. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, being too aggressive, going out of the zone. But like I said, I just feel good. I can’t get anything going, but honestly it’s the best I’ve felt in a while.
“When I’m hitting, squaring some balls up, I’m driving some balls, which is good.Then there’s times when I’m a little too aggressive, so I’ve got to go back to finding that middle ground.
“You’d rather not feel good and get hits. It’s a good thing to feel good, but there’s still that borderline between being aggressive and too aggressive.”
No matter how good Figgins feels, the lack of results is forcing Wedge’s hand. Here’s what he said when asked if it was critical to get something going at the top of the order: “It is. It’s very important. It’s tough to produce in the middle when you’re not doing what you need to do up top. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. We’re a month into this now in a few more days. We’ll continue to look at everything, like we always do.”
Will Figgins continue to hold down the leadoff spot when the Mariners return home Friday? I highly doubt it. Could they trade him? I don’t see a huge market with the way he’s playing. Would the Mariners take the bolder step and release Figgins, which would require eating about $15 million in salary? That’s tough for any team to swallow, but the “sunk cost” theory comes into play.
I’d imagine there will be some meetings going on at Edgar Martinez Drive in the coming days.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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