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May 4, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Chone Figgins loses leadoff spot and full-time status as Mariners move on from early experiment

PHOTO CAPTION: Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready (left), on-hand to play tonight’s anthem, signs some pre-game autographs for Twins pitchers Jared Burton (right) and Matt Maloney (middle). “When I’m standing out here on the field, that happens and it still makes me go “Wow! These totally famous players want my autograph,” McCready told me afterwards. “It’s a thing that musicians want to be sports guys and sports guys want to be musicians.”
Chone Figgins was given five weeks to get his bat functioning to where a normal leadoff hitter has to be. And when that ony happened in fits and spurts, Figgins ran out of time.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge met with Figgins today and told him that not only will he no longer be the team’s leadoff hitter, he’s no longer a full-time position player either.
“I talked to Figgy today and I told him we’re going to change his role,” Wedge said. “He’s going to be in more of a utility role for us now. So, I had a good conversation with Chone earlier today before we posted the lineup and he was a total pro about it.
“He understood. I felt like this was the time we needed to do it. I wanted to give it as long as I felt like I could to try to get him going. It just wasn’t happening to the point where I felt like it should.”
Dustin Ackley is now the team’s leadoff hitter and will be for the forseeable future. Wedge has Alex Liddi batting second tnight, but that isn’t permanent.
“I’d love for Brendan Ryan to get going and get him back up there,” Wedge said. “We might have to do that anyway.”
As I mentioned in a post this morning, the No. 2 spot is somewhat of an issue because there is no clear cut candidate for it other than Ackley. Liddi is there tonight because the team needs a right-handed bat to split up the lefties atop the order, but Wedge envisions the Italian slugger as more of a mid-order bat going forward.
And again, as we wrote a few weeks ago, while some internet analysts feel there isn’t much importance to where guys hit in the lineup, Wedge and those running the ballclub still do. In fact, you’ll remember that when we mentioned the theory some keep pushing that where Figgins (or anyone) hits in the lineup shouldn’t really matter, Wedge replied: “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. So, whoever they are, you can tell them that I said that.”
So, I guess it’s safe to say that, for the Mariners, it won’t be just a matter of just throwing a bunch of guys out there in any order and hoping for the best. That’s what they call Roto League Ball. In the big leagues, it’s a bit different. Or, at least, so say the guys who live and breathe it daily.
So, while the Figgins experiment didn’t work, those running this $82-million team felt it was worth a try in light of the terrible offenses of the last two years and all the guaranteed money committed to the top two spots in the order since 2010 with very little results. And they won’t chuck that philosophy and just put any random hitter in any spot moving forward, so it’ll be interesting to see how they get around building a lineup that appears somewhat miscast.
We’ve already seen the team attempt to get by without big mid-order bats the past two years, on an historically disastrous level. Now, they appear to have some bigger bats, albeit slowly developing ones. It’s just a matter of finding consistency and having guys on in front of them. Sounds easy to say. Not so easy to do.

Figgins will still get playing time, but only to give rest to the full-timers at various positions. We’ll see Mike Carp take over in left field tonight, Liddi at third base and Kyle Seager in at the DH spot.
Anyhow, the Mariners should be able to win some games this weekend. The Twins are Houston Astros bad, currently riding a 19-inning scoreless inning streak and an 0-for-36 slump team-wise at the plate — covering 15 hitless innings.
So, if you want to pull off some changes and look like a genius, the timing of these moves probably could not be better. The Twins, by the way, have only one bench player, Trevor Plouffe, on-hand for tonight’s game. Justin Morneau isn’t ready to go yet, a new outfielder picked off waivers, Erik Komatsu, won’t be here until tomorrow and the Twins are already carrying 13 pitchers.
So, in the unlikely event this thing goes extras, the M’s wuld have a decisive advantage. I suppose, both clubs could no-hit one another, but the Mariners should be able to knock the Twinkies off in regulation.
In some other news, I spoke with Miguel Olivo today and he was pretty pleased because an MRI of his strained groin showed it to be only a Grade 1 strain — the least severe — as opposed to the Grade 2 version suffered a year ago in March. That last injury kept him out a month, but Olivo was hoping it could be only a couple of weeks this time.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
Wedge told me he has not been given a timeframe for Olivo’s recovery, but would not rule out him being back within two or three weeks.
The lineups:
CF Denard Span
SS Jamey Carroll
DH Joe Mauer
LF Josh Willingham
RF Ryan Doumit
3B Danny Valencia
1B Chris Parmalee
2B Alexi Casilla
C Drew Butera
RHP Carl Pavano
2B Dustin Ackley
3B Alex Liddi
RF Ichiro
C Jesus Montero
DH Kyle Seager
LF Mike Carp
1B Justin Smoak
CF Michael Saunders
SS Brendan Ryan
LHP Jason Vargas

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


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