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M's meet to discuss Sexson's future

A source within the organization says team is planning to release the first baseman soon.

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By Kirby Arnold
Herald Writer
Published:
SEATTLE -- Struggling first baseman Richie Sexson's time with the Seattle Mariners could end soon.
One day after general manager Bill Bavasi was fired, interim GM Lee Pelekoudas and club executives held meetings throughout the day Tuesday to set the course for the final 31/2 months of the season.
Among the hottest topics: Sexson.
According to one person familiar with moves that are planned, Sexson will be let go, possibly within days. The timing is not set because the team is dealing with other personnel issues that go beyond the procedures for moving Sexson.
There also is the delicate process involved with getting rid of Sexson, who's making $14 million this season in the final year of a four-year, $50 million contract.
Because Sexson has more than five years of major league service, he could decline an assignment to the minor leagues if he clears the 48-hour waiver process and isn't claimed by another team. It's unlikely other teams would be interested because of his high salary, about $7 million for the rest of this season.
Because of the power his service time gives him, Sexson could choose to refuse the Mariners' attempt to make him a free agent and remain with the team. In that case, he would sit the bench, collect what remains of his salary this season and watch others play first base.
Mariners officials, per organization policy, do not comment publicly on personnel discussions.
However, team CEO Howard Lincoln made it clear Monday during the news conference announcing Bavasi's firing that everyone in uniform is a candidate to lose his job.
"My feeling is that the time has come and gone for some of these player to get going," Lincoln said.
Sexson has been an unproductive hitter more than a year. He batted .205 with 21 home runs and 63 runs batted in last year and this season is batting .218 with nine homers and 23 RBI.
They are disappointing numbers for a player counted upon to deliver much-needed power to the lineup. Entering Tuesday, the Mariners' 270 runs scored ranked last in the American League and their 56 home runs were 10th among the 14 teams in the league.
Sexson hasn't hit a home run since May 24 and has only two RBI since that day. He was pulled from the lineup for five games, from May 27-June 1, while former hitting coach Jeff Pentland worked with him on a new batting stance.
The open stance, with his left foot near the left edge of the batter's box, was intended to give Sexson a better look at the baseball. He has batted .279 since going to the new stance but doesn't have an extra-base hit since his home run May 24.
One veteran major league coach said Sexson's swing has become slow, and opposing pitchers have been able to throw their fastball by him. He has pulled few of the balls he has put into play since he adopted the new stance.
In addition to making plans for moving Sexson, the Mariners also have discussed who would replace him.
While there are options on the current roster -- left fielder Raul Ibanez, DH Jose Vidro and utility player Miguel Cairo have started there this season -- the team is leaning toward calling up Bryan LaHair from the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
LaHair entered Tuesday's game at Las Vegas batting .260 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI. Those numbers were second on the team to catcher Jeff Clement, who was called up to the Mariners on Tuesday.
Clement's callup was the first of what will create a new look to the Mariners' lineup.
Manager John McLaren said Clement would catch a majority of the games, putting current catcher Kenji Johjima's playing time in question. Johjima, who signed a three-year $24 million contract extension on April 25, entered Tuesday with a .227 average, two home runs and 17 RBI, also disappointing numbers.
Interestingly, Johjima fielded grounders at first base in pregame work on Monday, although manager John McLaren said nobody should connect that with a change at first. He said other players, including outfielder Jeremy Reed, have worked at first base as the Mariners prepare for a stretch of nine interleague road games beginning Friday at Atlanta.
"We're open to a lot of ideas around here, believe me," McLaren said. "We're not afraid to try anything at any time."
Story tags » Mariners

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