The rest remains so questionable that the Mariners may need until mid-March or later to know if they’ll continue with Lopez at third and Chone Figgins at second. If nothing else, they know now that Lopez can make the long throw across the diamond.
“His arm plays at third base,” manager Don Wakamatsu said Saturday. “That slow roller, he’s got enough arm strength to do that.”
Lopez showed that Saturday morning when the Mariners took infield and batting practice at Peoria Stadium during the ballpark’s annual FanFest. He fielded grounders to his left, to his right and some slow rollers that challenged his ability to charge the ball and make the throw to first.
“I’ve seen some good things out of Lopey at third base,” said Wakamatsu, who credits new third-base coach Mike Brumley with helping Lopez with his catch-and-throw mechanics.
“Mike is going to make a lot of those guys technically better,” Wakamatsu said. “The technique, his balance, are better. He’s had some flaws we’re addressing right now.”
That doesn’t mean the Mariners have any better idea whether Lopez can make the conversion than they did when he started working there last Tuesday. Lopez said then that he would “play a couple of games. If we don’t like it, we tried.”
But Wakamatsu said Saturday that Lopez would keep working at third, and Figgins at second, at least through the middle of the exhibition schedule.
“I don’t have an exact date, but we want to be able to see them a little bit,” Wakamatsu said. “We can always go back the other way. The question is getting them (time to get) comfortable back in the other position. We don’t want to lose that.
“These guys have played the majority of time at those positions, so I think the flip side is that we can extend that at little bit if we’re still not sure.”
Bitter taste of hard work
The Mariners are working Jack Hannahan at multiple positions in this camp, and he spent several minutes after the regular workout on a back field handling dozens of grounders. Eventually, Hannahan stopped and doubled over in short left field.
Ground-ball fatigue? Uh, no.
“He swallowed his dip,” Wakamatsu said.
Aside from that hiccup, Hannahan has been the most active player in camp. He has worked with the catchers in the event he’ll be needed as the emergency catcher, and Wakamatsu plans to play him at second base, third, shortstop and maybe the outfield before the regular season begins.
Hannahan started 32 games at third base and nine at first last season after the Mariners acquired him July 11 in a trade with the Oakland A’s.
“He’s going to be a critical part,” said Wakamatsu, who values versatility. “We talk about depth, he’s going to get some time at shortstop and second base. We know he can play third and we might even throw him into the outfield one game this spring.”
Cliff Lee threw off the bullpen mound Saturday and, if his schedule holds, he’ll throw again in the bullpen Tuesday with a simulated game Friday. … The Mariners will play an 81/2-inning intrasquad game starting at 9:30 a.m. (PST) Monday and a five-inning game at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Those games will be played on Field 1 of the Mariners’ practice facility and, like all morning workouts, there is no admission charge for fans. … The Mariners have signed right-handed pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league contract in hopes the 26-year-old can resurrect a career that stalled out in 2003 after only a couple of seasons because of substance abuse. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Brewers in 2002 and was pitching independent ball last summer before suffering an elbow injury that required surgery. He will continue his rehab in Peoria beginning today and isn’t expected to ready when the Mariners’ minor league teams start their seasons in April. … The Mariners also will take a look Monday at right-handed pitcher Pat Bresnehan, a 24-year-old who was the Pirates’ fifth-round pick in the 2006 draft. He went 0-1 with a 4.29 earned run average in 38 relief outings last year at Class AA Altoona in the Pirates’ organization. … One whose comeback won’t happen with the Mariners is pitcher Cha Seung Baek, who worked out for the team last week in Peoria but didn’t show enough to warrant further interest.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog
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