By Kirby Arnold, Herald writer
Carlos Garcia wears No. 13 on the back of his Mariners jersey, although some days it seems like there might be a big bull’s eye there.
The Mariners’ third-base coach is a target for bouncing balls and wicked line drives hit into foul territory, and he’s had to duck and dive out of the way more than once to avoid getting hit.
Nothing was as close as the foul line drive that Ichiro Suzuki hit last week. Garcia sprawled on the ground to avoid that one, said a brief prayer of thanks and offered a little comic relief before he got to his feet. While still on his back, Garcia stuck his hand in his jersey and mimicked the rapid beating of his heart.
“That ball was really, really close,” he said. “I could see that ball coming right between my eyes, and then I leaned back.”
Except for the catcher and umpire behind the plate, nobody is as vulnerable to getting hit as a base coach. And, unlike catchers and umpires, the coaches don’t have protective equipment.
In fact, if there’s a runner on base, they barely get a chance to see where the ball is hit. When there’s a runner on second base, the third base coach often positions himself up the line, closer to the hitter. That gives him more time to make a decision on a ball hit to the outfield as the runner rounds the bag and either is waved home or held at third.
“I have to look toward the plate real quick to see where the ball is hit, then watch the runner,” Garcia said. “If the ball is hit right at me, I have very little chance of getting out of the way.”
Garcia has never been hit. The liner from Suzuki was the closest he has come, and after the inning he absorbed plenty of abuse when he returned to the dugout, particularly from first base coach Mike Goff.
“Mike has been hit, but he was really making fun of me,” Garcia said.
Even manager Mike Hargrove couldn’t help himself.
“Grover tried to keep a straight face, but he was laughing, too,” Garcia said.
Of note: A victory tonight will move the Mariners 10 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. It also would give the M’s a season-best six-game winning streak. … Suzuki’s 11 putouts Wednesday against the Red Sox were the most by an outfielder in the major leagues this season. … The Mariners’ tied a franchise record by not allowing an earned run in 10 innings Wednesday. They also didn’t allow an earned run July 17, 1986, against Boston (a 5-1 victory in 11 innings) and July 18, 2001, at Kansas City (a 2-0 victory in 10 innings). … The first 20,000 at Sunday’s game will receive a pair of sunglasses as part of UV Awareness Month.