By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — When the Seattle Mariners hit the practice field this morning, Jose Lopez and Chone Figgins may return to their old positions.
It’s only temporary. For now.
Manager Don Wakamatsu said the Mariners haven’t given up on their plan to play Lopez at third base and Figgins at second, which they’ve done since the first workout of spring training.
But, before they pull the “experiment” sticker off that setup, Wakamatsu said he plans to have the two work out today at the positions they’ve played most of their careers — Lopez at second base and Figgins at third — and in at least one exhibition game next week.
Wakamatsu said he and general manager Jack Zduriencik discussed the plan Friday morning, but he cautioned that he remains in favor of starting the season with Lopez at third and Figgins at second.
“Not because we’re doubting it, but just to ask, ‘What does it look like the other way?’” Wakamatsu said. “That’s the dialogue Jack and I have had.”
The Mariners reached the halfway point of their 32-game exhibition season Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds, starting Lopez at third and Figgins at second for the ninth time.
So far, the Mariners have been pleased.
Lopez has struggled with some aspects of the transition to third base but also has shown that he’s playable there. Figgins has displayed much greater range at second than what Lopez has given the Mariners in previous years, and he would strengthen the defense up the middle.
Wakamatsu said there’s considerable sentiment within the organization to start the season with Lopez at third base and Figgins at second. He said other players favor that arrangement, too.
“The sentiment in the clubhouse is that everybody likes what’s going on,” Wakamatsu said. “I’m leaning that way and everybody likes it.”
First baseman Casey Kotchman said Figgins offers more than his range and athleticism at second base.
“When I had the chance to play with him a little bit with the Angels, he was real informative over there,” Kotchman said. “He kind of goes above the call of duty at second base, telling you from pitch to pitch what he’s seeing and what he’s doing. He communicates real well over there, which is critical to not opening up holes on the infield. If he moves and I don’t move, there’s a hole.
“He does the little stuff that doesn’t happen all the time with second basemen, communication and stuff like that. It’s just him. That’s just what he does. He makes a conscious effort.”
Bradley ejected again, M’s lose
For the second straight game, Mariners left fielder Milton Bradley was ejected after being called out on strikes during Friday night’s 6-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
And, like Wednesday night, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu was irate that Bradley has been targeted by umpires.
“To me it’s almost like a witch hunt,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s almost embarrassing to me that egos get in the way to a point that they don’t even give a guy a chance anymore. I’m not real thrilled about that whole situation.
Plate umpire Jon Merry ejected Bradley in the fourth inning Friday. On Wednesday, plate ump Dan Bellino ejected Bradley after he dropped his bat following a called third strike.
Unlike Wednesday when Bradley didn’t say a word before he was ejected, Wakamatsu said Bradley did “say something walking away” Friday.
“He was just about in the dugout, but I’m standing in the dugout and I couldn’t tell what he said,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s pretty blatant that some guys have it out for him.”
Bradley joined starting pitcher Doug Fister in the clubhouse.
Fister was hit on his right (pitching) forearm by a line drive from the Reds’ Joey Votto with two outs in the first inning. Fister was immediately pulled from the game but didn’t undergo X-rays Friday night.
Wakamatsu said a doctor checked Fister and described it as a soft-tissue injury, although he would have X-rays today.
Jason Vargas, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in his first three exhibition games, followed Fister and pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings before he tired and the Reds hit him hard. He finished with five innings — 75 pitches — and allowed seven hits, including four home runs. One was an inside-the-park homer by Drew Stubbs.
Catching picture seems set
The playing time has pretty much indicated that Adam Moore will make the team, and Wakamatsu all but confirmed that Friday as he discussed the catching tandem of Rob Johnson and Moore.
Johnson continues to build his strength after surgery to both hips, and Wakamatsu said he wouldn’t be afraid to play Moore four or five games a week until Johnson is 100 percent.
“If we can break here with Rob feeling good catching a couple days in a row and we feel a confidence in Adam, it gives Adam a chance to catch four days a week and we can rest Rob on certain days,” Wakamatsu said.
Wakamatsu said Johnson would play back-to-back games for the first time on Thursday and Friday. Johnson got several at-bats Friday in minor league exhibitions on the lower practice fields.
Today in camp
The Mariners play the Arizona Diamondbacks at 1:05 p.m. (PST) in Peoria (FSN TV and ESPN 710 AM radio). Right-hander Felix Hernandez will start for the Mariners, who also will pitch right-handers Shawn Kelley and Kanekoa Texeira. Right-hander Dan Haren will start for the Diamondbacks.
Wakamatsu said Mike Sweeney, who’s making a strong push to win a roster spot with his .684 batting average, probably won’t play first base during the exhibition season. Sweeney has fielded balls at first base during workouts but has on been a DH in the six games he has played. “I don’t think it’s something we have to see in a game before we break, if that’s the case,” Wakamatsu said. … Utility player Jack Hannahan, who suffered a strained groin in the second exhibition game March 4, took batting practice Friday for the second straight day. He still hasn’t been able to run. “He’s better but I still think he’s a little ways away,” Wakamatsu said. … Left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson is expected to play catch on Monday after he was hit on the ring finger of his throwing hand when a ground ball hit it during a fielding drill Wednesday. “His finger is still pretty sore, so we’re looking at some time with that,” Wakamatsu said. … Erik Bedard remains on track to pitch off the bullpen mound on Tuesday as he comes back from shoulder surgery last August. … Wakamatsu said the next round of roster cuts would happen Tuesday or Wednesday.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog