By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
CHICAGO — The general view among the Seattle Mariners is Kyle Seager remains a work in progress. That as good as he’s been this season — and it’s easy to build an All-Star case on his behalf — there’s more to come.
“He can be really good,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “Really good. Trust me, this is 2014. You will see in the next few years how good he can be.”
Or this from manager Lloyd McClendon: “The light is starting to flicker a little bit. He’s getting better …
“I know he’s got power, and he’s going to hit 20-plus home runs. My goal is to see him become a complete hitter. That means using the entire field and becoming a tough out with two strikes and runners in scoring position.”
Seager agrees with all of this.
While on pace for the best season in his career — and note that Seager was picked as the Mariners’ best player in each of the past two seasons — he sounds far from satisfied.
“I need to continue to work on my balance and my approach,” he said. “Being able to use the whole field is a big (goal).
“I want to be able to control the strike zone in what I want to accomplish, as opposed to being one dimensional.”
It bugs him, for example, that opponents often shift their defense to place three infielders on the right side of second base.
“If they’re doing the shift,” Seager said, “that just lets you know how teams view you. They view you as a little one-dimensional and strictly as a pull hitter.
“If you want to be an all-round hitter, you have to be able to do all of that stuff right.”
Seager paused, looked across the clubhouse to where Cano was standing and nodded as he continued: “Nobody shifts him because he can hit it all over the place. He’ll do what he wants in there. That’s what you want them to be saying about you.”
Seager cited Cano’s at-bat in Tuesday’s victory over Houston to underscore his point.
Cano adjusted to an up-and-away fastball on a full count from Jarred Cosart and sent a liner past third for a two-run double.
“I don’t know (how he does that),” Seager said. “I wish I did. He’s special. That’s his swing, though. He stays on the ball, and he keeps it down to left. That’s a really hard thing to do.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Seager cites Cano as a major influence in explaining his own surge in production. For one thing, there’s the practical impact of being the player who most often bats behind Cano in the lineup.
“You get a lot more (pitches) out of the stretch,” Seager deadpanned. “I’ve noticed that. You get slide-stepped a lot more hitting behind him. No, it’s good because if he’s on base, they have to go right at you.
“They have to be more aggressive. That doesn’t necessarily mean just fastballs. But they can’t nibble quite as much.”
But it goes deeper than that.
“Cano is a guy I talk to a lot,” Seager said. “He’s very open and very willing to talk about things, and willing to help me. I’ve been taking advantage of it as much as I can.”
So have others. McClendon jokes rookie center fielder James Jones “looks like Robby’s shadow almost at times.”
That, too, appears to be paying off — Jones is batting .293.
But Seager stands out.
“He’s a guy who can hit,” Cano said. “Everybody knew that even before I came here. Sometimes, we just talk about who is pitching, and what he’s got. He’s a guy who listens, and that’s why he’s so successful.”
With the chance, the consensus believes, to get even better.