By John Boyle
Jason Bay met the local media for the first time in an intentionally low-key setting. There was no formal press conference, there wasn’t the new player in a sharp suit sitting at a table next to his new manager and GM. And that was very much by design. The Mariners hope Bay can rediscover the form that made him an All Star in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, they also realize he was available because injuries and ineffectiveness made Bay expendable to the New York Mets.
Bay, 34, is from British Columbia, he went to Gonzaga, and his family makes its offseason home in the Seattle area, so if ever there was a place he might be ready to bounce back, it might be here.
“We hope we can create an environment here where he’s comfortable, where he’s capable of having a big bounce-back year,” said general manager Jack Zduriencik. “He’d like to do that, and we’d certainly hope that’s the case. We’ll see in spring training.”
Ah yes, we’ll see in spring training. That’s a nice way of saying, “we don’t really know what we’ve got in this guy, and nothing is guaranteed at this point.
Bay, who has battled concussions and other injuries, says he is fully healthy, and thinks a change in scenery will be a positive this season.
“It’s just the fresh start… You kind of wipe the slate clean,” he said. “Regardless of where I was going, whether it was here or anywhere else—and I’m glad that I’m here—that was the No. 1 thing I was looking forward, just starting over. I’ve been swimming upstream for so long and not getting anywhere, that’s basically it, I’m just trying to start fresh.”
Bay hasn’t put up big numbers since an All-Star season in Boston in 2009, but he still believes he is capable of playing at that level, or something close to it.
“If I didn’t think that, I don’t think I would be here,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here trying to hold on. I feel like I can still do it, and I did do it in New York every now and then, but there was no consistency. If I had gone months without any signs of life, it would have been ‘OK, this isn’t working.’ But all of the sudden it was like, it’s there, we’ve just got to get to a point where we can get it there consistently. Any competitor would still feel that way. Am I the exact same guy I was in 2004, 2005? No, but some percentage of that, a large percentage of that, that’s still pretty good.”
And if Bay can resemble something even close to the player who eclipsed 30 home runs and 100 RBI four times from 2005 to 2009, that would be a big addition for a team that desperately needs a right-handed bat with some pop.
“It’s without a doubt our greatest need,” said manager Eric Wedge. “Putting those lineups together, you’re so left-handed heavy… I don’t know what the ratio was, but that first guy out of the bullpen was left handed about 90 percent of the time, and there was usually another one coming behind him. So for us to create a little more balance was imperative.”