PEORIA, Ariz. — If there was ever a spring training when Ryan Langerhans needed to show up in perfect health and with a crisp edge to his game, this is it.
This is Camp Competition for the Seattle Mariners, particularly for the backup outfield spot that the 31-year-old Langerhans hopes to wi
n. He’s battling veteran Gabe Gross and youngsters Matt Tuiasosopo, Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero and Johermyn Chavez for that job, knowing it’ll take a solid spring training and the confidence of manager Eric Wedge to win it.
So far, Langerhans is doing that.
He doubled and singled in three at-bats Thursday in the Mariners’ 10-5 victory over the L.A. Angels, giving him a .375 average in the nine games he’s played.
Better than that, Langerhans is healthy after offseason elbow surgery that turned out more involved than he’d expected.
“I’m feeling good and getting better every day,” he said.
When he woke up from surgery last October, things weren’t so positive. He’d battled much of last season with what he thought were bone chips in his left elbow, and the operation was supposed to be a general cleanup.
Instead, doctors found cartilage damage in the elbow and “they had to do a small microfracture procedure to fix it,” Langerhans said.
That’s not what a guy needs when he’s preparing for spring training as a non-roster invitee. But Langerhans rehabbed through the winter and said the elbow felt good when he showed up for camp in February.
“But after I got here, it got a little angry with me,” he said.
Enter Wedge, who kept Langerhans active with some duty at first base early in camp to allow the elbow pain to quiet down.
“Wedge has been great,” Langerhans said. “Now it’s getting pretty close to full strength.”
Langerhans can play all three outfield positions although all three of his spring training starts have been in center field, a position the Mariners know they need coverage because of the stomach issues that starter Franklin Gutierrez has dealt with. Wedge hopes to give Gutierrez regular rest this season.
“You have to love his versatility in the outfield, he’s a good baserunner, good baseball player and knows the game,” Wedge said of Langerhans. “We held him back early on and allowed him to have some reps at first base, which is only going to help him and help us in regard to the versatility But he’s feeling good and throwing the ball fine now. Hopefully he’ll stay there.”
So far, the elbow has been fine.
“Early on in the intrasquad game I wasn’t cutting it loose,” Langerhans said. “But the last couple of days if there’s been an opportunity to throw somebody out, I’m not holding back.”
He knows that holding back at this point might mean another outfielder may pass him by. Gross has struggled in the early games, batting just .143, but he hit a two-run homer Thursday.
“There’s competition here and it’s good,” Langerhans said. “It’s good for team chemistry.”
That may seem a little odd, that guys hoping to win jobs over others already have a good bond in the clubhouse.
“That happens when you have the right guys,” Langerhans said. “With selfish players, I don’t think it would work. But we have guys here who are hungry and know that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than what’s on the back. I know that’s a cliche, but that’s what we have.
“Competition pushes you to see what you’ve got instead of just going through the motions. It’s a team game but there are individual battles. If we’re selfless in the way we play the game, we can achieve more than a lot of people are expecting of us. I like the feel of everything here.”
Particular his own game.