Lillibridge fine at first
Brent Lillibridge will play anywhere if it gets him into the Chicago White Sox lineup on a regular basis. But he does have one misgiving about being their primary first baseman while Paul Konerko is limited to DH duty because of a calf injury.
ty sure I’m the shortest first baseman in the league,” said the 5-foot-11 Lillibridge, a former Jackson High School and University of Washington star. “I feel bad for all the infielders. I told them just to throw it low, if anything.”
Lillibridge, a middle infielder when he turned pro, had played infield and outfield since his first big-league season in 2008 with the Braves. He’d never played first, though, until the White Sox had a huge hole to fill after Konerko was hurt July 31.
Two days earlier, they’d traded versatile Mark Teahen to the Blue Jays, leaving Lillibridge with a feeling he might get some playing time at first base.
“I did the numbers (and) thought, well, that they won’t have Omar Vizquel working at first base, so I figured there was a good chance,” said Lillibridge, who played first base Friday night against the Mariners for his 13th game at the position this season.
What surprised him is that manager Ozzie Guillen not only has started him at first, as he did Friday night against the Mariners, but also used him there as a late-inning replacement.
“But it’s been good because I’m getting to play at least a couple of times a week just at first base where if I was playing the outfield or middle infield I wouldn’t be getting this extra time,” Lillibridge said.
He has gotten more playing time than any of his four big-league seasons and producing his best offensive year. He entered Friday’s game batting .263 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI.
Lillibridge not only is hitting for his highest average as a big-leaguer, he’s approaching a career high in home runs (he hit 13 in both 2006 and 2007 in the minor leagues).
“When I’m seeing the ball good like that, I’m hitting it hard and hitting it far,” he said. “But it can come and go. Balls sometimes go over the fences and sometimes they go right at people.
“I want to hit the ball hard every time I’m in there and try to do something to help the team every game. I’ve been able to do that for the most part for the whole season. I’m really happy that I’ve built a foundation hopefully for my major league career. I needed to have a year like this.”
Manager Eric Wedge said the Mariners will keep Anthony Vasquez as a starter, meaning they’ll operate with a six-man starting rotation.
It’ll allow the Mariners to ease the workload on their young pitchers, which will be handy in September when the M’s have only one day off (Sept. 15) before the end of the season.
Smoak, Figgins work out
First baseman Justin Smoak was cleared by doctors to begin taking ground balls, which he did during pregame work Friday for the first time since Aug 12 when he suffered a broken nose and cheekbone when a grounder hit him in the face.
Wedge said Smoak would field grounders and take batting practice the next two or three days before the team decides what he’ll do next.
Third baseman Chone Figgins did agility work and ran the bases during batting practice as he comes back from a strained right hip flexor. If Figgins gets through the next few days without any problems, he could go on a minor-league rehab assignment next week, Wedge said.
“We’ll see how he recovers from that tomorrow,” Wedge said. “A hip flexor is something you’ve really got to be careful with.”
Reliever Dan Cortes, on the 15-day disabled list because of a bruised left ankle, is doing well and probably wouldn’t be on the DL if the Mariners didn’t need a roster spot for pitcher Anthony Vasquez in Tuesday’s double-header at Cleveland. Cortes suffered the injury last week in a home-plate collision against the Rays. … Friday was the Mariners’ 1,000th regular-season game at Safeco Field, which opened midway through the 1999 season. Of those games, the Mariners were the “visiting” team four times (three against the Marlins this season in a series moved from Florida and one in 2007 against the Indians to make up a snowed-out game in Cleveland). The Mariners also played nine postseason games at Safeco in 2000 and 2001.
Kirby Arnold, Herald Writer