PEORIA, Ariz. — This is the day that makes John McLaren feel like the baseball season is here.
The Seattle Mariners’ position players join the pitchers and catchers who’ve been at spring training for a week, and the team will conduct its first full-squad workout today.
First, McLaren will deliver his spring training address to the players for the first time as a major league manager.
“That’s the meeting I’ve always dreamed about,” said McLaren, who took over the Mariners midway through last season when Mike Hargrove abruptly resigned.
McLaren, a major league coach for 21 seasons, has given the first-day speech at spring training before but never as manager. He did it a few years ago with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when manager Lou Piniella took time off to be with his sick father.
“I guess that was my practice speech, so to speak,” McLaren said. “But there’s something about your first spring training as manager, your first speech. There’s a lot of anticipation, a lot to be said.”
His message today will focus on both patience and aggression.
McLaren wants the Mariners’ hitters to show more patience, getting away from their free-swinging tendency and working the ball-strike count in their favor. Do that, he says, and the Mariners’ situational hitting should improve.
And that leads to his second goal: more aggressive baserunning.
McLaren will emphasize more stolen bases and runners going from first to third at this camp, and he warns that it could be ugly for a while.
“We might see a guy get thrown out at third base here, but that’s what I want,” he said. “We want to be like the Angels. They go from first to third as well as any team I’ve seen. It has a lot to do with speed, but it also has a lot to do with mindset.”
McLaren isn’t concerned with victories and losses during the exhibition season, and he realizes that the emphasis on aggressive baserunning may cost the Mariners a game or two in March.
“I’m not saying we don’t try to win the games but it’s not the top priority,” he said. “We want to do things right, and sometimes to teach to do things right we might make an out where normally you wouldn’t make an out. But we want to find things out here and show guys what they’re capable of doing, make it a point now. It might cost us a couple of outs here and there but that’s what we want. That’s the only way you’re going to learn.”
Lopez delayed: Visa problems will keep second baseman Jose Lopez at home in Venezuela at least a couple of days, McLaren said.
“He should be a day, possibly two at the most,” McLaren said. “It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the way the powers that be is down there. They’ve got their own schedule. No matter when you go in to get it done, you’re at their mercy. He did everything he was supposed to do and they just dragged their feet.”
McLaren said Lopez wouldn’t be hurt if he misses only a couple of days.
Of note: Center fielder Ichiro Suzuki arrived Tuesday afternoon for his physical exam but said he wouldn’t talk with the U.S. media until after today’s practice. … The Mariners were eager to take a look at right-hander Anderson Garcia’s arm after they claimed him off waivers over the weekend, but it turns out the trainers will be the first people to see it closely. Garcia has tendinitis in his biceps and won’t be able to throw for a few days, McLaren said. … The only other injury of note is a bad back for catcher Brant Ust, who missed two days but may return today. … The Mariners signed 31-year-old outfielder Bubba Crosby, who spent last year with the Cincinnati Reds’ Class AAA club, to a minor league contract. Crosby, who will report to the minor league camp March 6, has played for the Dodgers and Yankees in the majors, his best year being 2005 when he batted .276 with New York.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com