SEATTLE – Jeff Cirillo says he’s happy to escape the Coors Field factor.
Cirillo, who signed a four-year, $27.6 million deal with the Seattle Mariners last week, said Tuesday he won’t miss the questions about how much his hitting numbers were inflated by the thin air and vast expanses of the Colorado Rockies’ mile-high ballpark.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing, I guess, a normal style of baseball, where you don’t have the press always on you with the Coors Field factor, where they say ‘you hit this at home and this on the road’ ” Cirillo said.
“You put on a Colorado Rockies uniform and you’re instantly kind of discredited,” Cirillo said at a Safeco Field news conference. “I think that as far as career moves go, you come to Colorado and you almost get forgotten.”
The third baseman batted .362 at home last season and .266 on the road; in 2000, he hit .403 at Coors and .239 on the road.
He brings a career .311 average to the Mariners after two seasons with the Rockies and six before that with the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .321 or better three times for the Brewers.
Cirillo said he doesn’t know if the Rockies will ever be able to overcome their offense-friendly home field.
“There’s definitely some elements to that field where they’ll have trouble winning on it on a consistent basis,” he said.
Cirillo was traded on Saturday for reliever Jose Paniagua and pitching prospects Dennis Stark and Brian Fuentes.
Cirillo, 32, a two-time All Star, hit .312 with 83 RBI and a career-high 17 home runs last season. He led major league third basemen with a .982 fielding percentage.
He replaces David Bell, who became a free agent after hitting .260 with 15 home runs and 64 RBI for Seattle.
Signing with Seattle is a homecoming of sorts for Cirillo, whose wife, Nancy, is an area native. They live in suburban Redmond with their three sons, and Cirillo’s in-laws and his young sons attended the news conference.
Cirillo himself has been a casual Mariners fan.
“I went to Game 5 against the Indians,” in the American League Division Series last season, he said. “I took my son. It was a great game. We had some sausage, some dipping dogs, and sang Ichiro,” in support of Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle’s right fielder.
Mariners general manager Pat Gillick said he still hoped to re-sign free agent second baseman Bret Boone, a University of Southern California teammate of Cirillo’s. Gillick declined to say how far apart the Mariners’ offer and Boone’s demands were. The team is believed to have offered $23 million over three years, with a fourth option year based on incentives. Boone reportedly is asking for $10 million for at least four years.
Agent Adam Katz has said Boone may file for arbitration, which would return him to the Mariners for one more season at a salary to be determined by an arbitrator.
If Boone doesn’t return, Gillick said Mark McLemore will start at second.
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