Updated Mar 6, 2013 - 8:37 pm
A look at the distant future
By Shannon Drayer
I finally got to do something today at spring training that I think I may have taken for granted for many years. I got to go down to watch the minor leaguers work on the lower fields. Okay, full disclosure. I was down there with the other writers to see Ken Griffey Jr. who as always arrived unannounced. We found Junior on Field 6 at about 10:45 leaning up against the batting cage watching the minor leaguers take their swings and talking with the coaches and organizational people. He eventually came over and talked us and filled us in on what he was doing in Arizona. From what I gather, there is going to be a lot of back and forth for Ken who will spend time with the Mariners but also time in Tucson where his oldest son Trey is in spring drills with the University of Arizona football team.
On his way out Griffey signed some autographs for the fans with some of the young Mariners looking on. If they haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, they will soon as talking to the kids in the lower minors in particular is a passion of Griffey's.
While I was down of the field it hit me that I didn't get to spend nearly the time watching baseball that I did when I first started this job and how much I missed standing on a lower field watching young players I had only read and heard about at that point. This has happened to all of us who cover the team. With the immediacy of the internet we find ourselves spending most of our time at the computer. For the writers it is working on multiple blog posts and Tweets. For me there are fewer blog posts but reports for the radio to write, record, edit and send as well as notes to write and sound to edit for the broadcast. All of this takes time and doesn't include the hours we spend in the clubhouse each morning waiting to talk to the players and coaches we need for our posts and whatnot. I am not complaining by any means. Just pointing out how much our jobs have changed in the last five years and what we tend to miss because of it.
So I appreciated the opportunity to be down on what is almost becoming a foreign field to me. The sight above made me smile. Apparently there has been a run on 2's and 3's. Another sight that jumped out at me was the chance to really look at Gabriel Guererro (right). I saw him in the sim games against Felix but I was focused on Felix and not the hitters. I knew he got bat on a Felix pitch that may or may not have been a hit but when I saw him awaiting his turn to hit today I had to shake my head. I didn't know it was him, but I knew it was him. How could I not? Put about 40-50 pounds on him and you have Vlad. The resemblance was remarkable. From the ridiculously long legs to the profile it was uncanny. His batting helmet wasn't covered in pine tar and he didn't swing at balls at his shoe laces but there is time for that. Word is the 6'3 190 lb, 19 year old nephew of Vladimir is expected to grow a bit taller and obviously fill out with time. While not putting expectations on him there is talk that he can hit a little.
While down on the lower fields I had an opportunity to chat with director of minor league operations, Chris Gwynn. Of particular interest to me was the decision to move AA third baseman Francisco Martinez to centerfield. That certainly isn't a move you see every day.
Martinez was acquired from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade. He has been inconsistent with the bat but at his best he has been a guy who can put up a decent OPS and is a threat to steal when he gets on. So why the move to center?
Gwynn first got the idea after watching him in the field during batting practice last summer with the Jackson team.
"One day he was in the outfield just running balls down and I was like "wow," said Gwynn.
He pulled Martinez aside and asked what his favorite positions were growing up. He answered center, short and third in that order.
"He just opened up right away," said Gwynn. "I asked why was 3rd last and he said he was just naturally good in those other positions."
Because of some injury and depth issues at center Gwynn decided to let Martinez try center a couple of times a week in the final months of the season and liked what he saw. This spring he has played primarily center and has looked nothing like a guy who has just moved there.
Whether or not that will be his permanent position remains to be seen but according to Gwynn it makes sense to move him around to make him more veristile at this point.
"He can do it. He's a great athlete, he can do just about anything," he said.
Fielding alone will not be enough to get Martinez to Seattle however.
"We have just got to get his hitting right," said Gwynn. "Make him more consistent. He is obviously a base stealing threat when he gets on. We have just got to get him on more. Some players it takes more time but he is just 22 the whole year."
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