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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 25, 2008 4:05 PM

Johjima press conference

Posted by Geoff Baker

kenjo0425 004.jpg

A shot above of the Kenji Johjima press conference after his three-year, $24 million extension was announced today. Bill Bavasi is on the left, with Johjima nest to him. Going on down the line, there's interpreter Antony Suzuki and player agent Allan Nero. I asked Bavasi what today's extension means for the future of Jeff Clement as a catcher in this organization.

Here is what I asked and what he answered.

"I would guess that at some point along the way, because of Jeff's bat -- and assuming Kenji plays the way he can -- Jeff's going to get exposed to another position at some point,'' Bavasi said. "But we have not given up on him as a catcher. A lefthanded hitting catcher with power, those are real tough to find. So, this doesn't change Jeff's track to the big leagues much at all. Because his track to the big leagues is with his bat more than his glove anyway.''

Fair enough. Which is why I asked Bavasi a follow-up about whether he could see Clement breaking in at one position and then switching back to catching later on. Doesn't happen much. pretty much never. OK then, the alternative is that Clement catches a few days a week and serves as a DH or first baseman at other times. Remember, this team felt at spring training that there was no point in Clement being up here if he could play every day. Point being, it's doubtful he's going to be a full-time catcher for this club anytime soon. Bavasi said the question was too hypothetical to answer.

So, my logical conclusion? He comes up, fairly soon, to hit as a DH. And he gets to work in some games as a catcher. But logic doesn't always dictate the correct answer here. Look at Cha Seung Baek. Last night's game screamed for a long reliever after Jarrod Wasburn bowed out before the sixth. But Baek stayed glued to the bullpen bench. Not sure what his role is.

NOTE (4:54 p.m.): Let me alter what I said slightly in the previous paragraph. The situation didn't "scream'' for a long reliever. A starter getting knocked out in the third inning screams for one. This didn't. Sure, Baek could have been used in the sixth instead of Roy Corcoran. I know these guys have their roles and such, but by the time Baek's role actually comes up, his arm will be rusted to his side and unable to throw a pitch. Just wanted to clear that up.


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