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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 29, 2008 3:17 PM

Clement, Balentien up "sooner than later''

Posted by Geoff Baker

indians0429 011.jpg

A look above at Brad Wilkerson, leaving the dugout during batting practice under the watchful eye of GM Bill Bavasi and assistent GM Lee Pelakoudis. Manager John McLaren said during his pre-game session with reporters and he said Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien will likely be up here "sooner than later.''

I walked over to Bavasi after that and asked him flat-out whether service time or "Super Two'' status would have any impact on a decision to call a player up from Class AAA. Bavasi responded that, if a club had to need to feel, the answer is "it has no impact on a decision.''

Easy to say now, since Clement and Balentien will not gain a full year of service time in 2008 if called up on May 7 or later. I suppose that if the M's were to promote Clement on May 5, at the start of the next homestand, we'd all shut up about this. But anyway, I got the impression talking to Bavasi -- and McLaren -- that the "Super Two'' stuff is a non-issue and the team won't wait until June.

"They'll both be here sooner than later,'' McLaren said. "We're well aware of them. They're very highly thought of.''

McLaren said service time has no bearing on when the pair will be promoted.

I've been writing mid-May as a drop-dead date since spring training. Here's why. I figured, the team would give a month to everyone to get their feet on the ground. After that, serve them notice that if they don't improve, they will be switched. Sort of like serving notice in the workplace. Well, the notice has apparently been served.

"We've given everybody a fair opportiunity,'' McLaren said. "We've been patient, we've given everybody the benefit of the doubt. So, with that said, we're ready to move forward one way or the other.''

indians0429 010.jpg

McLaren said that when Clement and Balentien do get called up, they're going to play. It's different, he added, from the Adam Jones situation last year when the players he would have replaced all started to hit and were doing well during a playoff chase. Hear what McLaren actually said right here in this clip.

"We kind of just mixed him in whenever we could,'' McLaren said of Jones. "It's a little differnet now, w2e have guys that are struggling. If we bring them up, we're going to play them.''

McLaren said the wait now is a combination of continuing the short-term development of Clement and Balentien -- partucularly the latter after his knee got banged up -- and giving the struggling bats one final chance to show themselves.

"We've got several guys around the .200 mark and they've got to pick it up in a hurry,'' he said.

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Posted by dc

3:23 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I wish they would just tell us what they're going to do. I get so sick of the secretive nature of this team. All the innuendo and spy talk drives me nuts.

Gawd.....Vidro back in the lineup tonight is just a huge butcher knife through the heart. Aargh.

Posted by Patrick F.

3:33 PM, Apr 29, 2008

It's seems like the club should get Clement accustomed to playing first, since he's blocked from being catcher by Kenji.

As raw as Balentien may be, I'd rather see him splitting time in right with Wilkerson than seeing Willie Boom Boom fill the void. I've been impressed with Wikerson's patience at the plate, but little else. No one has really looked all that good in right this season.

Is there any chance Batista goes on the DL? He's been really shaky this year, and it seems like he is injured in one way or another.

Keep Clement in the minors to make the adjustment to playing first or DH, and bring Balentien up ASAP. Seriously, Kenny Lofton is starting to look like an appealing option for RF.

Posted by Beady Eye Guy

3:34 PM, Apr 29, 2008

DC,

This beats a lot of what we heard last year with Adam. I'll take this over the silly innuendo anyday.

Posted by Thomas

3:36 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Blah! Blah! Blah! If they're well aware of what they're doing, then they should've called them up during the off day. Their excuse for not calling them up for the Indians/Yankees series is going to be that they didn't want to put them in a situation where they're on the road, facing tough pitching. Like the veterans have had a lot of success!

If they don't do something soon, by the time they come home they'll be 6 or 7 games out of 1st place.

Posted by socaltommy

3:42 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Geoff,

There is a rumor being reported on the Fox Sports website that indicates the Reds are ready to deal Junior. They are pointing to the M's as the only team he'd waive his no trade for.

Are you hearing anything out of the front office?

Posted by Walla Walla Girl

3:47 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Team leader found! Get Griffey!

Posted by helpFelix

3:47 PM, Apr 29, 2008

All that Geoff talk back in March on Sexson playing for a contract year...proves true:

Sexson (AVG .207) (2007 AVG .205)

He's raised his BA from 205 to 207!!! 2 points a month, and Sexson "should' be @ a 217BA by the end of September!

Something else I wanted to comment on regard the C/DH dilemma...and ONLY carrying 2 catcher, and either trading or sending Burke down...

How many times will that happen throughout the year? Say Johjima gets injured in the 5th or 6th inning and has to come out...Clement DHing and moving to Catcher AND THEN the SP has to bat 1 or 2 ABs. Are we really concerned about one of our SPs having to have 1 or 2 ABs once in a blue moon..."or" if ever at all?!

Also remember that Willie has also been behind the plate, so "if" the Mariners EVER (if ever) get into a bind over a few innings during 1 game, then we can manage. And "if" a loss is taken because of it, then THAT would be a justifiable loss. What I CANT take is losing games because of cheezy ass management decisions on all of these "other" issues that has cost of many of the games in 2008 because of bad management decisions (using hitters, pitchers, pulling or not pulling pitchers, and NOT playing pitcher/hitter matchups better than they have, AND ESPECIALLY the way Mac kept throwing O'Flaherty out there game after game just to blow a ton of games for us. I also didn't agree with his decision to keep Felix in the 8th inning to load the bases with no outs, and let him stay out there in a 2-0 lead to watch the lead vanish...while Felix was already carrying a 100-115 PC. OR pulling Felix in the 9th against the O's early in April when he had an amazing shutout game going with a PC in the 80s!!!

Those are just a "few" examples of MANY pain staking issues all of us have had to deal with this year!

Posted by William

3:48 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Well I/m glad for the serving notice jargin. Definately better then what happened with Jones last year. I've got to think that Clement would be fine at first. You have to think he's played it at some point in his life. Let's look at Manny Ramierez for an example of someone who is in the bigs for his bat and not for his glove. Teams everywhere have guys who can't play defense real well. Why do we always get so obsessed with how a guy plays defense when he may have the ability to hit 40 hr a year? Stupid. Also get Griffey. They would probably take a couple of our AA pitchers for him.

Posted by kujo

3:51 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Don't see how you can be more clear than that. The guys are coming up. Can't announce it before it is done. Sounds like it's just a matter of who goes. My money is on bye bye Wilky, bye bye Cairo, watch out for splinters Vidro. Too bad the call up is not done already. Judging by the Tacoma game last night the prospects smell blood and they are hungry.

Posted by Mike

3:56 PM, Apr 29, 2008

William---First of all defense is important. If you have someone like Raul who is a -20 to -25 run defender, it takes a lot of offense to make up for it. One of the reasons the Ms turn fewer batted balls into outs is that they don't value defense as much as other teams do.

Tampa is a great example of this. Last year they were the worst team in baseball in making outs on balls in play. A couple of key defensive changes and presto, they are at the top of the league and their pitching magically looks a lot better.

Among the Ms problems is that they have 3 or 4 guys who should never see the field defensively and only one DH slot.

Posted by Ben

3:56 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I'd say that's all very encouraging. I mean it could just be posturing to get the .200 club members to get their acts together, but hopefully it's more than that (and it sounds like it).

Also, doesn't Bavasi look somewhat evil in his corner there? Sort of like a villain in Batman? Hmm.. yes...

Also interesting is that the people hitting .200 or under are Sexson, Johjima, Vidro and Wilkerson - the two guys being brought up can play all four of those positions/spots in the order... so it serves notice to all four of them (even Mr. 3 Year Extension).

Posted by cesame

3:58 PM, Apr 29, 2008

This is exciting news. Thanks Geoff.

Posted by macdoubter

3:59 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Oh boy, I hate wishing failure on anyone, but here's hoping Vidro doesn't go 1 for ? this series and the 1 hit puts the M's ahead (even briefly, though it doesn't necessarily lead to a win). It may end up being the slightest spark that delays/prevents a roster move.

The problem is the M's management seem as if they are more concerned with desperately trying to find any reason for keeping the veterans in the lineup rather than finding a reason to replace them.

If so, 1 decent hit among a crapload of groudouts could spell further doom.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

4:00 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I just glanced at the calendar and yep - after the Indians / Yankees road trip, it's a 4-game series against nice, soft, cushy Texas pitching. Waiting to see them until the 5th makes sense, if the goal is to give the kids the maximum chance to succeed. Although, if they're truly the saviors of the offense, they'll need to do just as well against CLE/NYY as against TEX.

And what if the slumpers all ignite at once on the road trip? Isn't the worst possible scenario that Wilkerson, Vidro, Joh and Sexson all hit just well enough to make the managers think twice? I can't believe I'm actively wanting the team to fail badly enough to force their hand. Or at the very least, hoping that the rotation pitches lights-out and the rest of the offense from 1 through 4 + 9 lights up just enough to contribute.

GAH! I can't figure it out anymore. Wake me up in a week.

(reference = "airplane")
Picked a hell of a day to quit sniffing glue.
(/ref)

Posted by Jason

4:01 PM, Apr 29, 2008

While I'd prefer that Clement get time to work out at 1st in Tacoma and I'm not really sure Wlad will hit much at home I AM happy they're not talking about trading away Balentien and Clement for Griffey.

Posted by seavet

4:07 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I don't care who gets the hits, or what it does to what I think the best lineup for the M's might be, or whether Wilkerson makes me look like an ass for saying he was a bad pickup. It won't kill me to be wrong. Just win, baby!

Posted by Mikavexo

4:11 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Hey, at least we don't have 126 million on the roster with Zito like people were screaming we should have done.

Wilkerson and Cairo are going to be the odd men out.

Still waiting on the Griffey thing, perhaps June?

Posted by Ben

4:15 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Well here comes vidro's first chance to prove himself after the notice has been served.

2 on 2 out.

Posted by Beady Eye Guy

4:16 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Burke is a good backup and doesn't need to go anywhere. Clement isn't the everyday catcher and won't be the "backup." Keeping Burke makes sense for those that don't agree.

Clement isn't going to be a "catcher" at this level in 2008. He's the 1B/DH and occasional catcher. Dumping Burke (who has a good bat btw) shouldn't be an option unless they are bringing Rob Johnson up to be the backup.

Drop 1 pitcher and you have room to add to the bench but even then why do it if Mac can't even figure out how to use what he has :(

Bench:

Burke
Vidro
Bloomquist
Norton

Starters:

Ichiro
Lopez
Ibanez
Beltre
Clement
Sexson
Balentien
Johjima
Betancourt

No need to take chances as there always needs to be a full time backup catcher.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

4:16 PM, Apr 29, 2008

In related news, rumors surfaced that Daren Brown, a hot new field managing prospect in AAA, may also get a call-up on may 5th.

In his first season in Tacoma, his Rainiers are posting a 13 and 10 record, which at .565 is better than the Mariners' current record of 12-14, .462. Better at home and away than the big-league club, the Rainiers are also better in one-run games (i.e. they've won 2 of them).

"We have a manager who's struggling at the big league club, and he's got to pick it up in a hurry", an unnamed source said. "We've given everybody a fair opportunity. We've haven't been patient, we've haven't given everybody the benefit of the doubt. But with that said, we're ready to move forward.

"As in, we'd like McLaren to move forward. Because as we all know, if you go forward from the Safeco field main gate, you eventually encounter the open sea. Which we wouldn't mind if he did. He'd get a lifejacket, of course. We're not heartless.''

The unnamed source was last seen twitching and mumbling to himself, clutching a tattered jersey with a 30 on the back.

Posted by Mike

4:16 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Failing to land Zito (he offerred $90-$100M if I remember correctly) is why Bavasi still has a job.

Posted by Ben

4:18 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Hmmm... well Vidro got a pass for this at bat... now it's Sexson's turn in "Prove your worth something", the high stakes game of baseball desperation.

Posted by Nat

4:19 PM, Apr 29, 2008

The way that Niehaus and Blowers are talking about "the changes" that Mac described makes it sound like Way. Later. In. The. Season...

It's great that Bavasi and Mac have put these guys on notice. Waiting for it to happen will be torture.

Oh well...what else is new?

Posted by Ben

4:24 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Well at least we got him up to 27 pitches that inning. If he's wild today, maybe our walk first swing later approach might work...

Thus far, it seems like same old same old though. Sexson grounds out with the bases loaded.

Posted by Mike

4:26 PM, Apr 29, 2008

This is going well.

Posted by Choska

4:28 PM, Apr 29, 2008

"It's different, he added, from the Adam Jones situation last year when the players he would have replaced all started to hit and were doing well during a playoff chase."

Right, because Vidro and his empty batting average last year was SOOO great.

Chris Antonetti in '08

Posted by John

4:29 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Considering how most of these guys play worse at home (where the pressure is greater), I'm not sure we're suddenly going to see improvement by telling them "produce or else." Not that it really matters. I just don't think any of them can really hit, at least not on a consistent basis. My biggest fear is that they will actually sprinkle in a few meaningless hits here and there over this road trip, giving Mac and Bavasi an excuse to keep them plugged in the lineup.
Wilkerson, Vidro and Sexson should all be on the bench by mid-May. Balentien/Reed for Wilkerson, Clement for Vidro and Norton for Sexson.

Posted by Ben

4:33 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Ah the double play - cranky mariner fan's best friend.

Posted by John

4:35 PM, Apr 29, 2008

And ... the game is over.

Posted by Mike

4:36 PM, Apr 29, 2008

The problem is they've all had success as hitters, it's just that many are likely in serious career-decline (Sexson, Wilkerson, Vidro). Let's hope Joh is just slumping though it is not unprecendented for catchers to begin their decline early....it's just a slump, it's just a slump,it's just a slump.

Posted by Mike

4:39 PM, Apr 29, 2008

d'oh!

Posted by MJ

4:48 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Why do people keep suggesting Clement be moved to 1B?As if 1B is the easiest position to play in the world and anyone can learn it and do it. He is just over 6' tall. I don't know if you keyboard jockeys know this, but that isn't quite the target infielders are looking to throw to. Plus the goal of drafting him so early was to have a strong hitting C. Maybe later in his career he can become a full time DH ala Mike Piazza but for right now, while his knees are good, keep him as a C. Let him learn the pro ropes behind Johjima and his coach in the minors has said he is ready to field in the majors. He may not win any gold gloves but i doubt he's gonna be a liability either. Just because we need a strong hitting 1B doesn't mean we should throw just anyone over there. 1B especially big ones like Richie are valuable when it comes to stretching for balls and catching balls that aren't exactly on target.

Posted by Mike

4:54 PM, Apr 29, 2008

um, Richie is tall but he's a terrible defender. You'd think someone 6'8" might have range.

Posted by Nat

5:03 PM, Apr 29, 2008

MJ- well there are two ways to answer that.

1) Clement has said he does NOT want to play 1b. Seems simple enough to understand. He said he hasn't played 1b. and isn't interested.

2) Whether or not Clement plays 1b has nothing to do with Richie playing at 1b b/c Richie will EVENTUALLY have to platoon or maybe ride the pine b/c he's not hitting consistently! That was the message from Mac today.

Posted by MJ

5:05 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Actually Mike, he's a pretty good defender with solid range. Just because you hate his bat doesn't mean you have to hate everything about the guy.

Posted by MJ

5:09 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Nat-

My argument had nothing to do with Sexson really. I am just tired of everyone talking about just putting Clement at 1B like it's the easiest thing in the world to do. If he is a poor 1B then he can cause just as much harm there as he can behind the dish, especially considering the fact that he already plays C and has been working hard to get MLB ready on defense in the minors and the fact that HE HASN'T EVER PLAYED 1B AND DOESN'T WANT TO!

Posted by Jason

5:10 PM, Apr 29, 2008

MJ- You really need to not talk about defense. Richie is pretty bad defender with no range. It's not a 'stats geek' thing. Scouts will say the same thing.

And what does height have to do with defense at 1b?? Major league infielders shouldn't need a 6'8" target at first base. I mean, it's like, what, 150 feet or so from deep in the whole to 1st? Give me a break.

Posted by Nat

5:13 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I'm curious what Ichiro did on his offday in his favorite city. Geoff, can you ask him?

Wow, that catch by Wilkerson was great! (Credit where credit is due, and all that).

Posted by MJ

5:18 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Jason-

What scouts have you been chatting to about Richie's D?

That's what I thought.

The fact that you have to ask what height has to do with the 1B position tells me you shouldn't be talking defense yourself.

Posted by Nat

5:19 PM, Apr 29, 2008

MJ- yeah, I hear you. I wince a little everytime I read somebody saying about Clement coming up: "He can play DH/1B." No-o-o-o, he can't.

Posted by Mariner in DC

5:24 PM, Apr 29, 2008

alright Turbo! 2-2 with 2 RBI today.. someone knows his job is in major danger

Posted by Jason

5:34 PM, Apr 29, 2008

MJ - Well, other than a couple that I know of through family pretty much every independent scouting organization doesn't care for his defense the last few years at all.

That's funny. Not that it matters, but I'm 6'2" and played first base up through high school and competive ball and I don't think it matters.

Let's see...really good defensive firstbasemen.

Steve Garvey - 5'10"
Don Mattingly - 6'
Will Clark 6'1"

I can't understand what being tall and playing well at first base have to do with one another. Or, maybe you've just seen Olerud? Of course, you must have some insight that you'd like to share.

I do agree that Clement shouldn't be thrust into playing catcher. However I feel he needs more work at the position, not to grow 3 more inches.

Posted by Jason

5:43 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I'll edit that to say 'shouldn't be thrust into playing FIRST BASE'. Not catcher.

MJ- Pick up one of BIll James' new books, or Baseball America's pre-season scouting reports or The Hardball Times' Annual. It's all there for your consumption. Just because people say things that go against the cliches you've heard your whole life about baseball doesn't make them not true.

Posted by Faceplant

6:25 PM, Apr 29, 2008

"Why do people keep suggesting Clement be moved to 1B?As if 1B is the easiest position to play in the world and anyone can learn it and do it."

Cause, it pretty much is.

"He is just over 6' tall. I don't know if you keyboard jockeys know this, but that isn't quite the target infielders are looking to throw to."

Jeff Clement is 6'1". Or the same height as Carlos Guillen, Daric Barton, Lance Berkman, Kevin Youkilis, and is an inch taller than Kevin Millar. Not to mention the majority of first baseman are only an inch taller than Clement. His height isn't a problem.

Dude, everybody already knows why the M's drafted him. Of course he's more valuable as a catcher, and if most of us had our way, he would be the starting catcher as soon as next year. But that isn't reality. The reality is that the Mariners signed Kenji Johjima to a three year deal. Clement is not going to be catching in the majors anytime soon. So you better figure out another way to get his bat in the lineup.


"Actually Mike, he's a pretty good defender with solid range. Just because you hate his bat doesn't mean you have to hate everything about the guy."

Sorry MJ, but, no he isn't a good defender. His range is poor, he has almost no lateral movement, and practically trips over his own legs while trying to move laterally in either direction. His RZR for last year? .655. This year? .688. Not good.

Posted by jeff from SoCal

8:36 PM, Apr 29, 2008

Bedard didn't leave a team without a future for another team without a future. The M's will have to be more competitive or he will walk as soon as he can. Same with Ichi. I hope that McLaren is keeping this in mind.

Posted by Ken

8:51 PM, Apr 29, 2008

I think the talk of moving Clement to 1B is a little silly considering Sexson's average is higher than Joh's, and his HR's and RBI's are considerably higher than Joh's...if you think Sexson should be on the hot seat, so should Joh...regardless of his recent contract renewal. I don't think any of the .200 hitters are immune...Joh, Sexson, Vidro, and especially Wilkerson had better get it going.

I thought it was very interesting to hear tonight that Sexson is hitting .270 on the road and only .160 at home. I was criticized early in the season for suggesting that we should give the guy a break. Stats geeks said if he isn't producing, he deserves it. I think .270 is a great average with his HR and RBI totals...so all I'm asking is for the home crowd to treat Sexson as well as the crowds he encounters on the road.

Posted by shark2778

9:45 PM, Apr 29, 2008

FYI Dave over at uss mariner reports that neither balentine nor clement were in the Rainer's lineup tonight.

Posted by Tonic99

10:17 AM, Apr 30, 2008

You guys need to stop teasing us with these headlines. That's all I heard last year was "Adam Jones will be called up soon" and it was waaaaay after that was first reported. Ha, well I'll believe it when I see it with these two prospects. Looking forward to it.

Posted by Montucky

10:44 AM, Apr 30, 2008

Signing Kenji for 3 more yrs was a questionable move, however, it frees up some valuable trading resources in Rob Johnson and Adam Moore.
Both seem to be good hitting catchers and are progressing through the minors. If getting Griffey IS going to happen (not that it's the best move, but CLEARLY its a popluar choice) my guess is one of those guys is included. They just HAVE to be. The catcher position now has a log jam and continuing to stockpile C's shouldn't be a priority for a few years.
Trades work with surpluses. We don't have much, but we do have catching and outfielders availiable. Maybe even an arm or two, though, until I see our own bullpen situation smooth out, the M's shouldn't be giving much away there.

Its clear that some moves need to be made. Most of the help can come from within, but Mac MUST get past his veteran entitlement schtick. Hopefully, the comments from the last couple days are a clue to better management practices in '08.

Posted by Patrick F.

1:18 PM, Apr 30, 2008

Keyboard jockeys? That's hilarious!

I thought the plan was to move Clement to first. If they plan to use him at catcher, I guess Kenji will be the highest paid backup catcher in the league.

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