Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
April 30, 2008 1:16 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The headline says it all. Brad Wilkerson and Greg Norton have been designated for assignment, while Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien have been recalled from Class AAA Tacoma. Both will be in-uniform for tonight's game. They aren't here yet. The Mariners aren't talking yet, other than to announce the move. We spoke at great length this morning about how the team could not continue to give away power in both the right field and DH spots.
The team obviously reached the same conclusion. Jose Vidro stays, as to be expected, because he still serves a useful purpose as a switch hitter off the bench if he fails to hold on to his DH job full-time. Wilkerson is not as useful and his defense wasn't good enough to justify keeping him around.
Norton leaving is a surprise. He was hitting .438 and also serves a useful role as a guy who can play first base, not to mention the outfield. He's sort of like Vidro, a switch-hitter off the bench. Only difference is, he's hitting and Vidro isn't. Interesting decision. It comes down to the team wanting to keep two speed clones -- Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Cairo -- over two switch-hitting pinch-hit clones, Jose Vidro and Greg Norton. That is, clones when they're hitting the way they should. Vidro isn't.
"I guess it was a surprise,'' Norton said moments ago as he sat by his locker. "But it's part of the business. Salaries, the people who have been here. Everything's involved in the decisions that are made.''
The lineups just got posted. Balentien is starting in right field and batting seventh. Vidro is hitting fifth and still starting at DH. After all, have two doubles last night and he hits lefties, which the M's face tonight in Cliff Lee. I'd expected to see Vidro in there again. Clement is not in the lineup, but will, obviously, be available off the bench.
As for the DFA rules, the team now has 10 days to trade, release, or outright Wilkerson and Norton to the minors. As veterans, they can refuse the assignment and become free agents.
Norton plans to return home, spend time with his wife and see if there are any major league jobs out there for him. If not, he'll cross that bridge. So, for now, he doesn't know whether he'll accept or decline his assignment.
"Everything's up in the air,'' he said. "I still love the game. I still think I can play.''
He's hurting inside, obviously. But he kept his sense of humor. He mentioned following the rumor mill the last few days when it came to Balentien and Clement being promoted, though he never expected to be a casualty.
"Along with all that talk, it also said my playing time was going to increase as well,'' he said of the rumor mill. "So, I guess you (media) guys are lying, because it definitely decreased today.''