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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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July 17, 2008 4:25 PM

LaHair up, Hulett down

Posted by Geoff Baker

workout0717 024.jpg

NOTE (4:40 P.M.): The Phillies just traded for starting pitcher Joe Blanton of the Oakland A's. See bottom of post.

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman is addressing the players on the field as I type this. Lots going on today. The Mariners finally called up first baseman Bryan LaHair from Class AAA, sending Tug Hulett down in his place. That explains the Craig Wilson acquisition. He's the minor league replacement for Hulett.

"I think I just want to be myself,'' LaHair said. "Kind of do what I want to do, stay focused.''

What does "being himself" equate to on the field?

"Produce, I like to produce,'' he said. "Driving in runs, whatever it may be. Moving the runner over. All the things the Mariners like to do.''

Here's a photo of LaHair, down below, catching a glimpse out of a major league dugout for the first time.

workout0717 013.jpg

Yes, Jose Vidro is still here. Riggleman sounds like he's going to keep batting him cleanup against righties, saying no major lineup changes are planned -- other than LaHair, who hits further down in the order to break into the majors. Against lefties, who the M's will see three of this coming series, it's Adrian Beltre hitting fourth and Jose Lopez batting fifth.

Here's something you won't see this series: Erik Bedard.

Continue reading this post ...

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July 17, 2008 11:59 AM

Sexson off to Yankees

Posted by Geoff Baker

As many of you have no doubt heard, Richie Sexson has reportedly agreed to a deal with the New York Yankees. They like his numbers against left handed pitching this season, albeit in a limited sample size. He hit .344 with a 1.046 on-base-plus-slugging percentage off lefties in 61 at-bats this season.

Yes, that's right. A total of 61 ABs. Many of them before he revamped his batting stance. Last year, his OPS was .752 off southpaws, while it was .763 the prior year. Not terrible, but perhaps not what the Yanks need. Still, this makes sense as a gamble since it's barely costing New York anything. Sexson is expected to be in-uniform by Saturday. If he tanks during the next 10 days, the Yankees can still pull off another deal for a bat. Don't forget, if they really want to go throw money around, they have until Aug. 31. The July deadline is only for dealing players without them passing through waivers first.

For the big ticket guys, some of them have a high enough salary that you can ram them through waivers without much worry that another team will snag them. Adrian Beltre could fit into this category. He's owed about $17 million between now and the end of next year. Not many teams would want to put a claim in on
that. Some might, but not a whole bunch can afford it. Raul Ibanez? By Aug. 1, he'd be owed less than $2 million for the rest of this year. Some teams might consider that a bargain. But then again, those teams might already have their needs filled by that point. You never know.

In anybody's book, Sexson is a limited gamble. In the Yankees' book, he's chump change.

To answer your questions, Sexson was a pretty stand-up guy his final two years in Seattle. I know he ducked the media a bit towards the end, but, as we wrote a few weeks ago, it's tough to blame him given the lose-lose situation he'd be in by opening his mouth. He knew he was terrible the past two seasons. Didn't make excuses for it this year. Said just about all there was to say. Was out there talking when he was a focal point in a game -- including when he started that brawl against Texas. Few of us, including most of you, had any questions left unanswered about why he was performing that way. So, no, I felt no inherent need to torture him by making him repeat everything he'd already said about being unable to produce.

His final day as a member of the team did not go over well. He pouted, made it clear to all that he was not happy on the bench -- by not staying there for at least part of the game -- and was released. But overall, I'd say he comported himself well under the circumstances of being the most loathed player in Seattle.

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July 17, 2008 10:07 AM

Bonds to NY: good for game?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Baseball gets back underway today, not for the Mariners, but a few other teams. Thanks for your insights into the Jose Vidro discussions yesterday. As one of you wrote, you can agree to disagree with an organization's thinking, or the explanation of it, without degenerating into mudsligning and a self-righteous pounding of the chest. For the record, I agree with many of you. The short-term need for this franchise to win games should take a backseat to the need to get on with building the franchise for the future. It doesn't get entirely wiped from consideration. But nor should it be a 50-50 split.

Time for some decisions. Bryan LaHair continues to hit for power in Class AAA, his replacement-in-waiting is there in Craig Wilson, so why not call him up? Who goes? Heck, we've said for two months that Vidro should be released. If he can't play the field on a regular basis without wearing down, then he makes a logical choice to send packing.

Also, I'd like to see Wladimir Balentien come up and Raul Ibanez get moved to DH. You now have Jeremy Reed showing he can play multiple positions. Balentien doesn't have to be guaranteed a major league job. You can bring him up here, play him a bit and see if he can hit. If he slumps, you can sit him a couple of days, put Reed in left and Willie Bloomquist in center. I do think Balentien should be a left fielder and not a center fielder. I like what Reed has shown in center so far.

We should know more by this afternoon, when the team holds a Safeco Field workout. But I'd be shocked if no changes are made. Now is the natural time to do it. Doesn't change the explanation the past two days for why Jim Riggleman was doing what he's been doing. But his own words a few days ago in KC, that Vidro needed a rest, kind of spell things out. Vidro needs a rest because he can't play the field. This team needs a guy to play the field in Richie Sexson's place and it isn't Miguel Cairo.

Speaking of guys who need to play, there's an idea gaining momentum around baseball the past few days that the logical re-entry point into baseball for Barry Bonds would be with the New York Yankees.

Now, make no mistake. I've written here before and will continue to write that Bonds will be a huge distraction for any team, both from a clubhouse and media perspective. If you don't think he will be a clubhouse distraction, go read Jeff Pearlman's Love Me, Hate Me book which quotes past Bonds teammates about what he was like to have around. About what kind of teammate he was. If you still think it's a media myth after that, well, then we'll have to agree to disagree.

But as much as I think that Bonds has tarnished his legacy, and the game, and will get what's coming to him in a court of law, the perverse side of me thinks seeing him in New York could actually be good for baseball on several levels. Laugh all you want, but most of you hate the Yankees to begin with, right? I mean, those of you from outside New York.

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