Add slugger to Kennedy résumé

Mariners Notes: Lack of production at cleanup spot opens role for journeyman

April 15, 2011 

KANSAS CITY, MO. - Even after signing free-agent Jack Cust and installing him as the everyday designated hitter, Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged the team lacked "that big bat" in the lineup.

Eleven games into the season, Cust – Plan A in the cleanup spot – is batting .175 without a home run and with four RBI.

Again Thursday night, manager Eric Wedge went with Plan B.

No, he didn’t move Milton Bradley. No, he didn’t move Justin Smoak.

Those two players are hitting well at No. 3 and No. 5 in the lineup, respectively, and Wedge said he doesn’t want to change what’s working. So the Mariners’ starting DH and cleanup hitter for Game 12 was Adam Kennedy.

“It’s something I can tell my grandkids,” Kennedy said, smiling.

Cust got the day off after going 3-for-20 during the Mariners’ first homestand, with nine strikeouts. He went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts on Wednesday.

Is he worried?

“It’s early, and in this game you’re not always going to hit well. You’re going to have bad stretches,” he said. “I don’t feel great at the plate, but I feel pretty good.”

Cust will be back in the lineup, probably tonight, but when he struggles the Mariners are exposed as a team without a productive heart-of-the-order hitter – one that worries an opposing pitcher.

Kennedy’s job?

“I’m not going to change my approach just because I’m hitting fourth for a game to give Jack a breather,” Kennedy said. “I know what I can do and how to best go about it.”

Kennedy, who made the team as a reserve infielder, played in eight games this season before Thursday, and batted .333 in 21 at-bats – with no RBI. However, he drove in a run Thursday night with a sacrifice fly in the eighth against the Royals.

GUTIERREZ STAYS DRY

Franklin Gutierrez will begin a quick minor league rehabilitation assignment tonight, but it won’t be in Tacoma.

Fearing bad weather might lead to rainouts at Cheney Stadium, the Mariners will send Gutierrez to Class A High Desert in the California League, where he’ll play three games and rejoin the team in Seattle on Monday.

What happens after that depends entirely upon how Gutierrez feels.

David Aardsma, meanwhile, will pitch a two-inning simulated game in Kansas City today, and could be sent on a minor league assignment early next week at a site to be determined.

SHORT HOPS

Ichiro Suzuki made a little history when he singled in the third inning Thursday, then again in the fifth. That pushed his streak of consecutive multi-hit games in Kauffman Stadium to nine – tying the ballpark record held by George Brett since 1979. …The Mariners began this series with 49 walks, the one offensive category in which they led the American League. … Melky Cabrera made a marvelous running catch at the center field wall in the second inning, robbing Justin Smoak of extra bases when the game was scoreless.

ON TAP

Seattle and Kansas City play today at 5:10 p.m., a game Root Sports will televise. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Erik Bedard (0-2, 9.00 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (1-1, 5.30).

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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