McClendon values lots of skills at top of order

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comFebruary 20, 2014 

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, left, instructs Nick Franklin during spring training in Peoria, Ariz. Franklin is among the players battling to be the starting shortstop.

RICK SCUTERI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PEORIA, Ariz. — There are “three or four” possibilities, manager Lloyd McClendon said, as the Mariners search this spring to find a primary leadoff hitter.

For now, McClendon isn’t willing to identify those candidates … but he knows what qualities he wants.

(Warning: devoted stat-crunchers had better sit down.)

While McClendon values on-base percentage, it isn’t the sole — or even the pre-eminent — item on his list.

“I value a combination of it,” he said, “but I value a guy who can knock them in from first more. I get the on-base (value). I understand it. You’ve got to have some guys on base if we’re going to score runs.

“But I want guys who can drive them in — and particularly drive them in from first base.”

AND AT SHORTSTOP...

McClendon also offered a model to Brad Miller and Nick Franklin in their battle to emerge as the club’s starting shortstop: veteran Jhonny Peralta.

“I’m looking for a guy who is going to make all of the routine plays,” McClendon said. “We had a guy in Detroit … I called him ‘Steady Eddie.’ He wasn’t flashy, but everything that was hit to him, he caught the ball and threw it over there.

“That was Jhonny Peralta.”

McClendon, as a Tigers coach, watched Peralta over the past 31/2 years before Peralta signed in the offseason with St. Louis.

“Everybody complained he didn’t have the range,” McClendon said. “Yeah … but you knew when the ball was hit to him, he was going to get an out. I think that’s important.

“That’s what I’m looking for. I’m not looking for flashy play. I’m looking for a guy who is sound fundamentally. Makes the plays consistently. And provides offense.”

HULTZEN’S RECOVERY

The Mariners are hoping left-hander Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, will be sufficiently recovered from shoulder surgery to pitch in the Arizona Fall League.

Hultzen, 24, is currently throwing three times a week from 90 feet. If all goes well, he’ll be stretched out to 120 feet in the near future.

Baseball America rated Hultzen as the game’s No. 29 prospect before last season. He was 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Tacoma when a sore shoulder forced him to the disabled list in late April.

Hultzen made three subsequent starts before it was determined he required surgery; on Oct. 1, he underwent a procedure to clean up the labrum, repair a partial tear of the rotator cuff and replace the capsule.

HART OF THE ORDER

Corey Hart is tentatively slotted as the Mariners’ cleanup hitter behind Robinson Cano.

“If he’s healthy,” McClendon said, “he should have a real big year.”

That’s a big if.

Hart, 32, missed all of last season while recovering from major surgery on both knees. He batted .270 in 2012 for Milwaukee with 30 homers and 83 RBIs in 149 games.

McClendon also wants to test Hart’s ability to return to the outfield full time.

“We’d like to see him out there for 145 games,” McClendon said. “That would be outstanding. I think it’s premature to say that (will happen) right now.

“A lot of that is going to depend on how he feels. We’ll just keep moving forward and, hopefully, (Hart will) keep progressing.”

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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