As a third baseman for the Tacoma Rainiers, Matt Mangini's job security is determined by statistics.
Batting and fielding averages will decide whether he receives a promotion or gets released. But don’t ask Mangini, the Seattle Mariners’ first-round draft pick in 2007, what his averages are.
“I just focus on getting on base and hitting the ball hard,” Mangini said. “We play so many games. You’ve just got to stay focused.”
Mangini was surprised to hear that he’s gotten a hit in 14 of his past 17 games, batting .360 during that stretch.
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With Mike Carp’s recent call-up from Tacoma to the Mariners, Mangini is among the team leaders in batting average (.300), RBI (24) and home runs (eight).
But Mangini doesn’t obsess on stats. That can be counterproductive.
“I didn’t even know I was on any kind of streak,” he said. “I just try to help the team win ballgames. They’re going to decide whatever they want. It’s out of your control.”
Mangini is in his first season in Triple A. He batted a career-high .273 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI last season at Double-A West Tenn.
Now, he’s one promotion from the big leagues.
He’s seen a lot of his teammates get called up already this season. In the first two months of the season, a Tacoma player has been called up to the Mariners more than two dozen times, with several players having been called up twice.
Carp, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo and pitchers Chad Cordero, Garrett Olson, Sean White and Luke French have all been called up in the past two weeks.
The call-ups are an incentive for the current Rainiers and a challenge for Tacoma manager Daren Brown.
“Our objective is to get guys ready to play, to get them ready to help the big league club,” Brown said. “I think that learning how to win is part of that. So you try to win games in a player-development atmosphere. I think that can be done.”
The roster changes and promotions work as a pep talk.
“The one thing is, as many guys as we’ve sent up in the first two months, guys see that there’s opportunity,” Brown said. “You take care of business, and you’ll get an opportunity.”
Mangini, who has played third base and first base this season, has been a steady bat for the Rainiers all season, and Brown doesn’t want to interfere. He doesn’t want Mangini overscrutinizing his swing.
“I’m not going to go up to him and ask why he’s batting so well,” Brown said. “When he’s swinging the bat well, you just let him go.”
And when a batter is in a slump, Brown lets the hitting coach give tips on how to shake a slump.
“I don’t get into the mechanics,” Brown said. “We’ve got a hitting coach who does that. If there’s something eating him up mentally, I’ll say something. I think it’s important the hitting coach develops a relationship with each player and it’s important (that) tips on mechanics come from one coach.”
It’s worked for Mangini.