GLENDALE, Ariz. - The question made Jack Wilson think for a moment.
When exactly was the last time he played second base in a game?
“I’m pretty sure Steve Baron was about 3 years old the last time I played second,” Wilson said using the Mariners’ 20-year-old catching prospect to frame his point.
In the course of his 10-year major league career, Wilson has played only shortstop, starting 1,202 games there.
But on Thursday, Wilson made his second start of the spring at second base as part of manager Eric Wedge’s plan to bring versatility and flexibility to the middle-infield spots. Wilson and Brendan Ryan are seeing playing time at both positions.
“We’re going to continue (to) look at those guys on both sides of the bag,” Wedge said. “We’re going to look to put the best defensive alignment on the field we can.”
Wilson’s day was uneventful: He fielded two ground balls cleanly and caught a pair of pop-ups – and even hit a home run – but it’s probably too small of a sample size to determine if he’ll stay there.
“Jack had a good ballgame,” Wedge said. “He didn’t have many opportunities, but he handled the ones he did have.”
But while he had no troubles at second base, Wilson is far from feeling like a natural there.
“Not very,” he said of his comfort level.
Changing positions is rarely simple, just ask Chone Figgins. He went from third base to second base last season and struggled, committing 19 errors – despite having played second earlier in his pro career.
But Figgins believes Wilson can make the transition a little easier.
“I’m sure it’s a lot different for him, but I think he looks good,” Figgins said. “I didn’t think it would be a problem for him. I think it would be easier to go from short to second, compared to a corner guy, where the angle is different.”
Wilson has put in plenty of time taking grounders at second and working on double plays. But “you can do all the work you want – taking fungos and stuff – but there’s nothing like game situations,” he said.
Wilson was considered one of the better defensive shortstops in the National League during his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some veterans in his place might be displeased about being asked to work out at a new position.
“When it says a number next to your name, you go out there and do your best,” he said.
There is no definite plan. With opening day about three weeks away, Wedge has time to see Ryan and Wilson play both positions, and then make a decision.
“We’re going to try and get them consistent and regular work on both sides of the bag,” Wedge said.
After a seven-game home run dry spell, the Mariners hit three in a 9-4 Cactus League win over the Dodgers.
Jack Wilson broke the drought with a solo homer to left in the fourth inning off Hong Chih Kuo. Designated hitter Jack Cust hit his first homer of the spring – a long two-run shot to right against left-hander Wilkin De La Rosa.
“The last couple of games I haven’t felt great,” Cust said. “I usually need a lot of at-bats to get in the groove. Playing back-to-back days helped.”
But the biggest homer of the day belonged to third base prospect Alex Liddi, who crushed a grand slam to left in the seventh inning off former Mariners pitcher Jon Huber.
Milton Bradley was scheduled to appear in Los Angeles to meet with L.A. county prosecutors and his wife, Monique, as part of a private hearing to discuss any resolution of previous charges of making threats toward his wife.
Bradley worked out in the morning with the Mariners but did not join the team for the game against the Dodgers in Glendale.
Mariners officials had no information about Bradley’s hearing. The DH/left fielder has refused to answer questions that are not baseball related.
Doug Fister had a solid start for the Mariners, pitching four innings and allowing just one run on two hits. The one run came on a solo homer from Rod Barajas that probably wouldn’t have been a homer in Safeco Field or most major league parks. “I was really happy with how he threw the ball today,” Wedge said of Fister. Reliever Chris Ray, who’s been bothered by a sore calf, threw a simulated game after batting practice. Wedge said it’s likely Felix Hernandez won’t throw against the Oakland A’s on Saturday, and instead will throw in a “B” game.
The Mariners take on the Los Angeles Angels at 12:05 p.m. today in Peoria. Probable starting pitchers: Erik Bedard vs. Matt Palmer.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org