Jack Wilson has been a shortstop his entire major league career - all nine years and 147 days of it - and thinks he'll learn today just where he'll be playing for the Seattle Mariners this season.
For much of camp, new manager Eric Wedge has flip-flopped Wilson and newcomer Brendan Ryan from shortstop to second base and back, taking a long look at his options up the middle.
There have been others at short this spring – Luis Rodriguez, Sean Kazmar, Josh Wilson – but none are likely to make the opening day roster.
Wilson most certainly will, and he hopes it’s at short.
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“They’ve told us that (Sunday) or (today), they’ll make that decision,” Wilson said Sunday. “That would give us the last week or 10 days to play one position and get used to working together.”
Wilson came to camp lighter by 10 pounds over 2010, with his legs in great shape, and has played well both in the field and at the plate – hitting .448. He’s making plays he didn’t make a year ago, and even leads the team with three stolen bases.
“I was safe yesterday when they called me out,” Wilson said. “I should have four stolen bases. That’s more than I’ve had the last couple of years during the regular season.
“When I came to camp, my legs felt so good it made everything work better – fielding, throwing, hitting, running. I went to (coach) Mike Brumley, to Chone Figgins, Adam Kennedy, just to talk to them about base stealing.
“Each of them has a different approach. I feel best when I get into my fielding position, that’s where I feel the most explosive, so I’m doing that. If I can steal 10-15 bases and be on second base with Ichiro – who gets 200 hits a year coming up – I should score more runs.”
Wilson clearly would rather be on second base than play it, but at 33 and coming off two poor seasons, he was hardly in a dominant position when camp opened. Injuries held him to 61 big-league games in 2010 and he hit .249.
When the Mariners traded for Ryan, who turns 29 next month, they got a younger version of Wilson. Ryan has played shortstop and second base. Last season in St. Louis, Ryan led all major league shortstops in assists per game.
“We’ll make the decision soon rather than later,” Wedge said Sunday. “I’ll let you know after I’ve talked to the players.”
Who wins the job? On merit, probably Wilson. And there could be reasons that have nothing to do with spring training.
In the last year of a contract with the Mariners, Wilson playing well at shortstop – hitting would be a bonus – might make him an attractive trade piece in midseason. Move him to second base, a position he’s never played, and that value decreases.
In that scenario, once Wilson is traded, Ryan moves to shortstop and rookie Dustin Ackley comes up and the Mariners could have the infield they’d like to see.
Just how Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik see it could be completely different, and they may like something they’ve seen in Ryan’s defense that would make him a better option. Either way, the issue should be resolved in the next 24 hours.
Wilson insists he’ll be fine with any decision.
“Yeah, there’s ego involved, but it says ‘Mariners’ on my jersey, not ‘shortstop,’ ” Wilson said.