After a couple of rainy days, the full Seattle Mariners squad took the field in brisk, sunny Arizona weather Tuesday. Pitchers and catchers, who reported last week, were joined by Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., and others whose autographs were sought by fans watching the workouts.
The big surprise of the day was Jose Lopez's switch from second base to third base — at least for now. Chone Figgins, signed in the off-season, was at second base. Either player can play either position but Lopez' range has been limited at second base while Figgins is a speedster who can cover more ground. Lopez moved easily and fielded ground balls cleanly at third base. This may not be a permanent change but manager Don Wakamatsu clearly intends to try it out.
Wakamatsu threw the first batting-practice pitches to a threesome of Suzuki, Griffey, and Milton Bradley. The first balls hit in spring training were three consecutive bunts by Ichiro. Moving to the outfield as other players batted, Ichiro sprinted all out to pull in a fly ball that was leaving the park. In a game, it would have been a homerun-saving catch.
Just as last week's opening drills for pitchers and catchers, Tuesday's team drills were conducted in a brisk, businesslike fashion. There seems an expectation among players that this could be a special season and that they must be willing to do their best. Beyond that, there will be competition for pitching, catching, infield, and outfield places on the roster. Many players in Peoria are trying to outplay the men standing next to them in team drills.
Intrasquad games will not begin until the end of the week at the earliest.