Rejuvenated, Sweeney wants more
Seattle veteran, out of a job in 2008, has designs on 2010
ANAHEIM -- One year after not knowing whether he would ever play another game in the Major Leagues, Mariners designated hitter Mike Sweeney now wants his career to continue into the next decade.
"This has been the most fun I've ever had in the big leagues," Sweeney said, "and I'd like to play again next year. I feel good enough to keep playing, that's for sure."
Sweeney, who lives in San Diego during the offseason, said he wants to stay on the West Coast and put the Mariners, Angels and Padres at the top of his list of teams that interest him the most.
The 36-year-old four-time All-Star is winding up his first season with the Mariners on a roll. Going into Thursday night's series finale against the Angels, he had had at least one hit in 12 of his past 15 games and a .418 (23-for-55) average. He had more than one hit in eight of those games and raised his batting average from .228 on Aug. 28 to .276.
The spasms in his lower back that have flared up periodically during the season have subsided and this is the healthiest Sweeney has felt in at least two years.
"I have no surgeries planned," he smiled.
The itch to play another season picked up steam the past few weeks, and received a major boost when his wife, Shara, said she thought he should continue playing if that's what he wanted.
"It was right before she left [Seattle] with the kids to enroll Michael into kindergarten," Sweeney said. "She told me not to let Michael being in school 'stop you from doing what you love to do.'
"When Shara said that, it was like a blast of nitro going through my veins."
It was a far different feeling from the one he had exactly one year ago Wednesday.
That was the day the Athletics released him from the one-year contract he had signed as a free agent prior to the 2008 season. He batted .286 with seven home runs and 50 RBIs, but Oakland decided to part ways.
"When I got released by the A's," he said, "I knew there was a chance that I would never get another chance to play the game I love and I was going to be OK with it."
But his body responded to a rigorous offseason workout regimen and he signed a Minor League contract with the Mariners that included an invitation to Spring Training.
His clubhouse leadership was evident on the first day he arrived in camp and, along with Ken Griffey Jr., gave the team a veteran presence that was badly needed.
How either of them fit into the Mariners' future plans remains unclear.
"This is a great group of guys and I love playing for Wak" -- manager Don Wakamatsu, Sweeney said. "I don't know what the future holds, but I want to finish strong and then let my agent do his job.
"We'll throw a lure out and see if there are any bites."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.