Wedge gives Mariners' shortstop job to Ryan
Switch puts Wilson at second base for first time in career
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manager Eric Wedge made his decision Tuesday on the Mariners' middle-infield situation, and it came with something of a surprise: Brendan Ryan will be the everyday shortstop, with Jack Wilson at second base for the first time in his career.
Wilson has been splitting time with Ryan at second this spring but will take the vast majority of his work on the right side of the infield from now on. All of Wilson's 1,251 career games in the Major Leagues have come at shortstop and he hasn't played second base in a regular-season game since 1997 when he was at Oxnard (Calif.) Junior College.
"I'm a shortstop. On my insides, I still believe that," Wilson said. "But you play for the Mariners, you don't play for yourself. I came here as a shortstop and obviously haven't done my part [since] I signed my deal. They had a chance to get a player like Brendan, who I loved watching in St. Louis when he was coming up.
"It's a win-win situation. Of course, I want to be out there in that six position," he said. "That's where I feel the most comfortable and have made my career. But I'm a man of faith, and God has a plan for you. The bottom line: I'm in the big leagues playing baseball for a living."
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Ryan, obtained by trade from the Cardinals over the offseason, is regarded as one of the game's premier defensive shortstops and is five years younger than Wilson, 33. But Ryan has previously played some second base, so the presumption of many -- including the two veteran infielders in their offseason workouts -- was that he'd slot into that position.
"My goal was to come in and do everything I could to win a starting a job, whether it was second, short or No. 1 cheerleader," Ryan said. "I was just excited to hear I'm going to be in the lineup. Jack is a guy I look up to and have always loved the way he played short. The way we look at is we've got two shortstops up the middle."
Wedge said part of the equation remains untold until the utility infield spot is finalized, which likely means non-roster invitee Adam Kennedy will fit into the picture as well. But for now, the skipper was willing to finalize only the Ryan-Wilson situation.
"We could have gone either way with it because we're comfortable with both guys on both sides of the bag, but we felt this is the best combo," Wedge said.
Ryan hasn't hit particularly well this spring, though his .152 average is a little misleading because he's hit the ball hard at people numerous times. But he's impressed the Mariners with his shortstop play.
"I was just wide open with my view of him," Wedge said. "And he's been everything and then some. I think with regard to Jack, he's been fantastic with the way he's gone about his business at second base and shortstop, with his offensive side of things and the way he's run the bases. He's had a lot to offer this spring."
Wilson is hitting .448 in Cactus League play and shares the team lead with three stolen bases after arriving at camp about 20 pounds lighter after an injury-plagued season and a half.
Wedge said keeping Wilson healthy was a small part of the decision as well, with second base a little less demanding than shortstop. Left unsaid was the fact second base could change in the near future when the club brings Dustin Ackley into the picture.
As for how Ackley fits in, Wedge said he wouldn't speak on that topic at this point. Ackley presumably will start the season at Triple-A Tacoma, but he is obviously a key piece in the future as the organization's top position prospect.
Wedge did say Tuesday's decision was based on immediate needs.
"I'm not really looking first-and-foremost long run," the first-year manager said. "I'm looking at where we are right now as we break camp and early into the season. There's a lot that goes into it. I like having a veteran on both sides of the infield. You've got [Justin] Smoak and Jack on one side and [Chone] Figgins and Ryan on the other. That's part of it."
Wilson said he'll work in Minor League games to get extra time at second in the remaining days and do whatever possible to gain more familiarity with his new position.
"It's still an adjustment, but that's to be expected," Wilson said. "Anything that is put in front of your plate, you just have to get after it. It's just being comfortable. Fielding a ground ball is fielding a ground ball. But there are a couple things you have to learn as far as placement on the bag and footwork. But nothing a little early work won't take care of."
Ryan, an outgoing sort, worked out with Wilson at his home in the Los Angeles area over the offseason and said he thinks things will be fine going forward.
"He's great," Ryan said. "We're going to have a lot of fun together this year. I don't want to say how good this tandem could be or anything, but I'd like to think of myself as a pretty good shortstop and you know what Jack is capable of, so the two of us up the middle should be a pretty fun and unique opportunity.
"We're going to get more and more comfortable with each other each day and hopefully we'll give Seattle Mariner nation something fun to watch."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.