02/29/12 7:45 PM EST
Seager doing everything to earn a roster spot
Youngster getting in work at multiple positions this spring
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Seager, 24, is one of those youngsters who'll happily do anything the Mariners ask. Just don't expect him to take the mound. Last time he pitched was as a middle schooler in North Carolina, when his squad was facing now-teammate Dustin Ackley in a state tournament.
"Both our teams had already advanced, so we didn't want to waste any pitching," Seager said. "So they threw me and we ended up having to waste our pitching anyway, because I didn't last too long."
How did he fare against Ackley?
"I don't remember exactly," he said. "But I know he got on, because I didn't get anybody out."
Nine runs and no outs later, Seager's pitching career was done. Which was a good choice, given he has flat out hit wherever he's gone. At North Carolina, he teammed with Ackley to lead the Tar Heels to three straight trips to the College World Series.
Drafted in the third round by the Mariners in '09, Seager won the California League batting title at .345 with Class A High Desert in 2010, then hit .312 with Double-A Jackson last year before posting a .387 mark in 24 games at Triple-A Tacoma.
That earned him a quick promotion to the Mariners, where Seager posted a .258 mark, with three home runs and 13 RBIs, in 53 games as a rookie. Now, he wants more -- though he knows he's in a fight for a roster spot.
"You get that taste of it, and you have that hunger over the offseason, knowing this is what you've got to do to get there," said Seager, who spent the winter making a small adjustment to his swing that he hopes pays big dividends.
Seager compacted his stride and swing midseason last year at the encouragement of Jackson hitting coach Cory Snyder, but couldn't make as much of an adjustment as he wanted until having time to work on it over the offseason.
He now is tucking his shoulder slightly into his body before he strides forward, a minor switch that forces Seager to use his hips more and put more of his lower half into his swing.
"It feels good," said the 6-foot, 195-pounder. "It gives you more mass behind your swing because you're hitting with your body. Balls you mis-hit are going better -- and when you hit 'em good, they feel real good. It's definitely more of an explosive swing."
Seager is one of the players manager Eric Wedge asked to add a little muscle over the winter in order to be stronger at the plate, and the results are noticeable.
"He squares up the ball as good as any young player we have," Wedge said. "He is stronger, he's in a little better shape, a little wider, and he's been swinging the bat well."
Seager played strictly shortstop in high school, then mostly second base at North Carolina. But he said he's always moved around as needed, and is open to whatever the Mariners want. On Tuesday, that meant borrowing Mike Carp's first-base glove and getting his first action there since playing the position for a few innings as a college freshman.
If Chone Figgins wins the starting third-base job, Seager will likely be competing for a utility role with Carlos Guillen if he hopes to land on the 25-man roster to start the season.
"Like [Wedge] said, the more positions you can play, the more valuable you are," Seager said. "That doesn't necessarily define your role or anything, but it's whatever you can do to help the team or help yourself make the team. It's all positive. If needed, I can do it. You just never know during the season what can happen, so you prepare for anything."
The way Seager views the situation is a pretty good window into his outlook on baseball, in general. He loves the game, loves studying it, playing it and talking it.
"Moving around is good because you learn more about the game doing that," Seager said. "If I'm playing second base, I know where I want the ball to turn a double play. So if I'm playing third or short, I know where the second baseman is going to want the ball, and that type of deal.
"Playing first base is just kind of a different angle. You can watch different swings and see what guys' actions are. You can learn a little bit by playing different spots. And the more you learn is a positive in the end."
Seager was at second base in Wednesday's final intrasquad game, going 1-for-2 with a first-inning triple off James Paxton. Now, he's eager to turn the focus to Cactus League action starting on Friday.
"This has been a great camp," Seager said. "There's good competition here, and everybody came in ready to roll. Obviously, you want a chance to show them what you can do. And in this situation, if you play and perform, then you'll get a chance.
"We're building something good over here. So we're just trying to continually work and get better for this season, whatever it brings."