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The status of right-handed reliever Josh Fields will be a hot topic over the weekend.

Fields was the Mariners' first-round pick in the 2008 June draft (20th overall), a senior closer who helped pitch the University of Georgia into the College World Series.

The Mariners hoped to sign him quickly for about $1.5 million, but he and his agent, Scott Boras, want a $2 million package, and the sides haven't been able to bridge the difference.

With the Mariners front office, manager, coaching staff and scouting staff all in Seattle for meetings this weekend, Fields' name is going to come up frequently.

There is growing pressure to sign Fields, because if he is going to be a Mariner, it would be best for both sides if he reports to spring training. He hasn't pitched competitively since the Bulldogs lost the CWS title game to Fresno State in Omaha, Neb., in June.

If doesn't sign, the Mariners are going to have a fistful of the top draft picks come next June. They already have their own pick, No. 2 overall, and Philadelphia's first-round pick, 28th overall, plus a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, also courtesy of the Phillies. Add to that the No. 2 pick in the second round, and the Mariners have four of the approximately top 40 draftees in 2009.

If Fields isn't signed, the Mariners also get to reuse their 20th pick, which is awarded after the regular 20th choice, which this year belongs to the Blue Jays. That pick could be the 21st or 22nd overall, depending on whether the Washington Nationals sign their pick from the ninth round of the 2008 draft, University of Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow.

"To have five of the first 40 or so picks is a good situation," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "It's the best way to stockpile talent for the organization."

Zduriencik owes his job to his ability to stockpile talent in Milwaukee over the past half-decade. But in his current role, with the bigger picture to consider, it's not all about the draft.

"On the other hand, I don't sit here saying this is the greatest thing in the world," he said. "You gave up things to get those picks, in this case (Raul) Ibanez and Fields. But at the end of the day you have what you have. We'd like to have Josh Fields be with us."

Zduriencik said he has not given up on signing Fields, although there seems to have been little progress in the past month.

"We are at the point where we've had discussions," he said. "We are in the talking stages right now. We have talked in generalities. But there has to be a willing party at one end and a willing party at the other end.

"I know we'd like to sign Josh Fields. He was a first-round draft pick.

"That's what these negotiations are all about. We're hoping that Josh and his representatives realize this is a very good opportunity for him."

When Fields was drafted, the Mariners talked about him being close to major league-ready. There was a chance that he would spend a month or so in the minors and then get called up in September.

Now, with Fields not having pitched in six months or so, he's probably not as close to the big leagues. But with a good spring training and a couple of months in the minors, he still could be in the majors in 2009.

"This is a chance for a young man to begin his career sooner rather than later," Zduriencik said.

The scouts and player development staff are scheduled to have separate meetings from those conducted by manager Don Wakamatsu. However, the two groups will get together at some point to share ideas.

EXTRA BASE: Woody Woodward, who was the Mariners general manager from 1989-99, rejoined the club Thursday as Zduriencik added Woodward and Joe Nigro to the pro scouting staff. Nigro, a former Seattle scout, will cover both the major and minor leagues, while Woodward will concentrate on the Southeast, including spring training, major and minor league coverage. ... At the same time, Steve Hecht joined the organization as the performance coach. Hecht has spent the past three seasons in the same job with the Texas Rangers.

P-I reporter John Hickey can be reached at 206-448-8004 or Read his Mariners blog at

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: January 17, 2009

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