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Mariners have a deal, options


Mariners have a deal, options
New Mariners infielder Ronny Cedeno, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, will be given a chance this spring to compete for a starting job at shortstop and second base.

That might come as a jolt to the incumbents, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez, but manager Don Wakamatsu has a ready reply.

"I just refer to 100 losses, and nothing being sacred," Wakamatsu said by phone from his Texas home. "[General manager] Jack [Zduriencik] has entrusted me and my staff with putting the best team on the field. We'll let everyone play and see what we've got."

After the latest deal by Zduriencik, Wakamatsu has two new pieces to try to fit into the puzzle when camp opens in Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 14.

Besides Cedeno, who was once a highly regarded Cubs prospect but fizzled in 2006 when given the starting job at shortstop, the Mariners acquired left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson in exchange for pitcher Aaron Heilman.

Olson, who will compete for a job in the Mariners' rotation, was the 48th player chosen in the 2005 draft by the Orioles. He went 9-10 with a 6.65 earned-run average in 26 starts for Baltimore in 2008, then was traded to the Cubs 10 days ago in a package for outfielder Felix Pie.

"Obviously, I would have liked to see what Heilman could do," Wakamatsu said. "But Jack and I talked, and when you have a chance to get more athletic and younger, and add some pieces. ... this gives us more options."

One option is for Lopez to get some playing time at first base as he did, to his displeasure, last September.

Wakamatsu said that's a possibility, but stressed, "Right now, Russ Branyan is our first baseman and Lopez is our second baseman going into spring. We're going to give Russ every opportunity to play first base."

That said, Wakamatsu promised a wide-open camp.

"We want guys who want to win and compete," he said. "We're not going to anoint anyone. I'm going to respect the guys who have been there before, and give them the benefit of the doubt. But they're still going to have to prove to me and the staff they're the best candidate to be out there."

Added Zduriencik: "With a new staff and a lot of new people in the front office, we'll have fresh eyes looking at all these guys. We're going to look at this with an open mind."

As for Olson, Wakamatsu recalled a game he pitched last year for Baltimore against the A's, for whom the new Mariners manager served as a bench coach. Olson allowed just four hits and one run in 6-1/3 innings, striking out seven.

"I thought he had some potential," Wakamatsu said. "Obviously there was a first-year learning curve, but I like what I saw."

Zduriencik said last week he wanted to acquire pitching and infield depth as well as an outfield bat. The latter need still remains, and Zduriencik said he continues to mull free-agent and trade options.

"We always have conversations going," he said. "It's no different today than it was a week or month ago."

Heilman, meanwhile, finishes an unorthodox, six-week stint as a Mariner. The Mariners acquired him from the Mets on Dec. 10 as part of a three-team, 12-player deal that sent J.J. Putz to New York.

Primarily a reliever with the Mets, the Mariners promised Heilman a chance to compete for a starting job. Heilman appeared at a media luncheon last Thursday and attended last weekend's FanFest event.

"It was a little surprising to get the call from Jack," Heilman said Wednesday by cellphone. "For what little time I was able to spend in Seattle, I had a great impression of the city and fans.

"I was looking forward to being able to play there, and kind of enjoy a little of the West Coast lifestyle. I'm still a little shellshocked, but that's the nature of the game."

Now he figures to go back to the bullpen with the Cubs. But the consolation is that Heilman grew up in Northern Indiana rooting for the Cubs and now lives in suburban Chicago.

"Being able to play at home, in the same city I live, is a tremendous luxury," he said.

"It's one that not many guys are able to take advantage of."

Heilman left Seattle without even a souvenir to commemorate his brief Mariners career.

"I should have grabbed a jersey," he joked.

Note

? The Mariners released pitcher Randy Messenger to clear room on the 40-man roster for the new acquisitions.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 30, 2009

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