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Mike Sweeney gets minor league deal with Seattle

Mike Sweeney gets minor league deal with Seattle
SEATTLE (AP) - Mike Sweeney is excited about where he's headed, even though he doesn't have a major league contract.

The five-time All-Star agreed to a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, four months after thinking his career might be over because of knee injuries. The 35-year-old Sweeney will be in spring training competing for a spot as the team's designated hitter.

Sweeney owns a home in Gig Harbor, Wash., about 50 miles southwest of where he hopes to be playing in April. His wife, who had their third child a month ago, is from Tacoma and went to college there.

"So if things work out, it'd be an amazing opportunity," Sweeney said from his primary home in California.

An opportunity he thought he'd never get - anywhere - back in September.

That was when Oakland released the .299 career hitter, who has 199 home runs and 849 RBIs in 14 seasons, the first 13 with Kansas City. He appeared in only 42 games with the Athletics last year because he had surgery on both knees. It was his second and third knee operations in two years.

"It was the first time in my 14-year major league career I took a blow like that," he said, chuckling. "I thought, 'Well, maybe this is it."'

He considered microfracture surgery to regenerate cartilage in the knees, but doctors told him that would end his career. So he opted for more conventional procedures and then intense rehabilitation on core muscles around the knee. A few months later, teams called asking if he wanted to play. That spurred Sweeney, a right-handed hitter who drove in 144 runs for the Royals in 2000, into increasing the intensity of his workouts and led to Seattle offering what for the team is a low-risk contract.

"Mike has been a very productive hitter in his major league career," said new Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who with first-time manager Don Wakamatsu has put the team on notice that almost all jobs will be open in spring training following a 101-loss season.

"He hasn't been 100 percent physically the past couple of years, but says he is feeling very good now. We're looking forward to giving him a chance to come to camp and compete."

Zduriencik also has had discussions throughout the winter with the agent for Ken Griffey Jr., who became a superstar with the Mariners more than a decade ago. But when asked last week specifically about the chances of Griffey coming back to Seattle, where the slugger has said he wants to retire, Zduriencik declined to comment.

"We always have conversations going," Zduriencik said this week, amid reports the Mariners are also interested in free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu.

Sweeney won the 2007 Hutch Award, presented annually by Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, for his charitable work through the Sweeney Family Foundation. The Hutch Award was established in 1965 and was first given to Mickey Mantle. Other Hutch Award winners have included Jamie Moyer, 2008 recipient Jon Lester, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Omar Vizquel, Sandy Koufax and Carl Yastrzemski.

"It's something I take a lot of pride in," Sweeney said. "It means the world to me."

He said his visit to the cancer center and the children it treats last year caused him to fall in love with the place and its causes. He hopes to get a chance to show that this season.

"If things don't work out and I don't make that trip to Minnesota for opening day, I'll probably go off into the sunset to San Diego with my wife and my three kids," he said, "and look at the next chapter of life."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: January 30, 2009

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