Peoria Notebook: The First Week of Camp

A look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the first week of Mariners baseball in Peoria, Ariz.

The Good:
Ramon Santiago - Nobody has been more of a pleasant surprise early in camp than Santiago, the 24-year-old middle infielder who came over in the Carlos Guillen trade with Detroit. After being one of the Tigers' top prospects for several seasons, Santiago was rushed to the majors in 2002 at age 22 and batted just .243 that year, then hit only .225 in 444 at bats last season. Strong defensively with terrific range and an average arm, it's been his abilities at the plate that have been opening eyes in Arizona. His 12 at bats this spring ranks second on the team, an indicator that Mariners' manager Bob Melvin wants to get a good long look at the youngster this spring. Santiago has responded with team highs in hits (6) and doubles (3).

Ichiro Suzuki – Is there ever a doubt with this guy? No. The Japanese sensation has been back to his old tricks in Arizona, and looks ready for the season to start already. In the first week of spring, Ichiro has made several diving catches in right field and been the ever-steady force at the plate with five hits in his 10 at bats.

Greg Dobbs – Coming off of a missed season due to injury, Dobbs hasn't lost a step in any part of his game. The word on him coming into camp was his ability to flat-out hit the baseball, and he's done nothing to ruin that reputation. A well-built left-handed hitter with pop in the bat, Dobbs is an imposing presence at the plate. His combination of gap power and pretty good speed could make him a double-machine at spacious Safeco Field in the near future. Despite his strong start, he has very little – if any – chance at making the team.

Shin-soo Choo and Jamal Strong – Two of the M's highest-rated outfield prospects, Choo and Strong have both played impressively in the desert thus far. Choo simply does everything well, using his short compact frame to get it done both defensively and offensively. Used primarily in left field thus far, he's tracked fly balls well, displayed a strong arm, and been a force at the plate, going 4-8 with two RBI. Strong has been used in centerfield and shown why he's so highly thought of. He's raced down several hard-hit line drives hit into the gap, and gone 4-6 at the plate with three RBI.

Dave Hansen – Brought over in the Jeff Cirillo trade with San Diego, Hansen has provided the M's with a viable option off the bench and shown to still be very capable with the bat in his hand. A left-handed batter, he could be the guy the team hoped they had got last year when they signed John Mabry. At this point, he's 5-8 on the spring with a deep homer to his credit, and appears to be a lock to make the team.

The Bad:
Justin Leone – This guy may be a bit nervous in his first big league camp, and if that's the case he hasn't been able to hide it well. The M's Minor League Player of the year last season after replacing the injured Greg Dobbs at the hot corner in San Antonio, Leone hasn't shown the confidence and swagger that allowed him to succeed with the Missions. He's gone 0-7 from the plate, all outs coming either via strikeout of from weakly hit grounders. Leone has yet to put good wood on a pitch this spring. And defensively, he didn't exactly help his cause when he missed a pop fly hit to him in foul territory on Monday.

Quinton McCracken – When the M's acquired McCracken from Arizona for Greg Colbrunn, baseball fans in Seattle started to grumble. They noted his .227 average and zero homeruns in 2003 with the Diamondbacks, and wondered what the M's could possibly see in this veteran outfielder. So far, at least from an offensive standpoint, they have to still be wondering. McCracken is 1-11 from the plate through the first week of the spring, having been given ample time to make an impression on the coaching staff. While a consummate professional, a person who hustles on every play, and a versatile outfielder capable of playing all three positions, the 34-year-old has struggled to hit the ball anywhere but the infield.

The Ugly:
Rich Aurilia – One of the early highlights of the spring came yesterday at Tempe, when the most peculiar of plays occurred. Aurilia belted a deep fly ball to the left-center power alley and watched as the ball appeared to have barely left the yard. He trotted around the bases, only to be stopped at third by Angels' third baseman Troy Glaus, who told him the ball bounced over and was ruled a ground-rule double. It was incredible how nobody in the ballpark seemed to see the ball bounce, including Aurilia, and an embarrassing moment indeed for the M's new shortstop.

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