Leone, Dobbs: Mirror Images in Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. - Let's get this out of the way right off the bat. There is no rivalry between Justin Leone and Greg Dobbs at all. So forget that they play the same position on the same team.

Forget that they're probably competing for the same spot on the Mariners' 25-man roster.

Forget that Leone made his big splash when Dobbs lost most of the 2003 season to injury.

Forget that Dobbs began the season with the M's instead of Leone.

Forget it, OK? There's no rivalry.

"Although I hate him," Leone deadpans. "I can't stand to have him around."

Dobbs is quick to play along. "This is actually the closest in proximity we've been in quite a long time. It's kinda weird."

What's weirder is the similarities between the two. They're almost mirror images of each other. Leone is right handed, Dobbs is a lefty. Leone mans third base, Dobbs currently holds down first. They both have stretches where they make Triple-A pitchers look like children. But they also are prone to cold streaks where every at-bat is a struggle to make contact.

Leone thinks he has the answer to the similarities.

"He copies me a lot," the 2003 Texas league player of the year says. "Whenever I say something he'll say it."

"I have a problem thinking for myself sometimes," Dobbs adds with a grin. "So I kinda piggyback on other people's thoughts."

"Especially mine," Leone quips.

But the biggest similarity by far is their position in the organization. They're corner infielders who play for an organization that spent $114 million on their corner infield in the off-season. Leone and Dobbs are both realistic about their place in the M's system.

"They asked both of us to move around and play different positions during spring training," says Leone. "Obviously we're not going to be playing third base, we might get a game here or there."

Dobbs adds, "I can play first or the outfield, I don't care. It's not a shot to the ego. I just want to get at-bats. I'm sure (Leone) is the same way."

But are there enough major league at-bats available for either of them? The answer for the current M's team is probably no. Leone didn't get an at-bat in his week with the M's in April, and Dobbs was used mainly as a pinch-hitter in his 27 games in Seattle.

"We've worked our tails off to get this far and to get to the big leagues," said Dobbs. "I think we've been pretty successful so far in our careers. We just want to take advantage of the opportunities."

Dobbs is willing to do anything, even play for another team to get back.

"Whatever I've got to do to get there," said the 27-year-old, having never said a bad thing about the Mariners' organization. "It doesn't have to be with this team, it could be with some other team. That's all I'm looking for. Other teams know I can play those spots and are comfortable with me filling in in those spots."

Both players have a lot of experience on winning teams, from their time in San Antonio to Tacoma. How do they think this season's Rainiers team stacks up?

"Every team I've been on has been good, a quality team," says Leone. "The Mariners organization makes a lot of good moves in putting these teams together. We get along great and have a good time."

Dobbs agrees. "Leo and I have been blessed to be on good quality teams, this team ranks right along with them. There's a good amount of major league time here also, with guys like Damian Moss, Abraham Nunez and Ramon Santiago."

When asked about their goals for the year, the two had similar things in mind.

"Stay healthy, that's the main thing," says Dobbs.

Leone adds, "That's a good call, I've already been injured this year. I want to keep my confidence up and play hard."

"I'm just gonna keep my head down and keep working my tail off," adds Dobbs.

Leone has the last word on the relationship between these two similar players.

"We're here for the same reasons. We pick each other up."

As well as put each other down, right Leo? They wouldn't have it any other way.

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