Mariners trim veterans, activate Olivo

Updated: July 16, 2004, 8:06 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Slumping first baseman John Olerud became the latest high-priced player to leave the Seattle Mariners when the last-place team in the AL West designated him for assignment Thursday.

John Olerud
First Base
Seattle Mariners
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R SB AVG
78 5 22 29 0 .245

The Mariners made the same move with backup catcher Pat Borders.

Shortstop Rich Aurilia was released Saturday, two weeks after the Mariners traded pitcher Freddy Garcia and catcher Ben Davis.

Seattle has 10 days to release, trade or send Olerud to the minors. If he is released, the Mariners would be responsible for the remainder of his $7.7 million salary.

Manager Bob Melvin said it was important for the Mariners to start playing younger players with a look toward 2005. Veteran Scott Spiezio will switch from third base to first, handing Justin Leon, 27, the third base job.

"A lot of these things that we do during the season are to find out where we go next year," Melvin said. "You're not able to do it if you just call some guys up in September and see how they do in September."

But it wasn't easy for the Mariners to make their decision to get rid of Olerud, a Seattle native who grew up in suburban Bellevue and starred at Washington State before signing with Toronto in 1989.

"There's going to be some pain to move on, obviously," Melvin said.

Olerud, 35, has a no-trade clause in his contract and recently turned down a deal to the San Francisco Giants.

Olerud signed with the Mariners as a free agent before the 2000 season after playing three years with the New York Mets because he wanted to return to Seattle.

Olerud said he wants to continue playing this season, but doesn't know if there's any interest in his services. He said he turned down going to the Giants because he didn't want to leave Seattle.

"I'm going to look at my options and see what teams would be interested," he said. "When I first had a trade come up and offered to me, the thought was, 'How would this be better for my family and that sort of thing?' Because this is home for me. Now the option of staying home isn't an option."

Olerud said he wasn't angry at the Mariners, a team he helped get into the AL championship series in 2000 and 2001, as well as tie the major league record with 116 regular-season victories under manager Lou Piniella in 2001.

"I think the way I played I definitely put the Mariners in a tough situation by not playing well," he said. "It kind of forced them to make a tough decision. It's been a frustrating year."

The Mariners went into Thursday night's game against Cleveland with a 32-54 record.

A career .295 hitter and former AL batting champion, Olerud was hitting just .245 with five home runs and 22 RBIs.

After joining Seattle in 2000, he averaged 100 RBIs in his first three seasons. But he fell off to 83 RBIs and dipped to .269 last year.

Borders hit .189 with one homer and five RBIs in 53 at-bats.

The Mariners called up infielder Bucky Jacobsen from Triple-A Tacoma and activated catcher Miguel Olivo from the disabled list. Olivo was acquired in the deal that sent Garcia to the Chicago White Sox. Olivo was in the lineup Thursday night.

Jacobsen, a career minor leaguer who has been in three different organizations over the past eight years, is hitting .318 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs for Tacoma.

Alternating between first base and DH for Tacoma, Jacobsen, 28, won the home-run derby at the Triple-A All-Star game.

"Bucky's going to get his share of time," Melvin said. "He's going to get his share of DH time, he's going to get his share of first-base time, his share of pinch-hitting. We didn't bring him up here to sit him."

Jacobsen will siphon some of the at bats of regular Mariners designed hitter Edgar Martinez, 41.

"Some at bats will go down for some guys around here," said Melvin, who didn't mention Martinez by name. "But we'll take a look at some different things."

Left-handed pitcher George Sherill also was called up from Tacoma. The Mariners sent lefty Matt Thornton to the Rainiers on Monday.

Martinez and another high-profile Mariners veteran, second baseman Bret Boone, said they were sorry to see Olerud go.

"Seeing this happen to a player like Olie is hard to take," Martinez said. "A player who has played so much consistent ball. His whole career. A great player. It's hard to see that."

"It's sad," Boone said. "They're knocking my friends down one by one. It's a sign of the times right now. It's the way things have gone."

Olerud, who is in his 16th major league season, helped the Blue Jays win two World Series, is a two-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and won an American League batting title with the Blue Jays.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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