Beltre, Sexson add to M's lineup
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Things are looking better to Bret Boone these days, and not just because of his offseason eye surgery.
The Seattle Mariners open spring training Thursday when pitchers and catchers report under new manager Mike Hargrove. Their first full-squad workout is Tuesday, when sluggers Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson show up.
"We'll have three guys in the lineup capable of hitting 30 home runs," said Boone, counting himself in that group. "That's going to be nice. It's great to know we addressed the issues that we needed to address."
Boone and the Mariners want to forget a woeful 2004 season, when they lost 99 games -- the team's worst record in 21 years -- and ranked last in the American League with only 136 homers and 698 runs.
There were some big highlights, like Ichiro Suzuki's major-league record 262 hits and the emotional retirement celebration for venerable designated hitter Edgar Martinez.
Mostly, though, the Mariners uncharacteristically struggled.
"I'd say 70 percent of our team last year, at least, didn't play the way they're capable of," Boone said. "I think that gives you some incentive to work harder and show that last year as a fluke."
Hargrove steps in for Bob Melvin, who was fired after two seasons.
An organization with a reputation for being among the best-run in baseball understandably wants more success in the playoffs, and general manager Bill Bavasi felt a veteran manager could better guide the club.
Hargrove, who took Cleveland to the ALCS three times in the 1990s, is back after a one-year break. He spent the 2000-2003 seasons managing in Baltimore and this summer will mark his 14th year in the majors.
"The biggest hurdle I've got get over is to learn those players as quickly as I can," Hargrove said. "I can only do that if I see them on the field."
There will be some key questions in spring training, chief among them involving the pitching staff.
Seattle needs 42-year-old Jamie Moyer to bounce back after a rough season, and the club is counting on Joel Pineiro and closer Eddie Guardado to be healthy after injuries limited their performances last year.
Some solid defense should help. With Sexson at first base, Boone at second, Beltre at third and free agent pickup Pokey Reese at shortstop, there's Gold Glove potential around the infield.
"A good infield does a lot for a pitcher," Hargrove said.
One player who's sure to be scrutinized this spring is 23-year-old center fielder Jeremy Reed, who hit .397 in September after joining Seattle in the trade that sent Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox.
Beltre and Sexson, of course, were brought in for their hitting, so their defense is a bonus. Beltre signed for five years and $64 million and Sexson agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal.
At 25, Beltre led the majors last season with 48 homers for the Dodgers. He hit .334 with 121 RBI, finished second to Barry Bonds in the NL MVP voting and improved on defense by committing only 10 errors.
Sexson, who just turned 30, spent most of last season recovering from a May shoulder injury that limited him to 23 RBI with Arizona. But he already has shown power -- 200 career homers and four 100-RBI seasons.
It all looks good to Boone, who had eye surgery over the winter to refine his vision and eliminate his need for contact lenses. He feels his problems with dry contacts, and the problems that came with them, are history.
"I don't want that to be an excuse, anyway, for last season," he said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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