Notebook | M's GM says Kenji Johjima's contract extension won't block Jeff Clement's progress
A three-year contract extension announced Friday for struggling Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima will do nothing to block the progress of...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Today | Oakland, 6:10 p.m., FSN | M's LH Erik Bedard (1-0, 3.27) vs. RH Justin Duchscherer (1-0, 1.80).
Sunday | Oakland, 1:10 p.m., FSN | M's RH Felix Hernandez (2-0, 1.67) vs. RH Joe Blanton (1-4, 4.32).
Tuesday | @ Cleveland, 4:05 p.m., FSN | M's RH Carlos Silva (3-0, 2.83) vs. RH Fausto Carmona (3-1, 2.89).
Wednesday | @ Cleveland, 4:05 p.m., FSN | M's LH Jarrod Washburn (1-3, 4.03) vs. vs. LH Cliff Lee (4-0, 0.28).
Thursday | @ Cleveland, 4:05 p.m., FSN | M's RH Miguel Batista (2-3, 5.26) vs. RH Paul Byrd (1-2, 4.85).
A three-year contract extension announced Friday for struggling Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima will do nothing to block the progress of hot-hitting prospect Jeff Clement.
That was the word put out by Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi in announcing the extension, which The Associated Press reports is worth $24 million and runs through the 2011 season. Johjima, who is 31 and was hitting just .200 with a dismal .514 on-base-plus-slugging percentage heading into Friday, will remain the No. 1 catcher for the foreseeable future.
But Bavasi sees Clement getting time behind the plate as well.
"I would guess that at some point along the way, because of Jeff's bat — and assuming Kenji plays the way he can — Jeff's going to get exposed to another position at some point," Bavasi said. "But we have not given up on him as a catcher. A left-handed hitting catcher with power, those are real tough to find. So, this doesn't change Jeff's track to the big leagues much at all. Because his track to the big leagues is with his bat more than his glove anyway."
What that could mean is Clement getting in a couple of games per week as a catcher, then spending the rest of his time as a designated hitter or first baseman. The contract of incumbent first baseman Richie Sexson runs out after this season.
Clement is tearing up the Class AAA ranks for the team's Tacoma affiliate. The first-round draft pick from 2005 is hitting .364 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.161 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in over 66 at-bats.
Johjima said the extension, which his agent had been negotiating since spring training, should even help him improve as a catcher.
"I love the city of Seattle a lot," he said. "This is where I started my career in the United States. My family likes the city a lot, and this team has supported me a lot as well. I know the [pitching] staff very good as well, and that will help me a lot. My first and second year, I had to learn about the league, and of course, about the team. Now I know that I could come up with better results because I have the experience after two years."
Johjima denied that the contract talks have weighed on him and contributed to his poor start. Mariners manager John McLaren said before Friday's game that he suspects the extension has been on Johjima's mind.
"We hope he relaxes now," McLaren said. "I know that it's been on his mind since spring training. Hopefully, that's behind him. It is behind him, so now he can relax and go play relaxed baseball."
• Athletics designated hitter Frank Thomas says his agent spoke to the Mariners and two other teams before he rejoined his former club this week. The slugger added that the A's offered "a better fit" than the Mariners when it came to playing time.
"They told my agent they didn't know if the fit would work at this point in time," Thomas said of the Mariners. "Over there, they've got Jose Vidro, he's been around a long time. He's a professional, a great competitor. I don't want to go over there and get in a situation where there's a platoon, and they don't know how it's going to work. Where it's not a good fit, or a situation where it causes a problem in the clubhouse."
Thomas drove in the first run of Friday's game with a single to left field in the first inning off Seattle starter Miguel Batista. It was his first hit for the longtime DH with his new club after he'd gone 0 for 3 with two walks in a previous start.
Word out of Oakland is that Thomas has a few weeks to show he can still produce in the majors — something the Toronto Blue Jays doubted was true when they released him last weekend — or he'll be cut loose again.
• Willie Bloomquist made his sixth start of the season in right field in place of the ailing Brad Wilkerson (hamstring) on Friday. Bloomquist had made only five starts in right field in his career before this season. Wilkerson did some running drills before Friday's game and drew a walk as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
• Seattle entered the day leading the American League with 10 sacrifice flies. The Mariners added to their total as Raul Ibanez (first inning), Jose Vidro (sixth) and Richie Sexson (sixth) hit sac flies.
• The one inning delivered by Batista on Friday was easily the shortest stint by a Seattle starter this year. The team's seven pitchers who have started games so far had combined to toss 146-2/3 innings, the most by any starting rotation in the major leagues.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
For the record
vs. AL West: 7-5
vs. L.A.: 3-3
vs. Oakland: 2-1
vs. Texas: 2-1
vs. AL East: 3-7
vs. AL Central: 1-1
vs. NL: 0-0
vs. LHP: 2-5
vs. RHP: 9-8
Extra innings: 0-0
Friday's crowd: 40,845
Season total: 313,497
Biggest crowd: 46,334 (March 31)
Smallest crowd: 16,727 (April 24)
Average (12 dates): 26,125
2007 average (12 dates): 27,116
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 8:27 PM
Catcher Gregg Zaun retires after 16 seasons
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