Italian-born Alex Liddi launches another salami
The 22-year-old Mariners prospect, trying to become the seventh Italian-born player in the major leagues, has two grand slams in two days
Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — When Alex Liddi signed with the Mariners in 2005 as a 17-year-old prospect out of San Remo, Italy, he admittedly wasn't sure how far the baseball road would take him.
"I thought that (the Major Leagues) was so far away, it was just a chance for me to come here and have a good experience in the States and (get to) know the baseball here and the culture and everything," he said.
But the 6-foot-4, 220-pound third baseman has risen steadily through the ranks. And after an impressive start to spring training, the big leagues seem closer than ever.
Liddi hit a grand slam for the second straight day on Thursday, lifting the Mariners to a 10-5 win over the Angels.
On Wednesday he hit one in a 9-4 win over the Dodgers. He's hitting .364 in eight at-bats with the two home runs and team-high eight runs batted in.
Thursday's homer came with two outs in the fifth inning on a 2-1 pitch from Ryan Chaffee of the Angels.
"I heard the fans say, 'Do it again,' " Liddi said. "But I was just trying to do something over second base to get some RBIs for the team. What happened (the home run), I wasn't trying to do it."
That he did, however, is sure to blow up his phone even more.
He said he got numerous calls, texts and Facebook messages from friends and family in Italy after his slam against the Dodgers. (He hit another home run against the Dodgers in a B game on Tuesday that doesn't count in his stats, but means that the has unofficially homered in three straight games.)
Liddi is attempting to become only the seventh player born in Italy to make the Major Leagues, and the first since Reno Bertoia in 1962.
Liddi, 22, had a solid season for the Mariners' AA team in West Tennessee last year, and with Chone Figgins entrenched at third base for the Mariners, Liddi seems destined for a season at AAA Tacoma.
But his work the first two weeks here has opened the eyes of the new Mariners coaching staff.
"The physical tools are all there," said manager Eric Wedge. "He's been very impressive this entire camp. ... I think it's always different in big-league camps, particularly with a young player that is in here. It's nice to see them get comfortable in this setting, nice to see their confidence grow and it's something they can take with them and utilize. When you talk about a good approach, he has that. And you have to like his actions, as well, defensively."
Liddi says he considers himself more of a line-drive hitter. "I don't really hit high home runs. They are like line drives that keep going," he said.
His Thursday blast was a straight-line shot over the wall in left-center.
For now, Liddi says, he's worrying mostly about consistency.
"The only thing I can do is play and have fun like I am having right now," he said.
But the kid who grew up in a soccer-crazed country, instead idolizing Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. — his father lived for a while in the United States and brought back a love for baseball — admits the specter of the Major Leagues looms large.
"Every year that passes, I feel like I have more of a chance," Liddi said. "I still have to work on some stuff, but every year I feel like I can get there."
Gutierrez leaves to attend to family
Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez left camp after his father-in-law, Luis Salazar, a minor-league manager for the Braves, was injured in a frightening incident Wednesday in Kissimmee, Fla.
Salazar was in the dugout during a game when he was struck in the face by a batted ball. Salazar had surgery to repair multiple facial fractures.
Said Wedge of Gutierrez: "He did the right thing to go home and support his wife and his family and her family."
• First baseman Justin Smoak struck out in his only official at-bat and is hitting .111 (2 for 18, both singles). Said Wedge: "He's a big, strong, young man that obviously has a great deal of ability and power. What we don't want to have him do is go out there and try to generate that power, because when you do that you get a little bit spread out and don't quite have the same discipline you need in regard to pitch selection. When he does a good job of standing up there and staying within his approach and staying in his swing, then he sees the ball better, gets better pitches to hit and can do some damage."
• Felix Hernandez will not pitch against the A's on Saturday, his regular day to throw. He will instead pitch an intrasquad game against minor-leaguers. The Mariners don't want to throw Hernandez against the A's, a team Seattle will face often this season. He is expected to start the season opener against Oakland on April 1. Blake Beavan will start in the regular game Saturday.
• Michael Pineda will start Friday, with Nate Robertson following, when the Mariners play the Indians in Goodyear. Meanwhile, the team announced that it has amended Pineda's dimensions from 6-5, 245, to 6-7, 260.
• Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who has been slowed by a bad back, is scheduled to make his first appearance Sunday against the Angels.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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M's spring training stats
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.