The Mariners’ Nick Franklin is working on becoming an outfielder
With the starting shortstop job going to Brad Miller, Nick Franklin has been working on becoming an outfielder so he can contribute to the Mariners.
Seattle Times staff reporter
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Nick Franklin had no idea about the minor frenzy that occurred in the Mariners’ fan base on Tuesday night when he jogged out to right field and played there for a few innings. Some fans were excited. Others were angry. Debate raged whether he would be a good outfielder. There were disagreements about how the Mariners have handled his situation.
To Franklin, it was no big deal.
“I’ve been working on it,” he said Wednesday morning. “It was just a matter of time before I got out there.”
Franklin has been working on it for about the last three or four days, doing a few drills with outfield coach Andy Van Slyke. It’s not extensive work, just fundamental work.
“We were just working on jumps, and reads, fly balls, crow hops and throwing to the bases,” he said. “Nothing major.”
Why is he doing it?
“This is just me trying to be versatile and I’m trying to play the game,” he said. “Some way, somehow I want to get on the field, whatever it takes.”
He knows he’s lost the shortstop job to Brad Miller. He wouldn’t come out and say it, but admitted the chances of him getting every-day at-bats are gone now.
“What am I going to do. wait around for someone to get hurt?” he said.
So he agreed to give the outfield a try. He’s not unfamiliar to the position. He hasn’t played there since being drafted by the Mariners in 2009, but he did play all three outfield positions for a Team USA select squad in high school.
“I’m comfortable out there,” he said.
In his mind, if you can play shortstop – one of the most demanding of all positions — you can learn to play the other positions.
“I think shortstop takes a lot of footwork and a lot of other things that other positions don’t,” he said. “In the outfield, you just have to get good reads and have good footwork.”
As for a plan of what’s going to happen, Franklin wasn’t sure. He hasn’t officially been told he’s lost the shortstop job.
“No, nothing,” he said. “Spring training is still going. I’m going to bust it until the end. If I’m in the lineup, I’m not going to let them down.”
He wasn’t sure how much outfield he would see in the future. Manager Lloyd McClendon has said they’re just “tinkering.” Franklin wasn’t concerned about learning a different position to go with second base and shortstop.
“I’m still learning it, which is fine,” he said.
One person that was very curious about Franklin’s first appearance in the outfield and how he looked out there was Ken Griffey Jr. The former All-Star center fielder has known Franklin since Franklin’s high-school days in Florida and was optimistic about the progression.
“I know he can play out there,” he said. “He’s athletic enough. He’s played shortstop and second base — he can handle playing outfield.”
But to Griffey, Franklin’s bat is the key.
“He’s a switch-hitter and he can hit,” Griffey said. “You want to keep guys like that.”
• McClendon hoped to find some clarity before Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Earlier that morning, McClendon fielded questions about his expected rotation, his starting shortstop and bullpen but wouldn’t divulge any information. But those things in the works didn’t happen.
“I thought I was going to have clarity, but I don’t,” McClendon said postgame.
With a little prodding, he did say that Erasmo Ramirez would be in the starting rotation as expected.
“He’s done for the spring,” he said. “But he’ll be my No. 2 starter.”
Ramirez is slotted behind Felix Hernandez and will start Tuesday night in Anaheim.
Ramirez pitched five innings, giving up one run on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
“He made better pitches today,” McClendon said. “I thought he threw extremely well. I was pleased.”
“Today everything was working,” Ramirez said. “I missed a couple strikes in the strike zone. But most of the time I executed the pitch, and I got a ground ball, fly ball and a strikeout. That’s what I’m looking for — be more consistent and if I get ahead, finish them off.”
The Mariners’ offense was led by Justin Smoak, who hit a two-run homer to right field in the sixth inning.
• OF Corey Hart and C Mike Zunino participated in a spring-training game in Surprise to build up at-bats.