Catching Mariners Fever

Now in center and right fields, Ichiro Suzuki!

Having exhausted all other options at the catcher position, sources say Seattle Mariners General Manager Bill Bavasi is thought to be contemplating signing lanky 71-year-old New York native Holden Caulfield as the designated mitter. "He's not really that much older than Pat Borders," reasons the GM, these sources say, "and he'd be a terrific clubhouse guy, if you really want to hear about it."

Bavasi is said to have reached the decision after failing so far to find any more eligible catchers named Miguel who hit "in the .150 range." The GM is on the verge of setting the modern record for most roster moves in a season, meaning it's likely the M's also will be picking up several more middle infielders to go along with the 47 they've used this year.

"We're studying bringing back the position of roving shortstop," Bavasi said. "That way we could work Mike Morse, Jose Lopez, and Yuniesky Betancourt into the same lineup. If so, we'd go with two outfielders, knowing Ichiro's extraordinary range."

As for pitching, M's execs now feel Felix Hernandez, after his creditable five-inning first major league start in Detroit Thursday, Aug. 4, and an eight-inning shutout win against Minnesota here Tuesday, Aug. 9, already is the best pitcher on the team and perhaps the best who ever lived, even if he is 1-1. They say they had mixed feelings about recently acquired Jorge Campillo leaving the Aug. 2 game injured after just one inning. On the one hand, it means Campillo joins talented thrower Bobby Madritsch in the category of prized acquisitions who appear in only one big-league game per year.

But it also meant coaches could have a look at 31-year-old rookie Jeff Harris, who gave the team five shutout innings in a win against Detroit. Like Caulfield, the promising Harris is well-traveled, having played pro ball in five countries. And, like recently departed M's success stories Randy Winn and Ron Villone, Harris probably won't stick with the club, especially if he continues to shine. Bavasi is expected to trade him for several Little League prospects, including an 11-year-old backstop thought to be named Miguel, a "catcher-of-the-future type player" and a "five-tool guy" (hitting, fielding, running, throwing, and vid-game playing).

Off-field news has it that, given the success of Knitting Night on July 28, the M's are planning several other Safeco special events they hope will keep fans' eyes diverted from the field. Tattoo-Removal Night is tentatively set for later this month, to be followed by Groundskeeper Sock-Hop Night and Reciting from Harry Potter Books Night. A Scott Spiezio Appreciation Day may also be in the works. A Welcome Back, Ryan Franklin! event is another possibility.

Team execs, however, repeat their mantra from 2002: that their primary objective remains seeing to it that they field a competitive team year in and year out. In this regard, the M's continue to compete with an elite few franchises that have never played in a World Series. It's worth noting, then, as another NFL season dawns, that Seattle continues to be an American marvel—the only town with a billion dollars worth of baseball and football sports complexes and no championships to show for it.

It's something to contemplate in September, possibly while at Safeco attending Who Wants to Be a Big-League Catcher Night.

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