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Rodriguez Vows To Not Backslide Shortstop Believes Improved Hitting Skills Will Keep Him With Big Club This Time

The good-looking kid with the matinee smile and unlimited potential thinks he’s in the major leagues to stay this time.

Alex Rodriguez will celebrate his 20th birthday by playing shortstop for the Seattle Mariners against the Cleveland Indians in the Kingdome tonight.

“Hopefully, this is it,” he said. “I don’t expect to go down because I think I belong. No matter how much I mess up tomorrow and the day after, I know I can bounce back.”

Like in Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

In his fifth game back with Seattle after being recalled from Class AAA Tacoma, Rodriguez had an RBI triple and an RBI double in an 8-6 victory.

Just 24 hours earlier, he stranded eight base runners at the plate in a 6-4 loss to Milwaukee.

“That was a learning experience,” Rodriguez said with a sigh.

The first player chosen in the 1993 June draft from Miami, Fla., was supposed to spend his second season in professional baseball in the Pacific Coast League. Instead, the Mariners have needed him because veteran Felix Fermin, who was supposed to be their shortstop, has been a complete bust, hitting .192.

In 29 games in three stints with Seattle this season, the right-handed-hitting Rodriguez was batting .263 (25 for 95) with three home runs, a dozen RBIs and four stolen bases. He’s made six errors.

There’s no question about Rodriguez’s defense. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, he’s big for a shortstop. But he’s got exceptional range and a great arm that allows him to play deep in the infield on the Kingdome’s artificial turf.

The only question now is his hitting. Not unexpectedly, some pitchers still baffle him.

“He’s going to have some good nights and he’s going to have some nights when he struggles,” Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “Those are part of the growing pains and we’ll live with it.”

In 42 games in Tacoma this year, Rodriguez hit .367 (61 for 166) with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.

His goal is to make Piniella and the Mariners

second-guess themselves.

“I went down and really focused on what I wanted to do,” he said. “I had to prove to them that I didn’t belong down there.”

Tags: baseball