PEORIA, Ariz. – It has been easy to almost overlook Kyle Seager this spring, which is a testament to how far he’s come since last year.
While the team wonders if Dustin Ackley will bounce back, and if Justin Smoak will finally figure things out, and while sorting out any number of contingencies all over the diamond, the Mariners have a comparative rock of stability in Seager.
He’s the least of manager Eric Wedge’s concerns. Seager is preparing for 2013 quietly and out of the spotlight, particularly as the rest of the team bashes its way through the Cactus League. Monday, Seager crashed that party, crushing his first spring homer, a three-run shot to right in Seattle’s 16-6 win over Colorado.
Wedge’s desire for Seager this season?
“Just keep on the path,” he said. “He obviously proved to everybody that he’s very capable of being successful in the big leagues last year. He’s still a young player with not much experience, like most of our guys. I just want him to stay on the path.”
At this time last spring, it looked like Seager’s path might take him back to Tacoma. Seager was no lock to make the team, his job assured only when Mike Carp was injured in the season opener against Oakland in Japan.
That forced Chone Figgins into left field and opened up third base for Seager, who took the opportunity and sprinted with it. While adjusting to a relatively new position, Seager led the Mariners in homers (20) and runs batted in (86) while hitting .259.
“It’s amazing how things work out,” Seager said. “A lot of things had to happen. I knew I was going to be in the running for a job, whether it be the utility infielder or whatever. You don’t ever wish for anyone to get hurt. That’s not the way you want anything like that to happen. It’s crazy how things ended up.”
Despite having his job assured, Seager is far from complacent. While his production was good for a player in his first full season, he said he wants to do better.
“It’s definitely a different feeling, but at the same time, I think if you ever get comfort- able in this game you’re going to be left behind,” he said. “Last year had its good parts, but I felt there was a whole lot, personal- ly, I need to improve upon.”
In particular, Seager wants to avoid what he calls “some lulls” he had during the season. That includes the entire month of June, when he hit .204.
One of the Mariners’ goals in obtaining Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales was to keep younger players like Seager out of the high-visibility spots in the middle of the batting order.
In 70 games hitting third last year, Seager batted .250 with a .709 on-base plus slugging percentage, while in 51 games batting fifth, he hit .306 with an .810 OPS.
Seager could be locked into the No. 5 spot behind Morales and Morse.