PEORIA, Ariz. – For the Mariners, spring training is about to kick into a higher gear. Pitchers are stretching out their innings. Position players will soon begin to play back-to-back games. Roster battles are going to heat up.
“We’re game-on now,” manager Eric Wedge said after their 10-game winning streak ended with a 7-6 loss to Milwaukee.
Casper Wells is engaged in one of those dramas, competing to win a spot in the Mariners’ crowded outfield picture. With Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay all added during the offseason, Wells knows there’s a logjam. In fact, most assessments have the final berth coming down to him or Bay.
Wells’ situation is complicated by the fact he is out of minor league options, meaning he must clear waivers to remain in the organization if he doesn’t break camp with the team.
That status can often be a benefit to a player, giving him an edge because Seattle doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team’s waiver claim; but it can also be unsettling, because the possibility exists of changing teams at the end of camp.
“My goal is to be in the big leagues,” Wells said. “I love the Mariners organization. I’d love to be with the Mariners for my whole career. I love it here. Whatever happens, happens.”
Wells offers more defensive versatility than Bay and has shown flashes of offensive firepower in major league stints over the past four seasons. The Mariners are looking for more consistency at the plate after a season in which he hit .228 in 93 games with 10 homers and 36 RBIs.
Beginning in the second half of last season, which included a demotion to Tacoma in May, Wells has worked to shorten his swing while honing his stroke in other ways. The key, Wells said, is to not let an occasional frustrating game be the impetus to changing his approach.
“Last year, if something wasn’t working, I’d be quick to fix and do something else,” he said. “If you’re always trying to change something, and switching stuff around, you’re not going to be consistent.”
One of the reasons Wells wants to stay around is the positive feeling he sees developing around the Mariners.
“There’s definitely a different comfort level,” he said. “There’s no kind of tension among any of the players. Everyone gets along.”
Now Wells will try to ensure that he will be here with them for the long haul.