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Out of Right Field: Mariners’ middle infield of the future arrives sooner rather than later

UPDATED: Sat., May 11, 2019, 6:44 p.m.

Seattle’s Shed Long, hitting during spring training, was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. (Dean Rutz / Associated Press)
Seattle’s Shed Long, hitting during spring training, was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. (Dean Rutz / Associated Press)
By Gene Warnick The Spokesman-Review

If you had asked Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto during spring training about his best-case timeline for prospects such as shortstop J.P. Crawford and second baseman Shed Long to reach the major leagues, he would’ve said May.

Of course, Dipoto was probably thinking toward the end of the month, near Memorial Day, rather than the first third.

But with second baseman Dee Gordon and his backup, Dylan Moore, sidelined on consecutive days after being hit with pitches and manager Scott Servais being forced to use Edwin Encarnacion to finish a game playing second for the first time in his 15-year career, that initial timeline got tossed.

Crawford and Long were recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Crawford made his Mariners debut that night, going 2 for 4 in a 14-1 loss at Boston. Just to fit in with his teammates’ defensive struggles, Crawford made an error, letting a slow grounder roll under his glove with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the eighth.

Crawford had another hit Saturday in a 9-5 loss, while Long went 0 for 3 with a walk in his major-league debut. Both players were acquired in the offseason: Crawford from Philadelphia and Long from Cincinnati.

The 24-year-old Crawford, a former first-round draft pick, batted .214 over 72 games with the Phillies the past two seasons.

The M’s sent Crawford to Tacoma to start the season to make sure his bat was ready for the big leagues. He reached base safely in each of his 31 games with the Rainiers, with hits in 27 of those. He batted .319 with three home runs and 19 RBIs. Long hit .276 with five homers and 21 RBIs at Triple-A.

“We asked (Crawford) to go down (to Tacoma) and work on certain elements in his game. He’s done that and he’s putting himself in the discussion for another shot at the major-league level, which we think is where he will spend the long term. (But) we don’t want to push him too fast,” Dipoto said last week on his radio show on 710 ESPN in Seattle. “… You never want to go to a young player because you are frustrated with the recent performance of a veteran player. That’s the wrong reason to promote. You want to promote the young player because he’s achieved what you laid out for him.”

Prospect watch

With the M’s going from 11 games over .500 to two below in the span of a month, perhaps it’s time to look at how some of their other prospects are faring. Here are their top five from Baseball America magazine:

1. LHP Justus Sheffield: Acquired in an offseason trade with the New York Yankees, is 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA in six appearances for Triple-A Tacoma. Made his M’s debut with three innings of relief April 26, giving up two runs.

2. LHP Yusei Kikuchi: The former Japanese standout is still a rookie in the majors, hence his inclusion on this list. He’s 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA in nine starts and has allowed one run on three hits in seven-plus innings in his past two outings.

3. OF Jarred Kelenic: The No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft was the key return in the offseason deal that sent 2B Robinson Cano and RHP Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets, Kelenic is batting .331 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 32 games at low Single-A West Virginia.

4. 1B Evan White: The M’s first-round pick in 2017 hit .303 with 11 homers and 66 RBIs last season for high Single-A Modesto but has had a slow start this year at Double-A Arkansas, batting .258 with one homer and six RBIs in 17 games.

5. OF Julio Rodriguez: The 18-year-old, the MVP of the Dominican Summer League last year, suffered a fractured left hand when hit by a pitch April 12 while playing for West Virginia. Rodriguez, who batted .355 in the first nine games of the season, should be back by the end of the month.

Too good not to share

A Facebook friend found this little spin on Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” comedy routine on a Mariners fan page:

Abbott: Boy this is the life. A great day for a game don’t you think?

Costello: Definitely. Now, what is the starting pitcher’s name?

Abbott: Yusei Kikuchi.

Costello: Kikuchi. That’s easy. So he’s like Ichiro?

Abbott: How is he like Ichiro? He’s a pitcher not an outfielder.

Costello: He goes by one name.

Abbott: No, Yusei Kikuchi.

Costello: That’s what I said, Kikuchi. So he doesn’t have a last name like Ichiro?

Abbott: Suzuki.

Costello: Kikuchi Suzuki. Got it.

Abbott: No, no, no. Suzuki is Ichiro’s last name.

Costello: Didn’t you say Ichiro retired? Why is he pitching?

Abbott: Ichiro Suzuki retired.

Costello: That’s what I said.

Abbott: Yusei, he’s on the mound.

Costello: I didn’t say that. I said he retired. So, Kikuchi IS pitching.

Abbott: Exactly, Kikuchi is pitching.

Costello: Wow! First Madonna, Cher and now Kikuchi. I wish we could go by one name.

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