John Hickey covers the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, writing frequent columns and even manning a blog. John was kind of enough to provide insight into all sorts of Mariners questions.
MLBTradeRumors: What’s your take on the extra day off for Kenji Johjima? Was Hargrove sending any kind of message or was there a miscommunication?
John Hickey: It’s an odd thing, really. Historically, when Hargrove gets a backup player into the lineup, he likes to get him two games in a row. (Willie Bloomquist gets two as often as not). So there is the thought that he was just being consistent in doing that for Rene Rivera. But mostly he just seems to want to make sure Johjima stays strong. Johjima played lots in Japan and will play lots here, but the season is about 27 games longer here — an extra month. Johjima has never played that much. So extra time off is warranted. Also, the Mariners only had two off days in April when normally they would have four or more. So that’s a factor.
MLBTR: Who do you think Hargrove will turn to first in the 9th inning if he gives up on Eddie Guardado – Putz or Soriano? Which pitcher would you choose?
JH: You go with Guardado for now. But he doesn’t have endless time to get his game together. He either is the productive closer he was or he works in setup relief for Soriano.
MLBTR: Richie Sexson: just an early slump, or something more?
JH: Hard to tell. The large number of strikeouts are alarming. But Seattle has faced very tough pitching, so some slumps are to be expected. To have every bat go south in unison, however, is alarming on any number of levels.
MLBTR: Carl Everett is hitting .212. Do you think Roberto Petagine gets a shot at DH at some point despite Everett’s contract?
JH: I would think so if another three weeks or a month goes by and there is no noticeable improvement, Hargrove will have to explore his other options.
MLBTR: Can you name which players you think are most likely to be traded this summer by the Mariners?
JH: This all assumes they’re not anywhere close to first place. In that case, Guardado, Moyer, Everett and Meche are strong candidates to go … if anyone is interested. Beltre could be on that list, too, but I think it would be impossible to move that contract without some sign that he’s something more than a singles hitter.
MLBTR: Will we see Shin-Soo Choo or Adam Jones in Seattle anytime soon? They are both hitting well in Triple A.
JH: Overall the club is higher on Jones than on Choo. But Choo has been up before and hasn’t really gotten a chance, so I’d think they go to him first. Remember, as soon as they call up Jones, there is no turning back the clock. He starts ticking off time toward salary arbitration and free agency. When a prospect is that good (if he in fact is), you want him to come up ready to play every day, or there is no point starting that clock.
MLBTR: Do you expect to see Daisuke Matsuzaka in a Mariners uniform in 2007? He and Felix would make a hell of a 1-2 punch.
JH: Do I expect it? I think the Mariners have a better shot at him than most of the other clubs, but Seattle is one of 30 options. He’s going to be 27 and free agent, and he was already considered the best pitcher in Japan before he turned in a standup performance in the WBC. It’s hard to see Seattle not making a strong run at him.
MLBTR: Is Mike Hargrove gone after this season if the Mariners don’t win?
JH: I would thing GM Bill Bavasi would be even more on the hot seat than Hargrove. He has presided over back-to-back 90-loss seasons, and (as i write this) a 9-15 start to the 2006 season. But, yes, Hargrove could be gone too if things don’t turn around.
MLBTR: Thanks for your time, John! Don’t be a stranger.