Monday, February 17, 2014
Chone Figgins determined to make team
By Mark Saxon
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chone Figgins has been arriving at the Dodgers’ spring training complex at 5:45 a.m. By the time the team begins stretching for its 9 a.m. workouts, he has had breakfast, practiced his bunting, lifted weights and, every other day, taken ground balls.
You could understand why a guy on a minor league deal might have to work a little harder to win a spot, but in Figgins’ case, there’s some extra incentive. After a season away from the game and having batted .181 in his last season, he’s determined to prove he can still be a productive major leaguer.
Chone Figgins, 36, said he was floored when the Marlins released him last March 20 after a spring in which he batted .308 and played solid defense at multiple positions.
Figgins, 36, said he was floored when the Miami Marlins released him last March 20 after a spring in which he batted .308 and played solid defense at multiple positions.
"To not play after having a great spring was rough, very rough," Figgins said.
Figgins had offers during the 2013 season, but teams wanted him to report to Triple-A without any guarantees of a major league opportunity. Over the winter, he kept in shape and asked his wife to time him running 60 yards, the traditional distance baseball scouts use. The first time he ran, she clocked him in 6.3 seconds, he said, which equates to elite speed. That convinced him to organize a workout for major league scouts.
Figgins was one of the game’s most dynamic leadoff hitters with the Angels but struggled badly after signing a four-year deal with the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2010 season. He moved positions, from third to second base, at the same time he was moving spots in the batting order, from leadoff to second behind Ichiro Suzuki.
The Dodgers are hopeful he can help them solve a couple of problems. He could hold down second base if Alex Guerrero struggles with the transition from shortstop, and he could give them a veteran presence on their bench, something they lack after seeing Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr. leave.
Figgins looked at all those factors before he signed with the Dodgers last month, turning down overtures from Tampa Bay, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. He also got Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on the phone and asked him bluntly, "Do I have a shot?"
"He said, 'Yeah, you’ve got a real good shot.'" Figgins said.
The Dodgers have a wide-open competition for reserve roles this spring, particularly on the infield. Apparently concerned about using Dee Gordon, Justin Sellers and Miguel Rojas as their infield reserves, the Dodgers opened up the competition with a flurry of minor league deals. They brought in veterans Figgins, Justin Turner and Brendan Harris.
"It’s pretty open," Mattingly admitted.
Of all the veteran options, Figgins might have the most upside if he can still run as well as he says he can. Turner and Harris offer similar versatility, but neither is much of an alternative as a pinch runner.
"I remember Figgy as a speed guy who was aggressive and smart and for being able to play all over," Mattingly said. "He had a lot of energy, and he looks the same. It’s really just a matter of, 'Let’s see. Let’s see what he looks like.'"