Well, this news is both good and long overdue:
- The Seattle Mariners on Saturday recalled outfielder Michael Saunders from Triple-A Tacoma and designated outfielder Wladimir Balentien for assignment.
The 22-year-old Saunders was hitting .310 with 15 doubles, 13 homers and 32 RBI in 64 games with the Rainiers this season.
Balentien hit .213 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 56 games. The M's have 10 days to trade, release or outright Balentien.
It wasn't all that long ago that I (and apparently the Mariners) figured Balentien had a decent chance of someday becoming a useful player. Considering his career Triple-A line (.283/.359/.534) and his age (just turned 25), it's certainly too early for Balentien to give up on himself, or for "baseball" to give up on him.
It was probably time for the Mariners, though. Since, you know, actual humans have to run the team. The only problem is that Balentien did bat right-handed, which (theoretically) made him a nice complement to lefty-hittinr Ryan Langerhans. Saunders bats left-handed, so there's no platoon opportunity here. And Langerhans is probably better than you think, thanks in part to his terrific defense.
Leaving aside third base -- Jack Hannahan's playing there now, but Adrian Beltre is expected back fairly soon -- the Mariners have three possibly improvable "hitter positions": DH, first base, and left field.
Unfortunately, all five of those hitters bat left-handed. Just one right-handed batter -- though two would be preferable -- would give Don Wakamatsu a great deal more flexibility. Mike Sweeney was supposed to be that guy, but he pretty obviously can't hit anymore. Veteran Chris Shelton, who tore it up in Tacoma this year, might yet be that guy, though it's not clear if Wakamatsu will give him much of a chance.
As things stand now, the Mariners are simply a bit too lefty-heavy. But it's not a problem that they can't, with a bit of creativity, solve.