Skipper: 'I'm not sure he likes it a lot'

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Mike Hargrove plans to bench slumping second baseman Bret Boone for at least a few days so he can work on his hitting.

Boone was dropped to sixth in Seattle's lineup Friday night against the Mets, one spot lower than usual. The team recalled top prospect Jose Lopez from Triple-A Tacoma earlier in the day, and he will probably get a chance to play second while Boone sits.

"We've got to find a way to get Bret Boone back offensively to where he thinks he should be and where we all think he should be," Hargrove said. "We don't have the luxury of sending him down to find himself. But by bringing Jose here it gives us a viable option at second base. It may be that we give him four, five, six days off in a row to work with him extensively to get him going."

Lopez, who came up as a shortstop last season, started Friday night at third base in place of injured Adrian Beltre (hamstring strain). But the 21-year-old infielder is expected to play second on Saturday.

The 36-year-old Boone averaged 30 homers and 112 RBI the past four seasons but has struggled most of this year. He was hitting .231 with five home runs, 29 RBI and 45 strikeouts in 234 at-bats. He had just two hits in his last 23 at-bats.

The three-time All-Star was not available for comment before the game.

Hargrove said Boone has been lunging at pitches all season. He wants him to work on getting back to where he was in 2003, when he hit .294 with 35 home runs and 117 RBI.

The manager has already talked to Boone about sitting him down for a while.

"He understands," Hargrove said. "I'm not sure he likes it a lot, but he didn't express any disappointment or anger over it."

Asked if this was the changing of the guard at second base, Hargrove said: "That's way premature. It's not what it is at all."

Lopez, signed as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela in 2000, has made a fairly rapid rise through the minors. He was the franchise's minor-league player of the year in 2002, when he hit .324 with eight home runs and 60 RBI in 123 games for Class-A San Bernardino. He reached Triple-A Tacoma last season and hit .295 with 13 home runs in 74 games before making his big-league debut on July 31. He hit .234 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 57 games over the final two months for the Mariners.

Lopez injured a bone in his left hand this spring. He had surgery and didn't play until May 14. Five days later, he injured his wrist and sat out again until June 9. He batted .280 with five doubles, two home runs and five RBI in 11 games with Tacoma before his promotion. He has played second base almost exclusively.

"We wanted to make sure he was healthy and playing well. In both cases, that's what we've seen," general manager Bill Bavasi said. "He gives us another option in the infield."

But he made it clear that Lopez was called up to do more than just provide insurance.

"He's not going to sit," Bavasi said. "But the only thing that's certain is the lineup on the wall tonight."

To make room for Lopez, the Mariners optioned third baseman Greg Dobbs to Tacoma.