Mariners give Marte work in center field

McClendon confident in rookie's ability to play all over the field

Mariners give Marte work in center field

DENVER -- Mariners rookie infielder Ketel Marte had just four games of Minor League experience in center field, but Seattle's highly-regarded prospect will definitely get some time there going forward as manager Lloyd McClendon looks for ways to get him in the lineup.

The 21-year-old played 360 games at shortstop and 76 at second base during his five seasons in the Minors after signing with Seattle as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, but didn't get his first taste of the outfield until shortly before being called up from Triple-A Tacoma by the Mariners last Friday.

"He's played some center field in the Minor Leagues. He played it well," said McClendon, who penciled Marte in for his first start in center in Monday's series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field. "He's capable of going out there. So we'll watch him. We're evaluating our young talent and this is part of the evaluation process."

Marte went 0-for-4 in Seattle's 8-7 win on Monday, but patrolled center without a problem. He handled the only two fly balls hit his way, including a second-inning drive to the wall by Nick Hundley, before being replaced by Austin Jackson in the eighth.

Marte, named the Mariners' No. 2 prospect by, looked good at second base his first three games up with the Seattle, filling in for Robinson Cano. But after being slowed by an abdominal strain that sidelined him completely for three games and then had him at designated hitter for the last two games of the Twins' series, Cano was back at second base on Monday.

Given Cano has that spot nailed down for the foreseeable future, McClendon is looking for ways to get Marte in the lineup and said the reports on his versatility in Tacoma were positive.

"He played center field well," McClendon said. "He played second base well. He played shortstop well. You may see him at shortstop, too. I don't know [how much center field he'll play]. I really don't have that answer. I'd like to play him as much as I possibly can, get him in a lot of different positions. He might pitch, what the [heck]."

McClendon indicated one thing he won't do is shift shortstop Brad Miller back out to the outfield. Miller started four games in left and one in center earlier in the season after temporarily losing his starting job to Chris Taylor, but McClendon said he won't move Miller around anymore this year.

"I know what Brad can do in the outfield," McClendon said. "Right now, he's our shortstop. So I guess the answer would be, as we speak, no. He's going to play short."

Marte also figures to get some time at shortstop as well as center field and occasionally spotting Cano at second base. The exact mix remains to be seen. For now, he's soaking up experience wherever it comes.

"It's good. It's fun," Marte said. "I played center field when I was 16 and I feel comfortable there. You never forget it. And I played [four] games in Tacoma and Franklin Gutierrez helped me a lot."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.