• Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | Ballpark
But when the Mariners took the field for defensive drills, Ayala showed excellent glove work and a good arm, drawing approving oohs and ahhs from his temporary teammates. And later, after fouling off a few offerings during one round of batting practice, he drove a pitch over the left-field fence … and then flipped his bat all the way to the mound.
Ayala quickly made himself available to reporters and cameramen on the sidelines, noting the Mariners were "one of many teams I'm trying out for."
Does he think he has a chance?
"They have a chance to sign me," he said with a straight face.
Later, as Nelson Cruz sat in the dugout resting a sore knee while teammates did relay cutoff drills, Ayala plopped down alongside the big slugger and noted: "This is where the home run hitters sit."
When Cruz asked Ayala what position he played, the comic didn't miss a beat.
"Short and third, at the same time," he said. "I've got that kind of range. And that way I can hit twice."
There is method to the madness, according to first-year manager Scott Servais, who said general manager Jerry Dipoto was fully on board. In fact, it was Dipoto who suggested the idea in the first place.
"It's the day before our first game, we've had really good workouts and guys have been getting after it," Servais said. "I've seen some of his videos and stuff, so I knew what we were getting. Jerry ran into him in Southern California and asked, 'What do you think about bringing this guy in?' I said, 'Absolutely. Let's give it a shot.' It's been really, really fun."
Ayala fit right in with the Mariners on the field as they ran through their normal workout.
"He can play," Servais said. "That's what makes it real, when he's doing his stuff at shortstop. And his second swing, he hit one out of the park. I was standing there and I was like, 'You have to be kidding me.' That's been a really fun part of it."
Even backup shortstop Chris Taylor was amused, despite Ayala showing up wearing his No. 1 jersey.
"He stole my number," Taylor said. "But he told me he thinks No. 97 is still available. He's hilarious. Real quick on his feet. It was a lot of fun. And he's got skills, too. He was making some plays out there, and then he hit a home run his second swing, I heard."
Taylor, 25, is among the more serious-minded Mariners, but he appreciated the break from the routine as well, as Servais continues finding ways to get players interacting with each other in the process.
"It's keeping the mood light and just making sure everybody is having a good time," Taylor said. "Sometimes you have to joke around when you're playing this game. It can be a lot, so it's good to have things like that just to keep the atmosphere loose. Everybody is staying relaxed."
And it does sound as if Taylor will get to keep his No. 1 jersey, given Ayala's contract demands.
"He's looking for $700 million," Servais said. "I don't think we're going to get there."