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Versatile Gimenez follows Wedge to Seattle

Versatile Gimenez follows Wedge to Seattle

Versatile Gimenez follows Wedge to Seattle play video for Versatile Gimenez follows Wedge to Seattle
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Most of Chris Gimenez's new teammates see him primarily as a catcher, but Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders knows better.

In Saunders' first game in the big leagues on July 25, 2009, he ripped a shot to right field at Safeco Field that would have been a home run ... except Gimenez was playing outfield in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Indians and he leaped at the wall and robbed the rookie of his first Major League hit.

"That," Gimenez said with a laugh, "was one of my better outfield memories. I was up there a good 3-4 inches over the fence."

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Gimenez indeed is more than a catcher. He's a "super utility" guy whose locker is filled with five different gloves that he brings to the park each day. Drafted by Cleveland as an outfielder, he converted to catcher in '06 when Eric Wedge was manager of the Indians.

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The 28-year-old also has played first and third base and says he'd happily fill in at second or shortstop if anybody asked.

A guy with an ever-present smile, Gimenez didn't take long to make friends with most everyone in the Mariners clubhouse. Including the guy he says wanted to kill him two years ago.

"We joke around about that all the time," Saunders said of his robbed home run. "I saw we signed him in the offseason and I was looking forward to getting to know him and giving him crap about it. We've actually become pretty close. Almost every day now something about that play comes up.

"It's funny because his first hit as a big leaguer was a home run, so he was catching the next day and he actually sincerely apologized to me when I came up to the plate," said Saunders. "That's him."

Gimenez signed with Seattle as a non-roster invitee largely because of his relationship with Wedge, a manager he says will change the culture of the Mariners with his intense passion.

"He's just a solid guy with core values he really sticks to. He kind of rides and dies by those," Gimenez said. "The good thing is you never have to guess what he's thinking. Whether it's good or bad for you, he's going to let you know. That's what he does. He holds people accountable. I think it's going to be a change, a different way of thinking around here."

Gimenez came to the Mariners looking for increased opportunities after getting 169 at-bats in 73 games with Cleveland over the past two seasons. He acknowledges he didn't grab hold of his chances too well offensively, hitting .160 with four home runs and 15 RBIs over parts of two seasons.

He'll get a longer look at catcher now with Miguel Olivo out at least for a few weeks, but knows his best bet is as a guy who can fill a lot of roles for a manager who likes versatility on his bench.

Gimenez says he's a catcher now first and foremost, but his background as an outfielder gives him comfort in any spot.

"I don't feel like I'm a slouch at any position I play," said the native of Gilroy, Calif. "You have to have that quiet confidence about you. The last thing you want is to be at first base and Justin Morneau is up and he's ready to shove one down your throat and you're a little unsure of yourself. You just have to know you can do it.

"If it's a fly ball, you just go catch it. If it's a ground ball, you stop it. That's kind of the way I think about it. You can't make it too complicated. Now if I could just do that with hitting ..."

Gimenez laughs easily at himself, but he takes baseball seriously. Whether he starts the season in Seattle or Tacoma, he wants to find a role with the Mariners at some point this year. And he knows his best bet is that versatility.

"I figure if I play 12 out of the nine positions on the field, they've got to find somewhere to put me, right?" he said. "I think of it as a new challenge. Come that sixth or seventh inning, especially with Wedgie, you never know. He could pinch-hit for somebody and then, boom, I'm in as a defensive replacement.

"It's definitely a way to keep me in the game and involved. One of his big things is being a student of the game, and in my position, you have to be because you I've always got to be thinking ahead."

Thinking even further ahead, Gimenez acknowledges he'd love to be a skipper himself one day. Given the majority of Major League managers were catchers, it's not an unrealistic goal, particularly given his working knowledge of so many positions.

But first things first. He may be just one of five catchers in Mariners camp at the moment, but as Saunders knows, Gimenez brings a few other things to the table as well, including a bag full of gloves for every position on the field.

"I feel like I'm going to have an opportunity to do some stuff here," he said. "I did in Cleveland as well and I'm very grateful for that opportunity. But I think being here, my position is a little more wanted and I'm looking forward to hopefully getting an opportunity to do some things at some point.

"I'll do honestly whatever they want me to do. It's fun. It's a different challenge every day, just coming in and seeing that lineup and not ever knowing where the heck you're going to be."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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