Sardinas making case with versatility, hot bat

Sardinas making case with versatility, hot bat

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Luis Sardinas finds himself in a new position this spring. Not only is the infielder from Venezuela battling for a roster spot with his new Mariners squad, he's taking on some center-field duties in an effort to expand his versatility for a utility role.

The fact the Mariners are working the 22-year-old in the outfield at times only shows how much they value his potential as they look for ways to make him fit as a bench player when the club lines up its final 25-man roster in less than two weeks.

Mariners Spring Training info

Sardinas started in center field for the first time in Monday's 6-3 win over the Dodgers. And while he took one awkward route to a double into the left-center gap, he handled the routine plays just fine and got a passing grade from manager Scott Servais.

"He looks comfortable," Servais said. "He looks comfortable everywhere. I don't think there's much panic to his game."

Sardinas turns two

Sardinas was acquired from the Brewers in a trade for outfielder Ramon Flores in November after hitting just .196 in 97 at-bats last season in limited time in the Majors. But Servais is familiar with the youngster from his days with the Rangers, when Sardinas was a well-regarded prospect during Servais' tenure as farm director.

Sardinas also knew Mariners coaches Tim Bogar and Casey Candaele from his time in Texas and says that has smoothed his transition.

"It helps a lot," Sardinas said. "I know the guys and it makes you more comfortable. They know who I am as a player."

Sardinas is an athletic speedster who can switch hit, play second, short and third and now has begun adding center field to his repertoire, which would be beneficial if he can fill in for Leonys Martin in a pinch.

The Mariners figure to keep Norichika Aoki, Seth Smith, Franklin Gutierrez and Nelson Cruz as their corner outfielders, but only Aoki has also played center this spring and he's been exclusively a corner outfielder in his four seasons in the Majors.

Sardinas appears to have the physical tools to play center field, but as for experience in the outfield?

"I'd never played there before," Sardinas said. "It's different. You have to cover more room in center field and see balls in front of you."

Sardinas' primary role will be as a backup infielder, however, and his biggest challenge seems to be proving he can hit well enough at the big league level to earn playing time. He has the necessary glove and range at shortstop, which is Servais' highest priority in filling the utility role and the reason Sardinas and Chris Taylor appear a step ahead of Shawn O'Malley in the Mariners' current pecking order.

But Sardinas has hit extremely well this spring, batting .375 (18-for-48) with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and a team-leading 14 RBIs in 18 games. He went 2-for-5 with a grand slam in Wednesdays' 13-12 loss to the A's.

Sardinas' grand slam

"I'm working on it all the time, the same approach, hitting the ball hard to the middle," Sardinas said. "Sometimes you hit it in front or back, but more important, take your pitch, see the most pitches you can.".

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.