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Notes: Clement more comfortable

Notes: Clement more comfortable

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- This time, Jeff Clement didn't feel like a complete stranger when he walked into the Mariners' clubhouse in Peoria.

Clement, the 23-year-old catcher and former first-round draft pick in 2005, was among the pitchers and catchers who reported for their physicals at the Peoria Sports Complex on Wednesday.

"Last year, I hardly knew anyone because I had only been with the organization for the latter part of the year," he said. "Now, other than the newly signed ones, I know a lot of guys. There's a lot more familiar faces ... that makes you comfortable."

The 2005 season was anything but comfortable for Clement, especially physically. After getting off to a strong start with Double-A San Antonio, he needed surgeries to remove bone chips from his left elbow and to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee two weeks into the season.

Clement returned to hit .257 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 32 RBIs in 67 games at Triple-A Tacoma. He spent part of the winter playing in Hawaii Winter Baseball for the Waikiki BeachBoys, where he struggled to find his offensive niche.

That is, until help arrived.

Clement struggled at the plate in Hawaii, hitting just .189 in 53 at-bats, although he took positives from the experience after Seattle hitting coach Jeff Pentland and Minor League hitting coordinator Alonzo Powell worked with him on his swing.

"It was difficult ... I didn't play nearly as well as I would have liked," Clement said. "The last few days out there, they [Pentland and Powell] came out and worked with me and the other offensive players. I really took a lot from that. We worked on some things with my swing. I feel like I'm a lot quicker to the ball now. ... We'll see what happens once I start seeing some live arms."

For now, Clement is focused on just two things: Staying healthy in 2007 and becoming a more consistent player offensively and defensively. "There were times when I played up to my capabilities and times when it seemed like -- too often -- that I didn't. I want to get better on a daily basis."

Clement is likely ticketed for a return to Triple-A Tacoma.

Tip-top shape: Apparently, Felix Hernandez isn't the only player who took good care of his body in the offseason.

Hernandez, of course, made headlines last month in Seattle when he showed up weighing 20 pounds less than he did at the start of Spring Training a year ago.

In the short time that he's been in Peoria, manager Mike Hargrove has been impressed with the shape of many of his players. Several players have been working out for an extended period in Peoria.

"There's been a lot of them down here," Hargrove said. "Does that tell me anything? ... It tells me we have guys that want it. And that's something that I don't know you can teach. Guys are looking good, they really are. Everyone is typical of how Felix looked."

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Medical watch: The Mariners were expected to find out more about Jose Lopez's sprained ankle after he was administered a physical on Wednesday, according to Seattle's trainer, Rick Griffin.

Lopez sprained his ankle during winter ball in Venezuela, but said he wasn't feeling any pain when he arrived in Peoria. Lopez is expected to be ready for drills when position players report Monday and for the first subsequent workout the following day.

Hargrove said there were no serious health issues, though he mentioned that Jose Guillen, who will start in right field, will be brought along a little slower. Guillen had surgery on his right elbow last summer.

"We've got to allow him time to get his complete arm strength back before we run him out there defensively," Hargrove said.

Your Opening Day starter is ... Well, Hargrove isn't quite sure, or at the very least, he's not willing to say at this point which of his pitchers will get the Opening Day nod on April 2 against Oakland at Safeco Field.

"I know who I want it to be," he said, smiling.

In all likelihood, the Mariners will go with 21-year-old Hernandez or veteran left-hander Jarrod Washburn. Of course, there's certainly no need to rush to a decision in February, though Hargrove clearly has been thinking about it some.

Line of the day: Just because the stress test the team administers each year is an annual rite of spring doesn't mean Hargrove has to enjoy it. He doesn't, which prompted an interesting exchange when it was his turn to get on a stationary bike for his turn.

"I told them how about we don't do this and you take my word for it," Hargrove said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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