PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners are spending a lot of practice time this spring on situational hitting. To help drive home the importance of advancing runners from second base to third base with none out, or driving in a runner from third with less than two outs, a situational-hitting master was invited to camp. Former designated hitter Edgar Martinez ended his three-day visit on Monday, and as a parting gift of sorts, manager Mike Hargrove sent his hitters through a situational-hitting "game" at the Peoria Sports Complex. The hitters were divided into two groups, and hitting coach Jeff Pentland barked out specific situations. Each hitter had four opportunities to advance the runner. Team B, consisting mostly of reserves, won the contest.
"It's a lot of fun, but at the same time, it's very beneficial because there's a lot of pressure to execute," veteran left fielder Raul Ibanez said. "There are guys who are talking trash to you, and you have to perform in that situation." The noise level was high at times as players decided which balls would advance runners, and which ones wouldn't. Friendly wagers were accepted. "It serves its purpose," Hargrove said of the drill. "It draws attention to the fact that [situational hitting] is an important part of our game and we're serious about it. Situational hitting drills always have been there, but we are putting more emphasis on it [this spring]." The Mariners were 20-24 in games decided by one run last season, including an 8-15 mark on the road. So a run here or a run there would have come in mighty handy numerous times. In several games, the difference between winning and losing was not advancing runners a base or driving in a runner from third, when a ground ball or fly ball would have accomplished the mission. Martinez, who holds virtually every offensive franchise record, spent more than a half-hour on Sunday talking to the hitters during a Q&A session. He was asked, among other things, about the situational-hitting approach he took during an 18-year Major League career. "I always went up there thinking 'make contact and hit the ball up the middle,'" he said. "I never thought about getting a hit when there was a runner on third and less than two outs. All you do is hit the ball somewhere and there's a good chance the runner [on third] will score." Martinez added that he often would swing at pitches earlier in the count, as opposed to working deep into counts as he would do if the team needed a baserunner. "I don't know what a good percentage is when you're trying to drive home a runner from third with less than two outs," he said. "But I do know that when I failed to do it, I felt there was no excuse for it." Hargrove said his hitters should benefit from listening to Martinez. "Edgar was really, really, really good," Hargrove said. "He talked a lot about the mental side of the game. That's a big separator at this level, and it was good information. Edgar is the ultimate 'been there, done that.' "You can discuss what he says, but you can't argue what he says. I think all of our hitters liked it and it was very beneficial. A lot of what Edgar had to say were the same things we've talked about the last two years." Looking back to the Mariners' record-tying, 116-win season in 2001, Martinez said that team's situational hitting was better than any team he ever played on. "We did everything right," he said. "It was like that every game, it seemed. The more we did it, the more comfortable everyone was and the more we expected to do it every time."
Martinez returned to Seattle on Monday evening and has a second camp visit scheduled for late March."It has been great to be out here, it really [is]," he said. "It's nice to be on the field with the guys and in this environment again." It was the first time Martinez wore a Mariners uniform since he retired at the end of the 2004 season as the club record-holder in games, hits, extra-base hits, at-bats, doubles, RBIs, walks, runs and total bases. He will be inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame in June. M's vs. M's: After almost a week of batting practices held inside batting cages, it's time for some game-action Tuesday morning during the first of two five-inning intrasquad games. "Intrasquad games are a lot like kissing your sister," Hargrove said. "It's something you have to do, but it's not real exciting. It's just a way to get everyone's feet on the ground. The hitters get to see some live pitching and the pitchers get to pitch to a hitter. "You get everybody rolling before you start the [Cactus League] games. That's all it is." Newly acquired right-hander Jeff Weaver is scheduled to pitch one inning for Team A, followed by Sean White, Matt Perisho, Juan Sandoval and Cesar Jimenez. Team B is slated to pitch Cha Seung Baek, Jesse Foppert, Aaron Small and Jorge Campillo. The first Spring Training game, the annual charity event, is Thursday afternoon against the Padres at Peoria Stadium. The same two teams open the Cactus League schedule with games Friday and Saturday. Pitching plans: Right-hander Horacio Ramirez makes his Mariners debut on Thursday when he starts the Charity Game against the Padres. Ramirez, acquired from the Braves, is scheduled to pitch two innings. Closer J.J. Putz will follow Ramirez and pitch one inning, Jake Woods is tentatively slated for two innings and Chris Reitsma, George Sherrill, Eric O'Flaherty and Justin Lehr one inning apiece. Felix Hernandez, the all-but-officially-confirmed Opening Day starter against the Athletics, gets the start in Friday's Cactus League opener against the Padres. Also slated to pitch are Ryan Feierabend, Julio Mateo, Arthur Rhodes, Jon Huber and Sean Green.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.