Notes: Good news for pair of hopefuls
Valdez, Dobbs sky high after securing roster spots
SEATTLE -- When veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer throws the first pitch of the 2005 season Monday afternoon (2:05 p.m.) at Safeco Field against the Twins, Wilson Valdez will be standing at shortstop.
Not even Valdez could have believed a week ago that he'd be anywhere near Seattle on Opening Day.
But a series of events during the past four days have landed the 26-year-old a starting job with the Mariners until Pokey Reese recovers from a sore right shoulder that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.
"He's a good defensive player," manager Mike Hargrove said of Valdez. "There is a question about his bat, but Ron Hassey (bench coach) saw him last year in Florida and likes him a lot. At the very least, he's a good defender and what he adds with the bat is gravy."
Prior to the Mariners' workout Sunday afternoon, Valdez described the past few days as "crazy""
"I have been flying everywhere."
The distance from Tucson, Ariz., to Seattle is slightly less than 1,700 miles. But for Valdez, it was more like 6,000 miles.
Last Wednesday, he was in Tucson training with the White Sox when informed that he had been claimed off waivers by the Mets.
So Valdez packed his bags and departed for Florida to join his new teammates in Port St. Lucie. He checked into a hotel, spent the night and went to work the next day, playing three innings in an exhibition game.
While eating lunch on Friday, Valdez received a call from his wife from their New Mexico home.
"She told me I was now with Seattle," he said, simultaneously shaking his head and smiling.
With Reese's sore right shoulder not responding to a cortisone shot he had earlier in the week, the Mariners scanned the Major League waiver wire, saw Valdez's name on it, and put in a claim for the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder.
Valdez packed his bags again and Saturday morning flew to Las Vegas, Nev., arriving at Cashman Field about 20 minutes before the first pitch of the exhibition game against the Cubs and saw that he was in the Mariners' starting lineup.
"I thought, 'Oh my gosh'," he said. "I was really tired, but I had to play the game and do the best I could for my new team."
The first ball put into play went to him. In fact, he was involved in four of the first five defensive plays of the game and handled them all cleanly.
"I think you are going to see that this kid plays a good shortstop," general manager Bill Bavasi said. "I saw him play a half a game in Tucson, but Danny (assistant to the GM Dan Evans) had seen him a lot. He's a similar player to Pokey and Ramon (Santiago). They always catch it and throw it well.
"We were looking to shore up the position and get more depth there so we don't have to bring up prospects like Jose Lopez. We want to bring them up when they are ready."
Offense has been the element keeping Valdez in the minors.
"We hope he can develop some offense," Bavasi added.
Valdez went 7-for-41 (.171) with four RBIs for the White Sox during Spring Training and batted .233 (10-for-43) for them last season after being acquired from the Marlins in June. But he batted .319 in 66 games with Triple-A Albuquerque and .302 in 70 games with Double-A Charlotte last summer.
Valdez's wild ride that landed him in Seattle also meant a disappointing journey for Santiago, who hit .294 but committed a team-high three errors, and was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
"It was tough," said Hargrove of cutting Santiago. "The kid came into camp with really little chance of making the club, but (stayed) to the last day. He did everything we asked him to do, playing as much or as little as we asked him to do and always did it with a smile."
Hargrove made it official that Dobbs had earned a spot on the Mariners' Opening Day roster.
"I was as proud as a peacock when I walked out of there," Dobbs said Sunday. "It had been a wild ride for the last couple of weeks."
When camp started, Dobbs, who batted .226 in 18 games for the Mariners late last season, wasn't considered a candidate to be on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
But he batted .308 (16-for-52) in Spring Training and played the infield and outfield well enough to earn a spot on the roster.
"I thought I had played well enough and felt confident," he said, "but I didn't know if it would be good enough for them. I was pleased with the effort I put forth and was hoping they saw the same thing and were thinking, 'Let's give this Dobbs kid a chance.' I guess it worked out in my favor."
The first call Dobbs made was to his wife, Heidi, in Southern California.
"She's my heart and soul and had to be part of this (Opening Day). We immediately booked a flight for her from Los Angeles to Seattle and she got here last night."
Asked what it would be like Monday afternoon at Safeco Field, Dobbs said, "Euphoric."
A change of pants in order: The uniform pants left-hander Bobby Madritsch wore in his start against the Cubs Friday night in Las Vegas were, well, way too long and baggy.
"Yeah, I heard all about it in some of the (cell phone) messages I received," Madritsch laughed. "My dad watched the game (it was televised on the Cubs network) and he said, 'Those pants are too big.'"
The Mariners' starter Wednesday afternoon against the Twins explained what happened.
"I wear a size 44 pants, but I had a pair of 46s in my locker (in Peoria, Ariz.) by mistake," he said. "I packed them and didn't think anything about it until I put them on before the (Friday) game. I had them pulled up to my waist and buttoned and the legs were still too long."
Madritsch realized what was wrong, but figured he was only pitching for five innings and it wouldn't be that big of a deal.
"I'll have a different pair of pants (on Wednesday)," he promised.
The numbers game: Center fielder Jeremy Reed wore No. 58 last season and stuck to that same number in Spring Training. But he switched to No. 7 prior to Sunday's workout.
Dobbs, number 53 in the Mariners' Cactus League program, will be wearing No. 22 when introduced on his first big league Opening Day.
Left-handed reliever Matt Thorton, who wore No. 43 last season but relinquished it to veteran reliever Jeff Nelson before Spring Training, switched to No. 53 on Sunday. He wore No. 54 during Spring Training.
"That (54) looks like a number a basketball player would wear," he said, "and I prefer an odd number, anyway. It's the same number Arthur Rhodes wore when he was here and he had a lot of success. If I can do what he did, I'll be able to help this team."
Everyday Eddie ready to go: Left-handed closer Eddie Guardado didn't pitch in any Cactus League games, but says he's ready to go, thanks to getting in some work in minor league games late in Spring Training.
"I'll be ready to rock and we'll see what happens," he said.
"I got my pitches (pitch count) up to 45 pitches. But if I have to throw 45 pitches in a game, I'm going to be in trouble. I don't think BP (pitching coach Bryan Price) or (Hargrove) will let me stay out there that long."
The young and the old: Reed is the youngest player on the Mariners' roster this season (23 years, nine months) and Opening Day starter Jamie Moyer is the oldest (42 years, four months).
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.