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Mariners open shortstop competition

Mariners open shortstop competition

Mariners open shortstop competition
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Jack Wilson has both a new glove and a new challenge this Spring Training, with the Mariners throwing open the shortstop competition and letting him know he might be asked to play a little second base for the first time since his freshman year at Oxnard Junior College in 1997.

New manager Eric Wedge said Sunday that Brendan Ryan, acquired by trade from St. Louis, will battle with Wilson for the starting shortstop job. Both will also see some time at second, where Adam Kennedy and top prospect Dustin Ackley are in the mix.

The presumption had been that Ryan would start the season at second until Ackley is deemed ready, but Wedge indicated Ryan's primary focus will be at shortstop.

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"I want Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan to be over there and watch them both," Wedge said. "And we'll go from there. Obviously Jack has had some issues staying healthy. He needs to show us we can count on him physically.

"I think if Jack is healthy and out there doing what he's capable of doing then we'll be in good shape with him. If Ryan shows us what we believe he is, he'll be a good option for us, too. I'm not ready to make that call yet."

Wilson, 33, said he'll play second base if asked, but feels he still has the skills to play shortstop and is eager to show what he can do this spring now that his hamstrings are healthy and he's lost about 15 pounds.

He understands his position being thrown open, given injury woes that allowed him to play just 61 games last season and 92 since being acquired by trade from the Pirates on July 29, 2009.

"The bottom line is I haven't been able to do my part of the deal, and my part is being out there doing what they wanted and expected," Wilson said. "I have to earn it like everybody else, especially after missing half the games last year. I'm the last person to say I deserve anything. You have to go out on the field and have good games and that's something I haven't been able to do."

That said, Wilson feels if he's healthy, he can make a difference. In nine years in Pittsburgh, he hit .269 and was regarded as one of the game's premier defensive shortstops. That hasn't translated to Seattle, where he's batted .240 and struggled to stay on the field.

Thus, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik brought in Ryan during the offseason and now the club is going to let him compete. Wedge noted Adam Kennedy, Josh Wilson, Luis Rodriguez and Sean Kazmar are also in the middle-infield mix.

"It's not just about those two guys," he said.

But clearly Ryan and Jack Wilson are the front-runners in the starting shortstop derby.

"I know when Jack is healthy and moving around good, he's a heckuva shortstop," Wedge said. "And Ryan here, in the short term, has proven he's a pretty good shortstop, too. A lot of it has to do with me looking at Ryan as much as seeing where Jack is at."

Ryan, 28, is an excellent glove man as well. He hit just .223 last year in St. Louis, but was hampered by a wrist injury. The Mariners are hoping he's closer to the .292 hitter from '09, which certainly would make him an attractive option on a club searching for offense.

"I like his energy," Wedge said. "He's got a little hop in his step."

Wilson worked out with Ryan over much of the offseason as they live 25 minutes apart in the Los Angeles area. Now he'll work with him this spring and see what happens.

"There's competition," Wilson said. "Brendan Ryan is a fantastic shortstop. I loved watching him at St. Louis coming up. I'll help him whether it's at short or second or whatever and then they'll have a decision in the end. We'll just enjoy it and play our butts off and see what happens."

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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