Clement looking to get comfortable

Clement looking to get comfortable

SEATTLE -- Jeff Clement has gotten the break he needed. Now he needs to show he deserves it.

Clement, the Mariners rookie catcher, was called up April 30 for what the club hoped would be a long and wondrous career. Then his playing time increased with designated hitter Jose Vidro's continuing back troubles.

But Clement entered Friday's game against the Padres batting just .182 with no home runs and one RBI with 17 strikeouts in 44 at-bats.

"We want to let him know he's going to play," manager John McLaren said.

But it becomes a fine line between playing him and perhaps hurting the team when he's not productive.

"We have a couple fine lines going on," McLaren said. "It is a little bit of a balancing act. We're doing the best we can. We've talked to our development people about Jeff. They say against left-handers, he get locked in real easy. We've played him against left-handers. We've caught him a couple times.

"We try to keep him in the mix. It wasn't that tough because Vidro wasn't available anyway. With Vidro available, we want to keep them both playing. We're certainly not going to give up on the kid because his potential is off the charts. We know what's he's capable of doing."

Clement, a left-hand hitter, rakes lefties better than right-handers. Last season for Triple-A Tacoma, he hit .315 against left-handers and .259 against righties. But he's 1-for-7 thus far with the Mariners against lefties.

"We're giving him every chance we can to get his feet on the ground," McLaren added. "It looks like he's coming around."

McLaren also would like to start Clement more time at catcher. The club brought in longtime catcher coach Roger Hansen to work with Clement along with Kenji Johjima and Jamie Burke. Burke has worked extensively with Clement in the Minor Leagues.

"I've seen him tons," Hansen said.

McLaren said Hansen "has a way of putting things not too many of us can put it. They like that, they expect that and that's what they're going to get. He's a no-nonsense guy.

"We've had some difficulties with our signs. I think they'll be taking care of that here shortly."

McLaren has had some lineup challenges the past week with Clement and others struggling, with Vidro in and out and Richie Sexson serving a five-game suspension and he was back in the lineup Friday.

One of the pleasant surprises to come out of that was moving Jose Lopez from the second to the fifth in the lineup while Sexson sat out.

"Lopez has excelled wherever we put him," McLaren said. "In the second spot, he moved the ball around, he moved Ichiro around, he protected Ichiro [Suzuki]. He drove in runs. So it happens that we needed a fifth hitter and he stepped in there and did a marvelous job."

Lopez, who is hitting a team-leading .315, was back in the No. 2 hole Friday against San Diego. Sexson was in the fifth spot and Clement sixth.

"I don't want to switch every day. I'm trying to give this a chance to work," McLaren said. "I feel like Richie is getting ready to hit."

Bob Sherwin is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.