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McClendon: Weeks will see time playing left field

SEATTLE -- One of the interesting questions facing the Mariners and manager Lloyd McClendon early this season is just how Rickie Weeks fits into the picture -- and lineup -- as the longtime second baseman converts into being a utility player.

Weeks played 1,142 games over the previous 11 seasons with the Brewers, exclusively as a second baseman. But when he signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Seattle this past offseason, he joined a team with Robinson Cano entrenched at second, and he agreed to play other positions for McClendon.

The Mariners worked Weeks extensively in left field during the spring, as well as getting him some time at first base late in camp. But he started just five Cactus League games in left and, in a quirk of baseball fate, had almost no balls hit his way during his time on the field. He played eight games at designated hitter during the spring and started once at first base in the final week, finishing Cactus League play with a .195 average and two home runs in 41 at-bats.

Despite the slow spring, McClendon likes Weeks' veteran right-handed bat and had him leading off Seattle's second game of the season on Tuesday while playing DH against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson, as the skipper opted to go with Nelson Cruz in the outfield instead of Weeks.

McClendon said there was "no deep thought to that decision" and that a hamstring that bothered Weeks for about a week midway through camp is not an issue. Expect Weeks to get some time in left field soon when the Mariners face more left-handed pitching, though they'll see only one southpaw in their next four games: Drew Pomeranz on Friday in Oakland.

"I'm sure he'll be fine," McClendon said Tuesday of Weeks' eventual outfield opportunity. "He's had plenty of fly balls. He knows the speed of the game. He just didn't get a lot of action there in spring, but we can't run from that now. He'll play some left field, he's just not playing there today."

Weeks, 32, went out with infield coach Chris Woodward before Tuesday's batting practice and took grounders at first base, working on his footwork and the throw to second on double-play opportunities. He said he's ready to fit in wherever needed.

"I just want to play, period," Weeks said. "I'm just doing what the manager says. I'm ready to play my part."

Weeks said he took a lot of fly balls during Sunday's workout at Safeco Field and said he noticed the ball hangs up a little more than at most parks, but otherwise said it felt normal. And when he does get in a regular-season game, he won't be surprised if a lot of balls find him in a hurry.

"Probably," he said with a smile. "But I'm up for the challenge."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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