PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners selected Mike Ford from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft in December, they wanted to give the former Princeton University standout a good look to see where he might fit.With Ryon Healy acquired to handle the everyday first-base duties, the Mariners even had
PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners selected Mike Ford from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft in December, they wanted to give the former Princeton University standout a good look to see where he might fit.
With Ryon Healy acquired to handle the everyday first-base duties, the Mariners even had Ford come to Arizona at the start of February to do outfield work for several weeks -- in addition to having him tag along with Dee Gordon in Miami earlier this offseason for private workouts with outfield coach Chris Prieto -- with the hope of expanding his opportunities.
That outfield experiment ended quickly when Healy needed surgery to remove a bone spur from his right hand, and it was further shelved when Daniel Vogelbach was hit in the foot by a pitch in the Cactus League opener Friday and will be sidelined for at least three or four days.
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Suddenly, Ford is more than a guy getting a look. He's the only healthy first baseman on the 40-man roster and sharing time with veteran non-roster invitee Matt Hague.
Young prospect Evan White, who isn't even in big league camp after playing just 14 games for Class A Short-Season Everett after being drafted in the first round last year, also was called over from the Minor League mini-camp to get some experience.
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Ford has played in Seattle's first three Cactus League games and was 0-for-6 with a hit by pitch until doubling off the wall in left-center in his final at-bat in the fifth inning of Sundays' 2-0 win over the Dodgers.
"He was going to play a lot anyway," manager Scott Servais said. "We'll try to be smart, day on, day off, get him some DH days and get him going. He's trying a little hard. He wants to impress everybody right out of the chute. But we like him. We like his swing. He just needs some reps and he'll be fine."
Though Ford has played only 25 games above the Double-A level, the Mariners plucked him from the Yankees because they like his bat and plate discipline. The 6-foot, 225-pounder hit .270 with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs last year for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But what really jumped out was his .404 on-base percentage with 94 walks and just 72 strikeouts.
"I've always had a decent eye for the ball, but it's kind of been an adjustment mentally, not swinging at anything fringy at this point," Ford said. "Just let it go by. I can't do anything with it anyway, so it's a coin flip. Let it go and see if he calls a ball."
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Servais knows Ford well, as the 25-year-old played on the same Princeton team as Servais' son, and notes he's the rare player who has succeeded as an undrafted free agent out of college.
"There's nobody that saw Mike Ford play more than I did for two years in college," Servais said. "Mike was the best hitter on the team. He hit three-hole and pitched on Sundays. I think the reason he wasn't drafted, a lot of people thought he's an Ivy League kid and most of those guys go all four of their years and sign after their senior year.
"He did not get drafted his junior year, and he went off to Cape Cod and lit it up for about two weeks. I know the Mariners were one of the teams that were very aggressive in trying to sign him and offered him a pretty significant signing bonus, numbers I'd never heard of, and it didn't happen.
"Normally, those guys after the Draft, they might get $5,000, $10,000, maybe $20,000. But the Yankees were very aggressive with the start he'd had up in the Cape, and they gave him a shot. He took it and ran with it."
Ford moved quickly through the Yankees' system and now will get a shot with Seattle. He went back to Princeton over two offseasons to finish his degree in history, but is looking to make more of the present with the Mariners.
"The Yankees were great," Ford said, "but I see this as a bigger opportunity. For them to select me and everything says they think I can possibly fit, so it's a nice feeling."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.