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Franklin could be joining Mariners

Infielder removed from Triple-A lineup on Sunday; callup possible

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Mariners looking for offensive help, it appears the club may be ready to give young infield prospect Nick Franklin another shot. The infielder, however, might be playing a little outfield as well if he rejoins the team as expected on Tuesday in Texas.

Though the Mariners have made no official announcements, Franklin was pulled out of Triple-A Tacoma's lineup prior to the Rainiers' game on Sunday in Sacramento. And manager Lloyd McClendon indicated earlier in the day that he's talked with general manager Jack Zduriencik about Franklin's potential role with the team.

Designated hitter Corey Hart was flying back to Seattle for an MRI test on Monday after straining his left hamstring during Sunday's 6-2 win over the Twins, so the Mariners could have a roster opening if Hart goes on the 15-day disabled list.

Franklin is leading the Pacific Coast League with a .376 average and has seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 30 games, with a .481 on-base percentage and .633 slugging percentage.

McClendon said Franklin has been hampered by a back injury in recent days and has been playing the outfield the past two games. He was slated to play left field on Sunday before being pulled.

"Hopefully his back is healthy and then we'll see where we are," McClendon said. "Obviously we need offense and he's certainly an option. Jack and I have talked about it. We'll see where we are in the next few days. But for him to be able to play a lot of different positions, as I've said before, is important. Because if he's going to be here right now, he's going to have to move around."

Franklin was Seattle's starting second baseman the last four months of last season, hitting .225 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs. But he lost that job when Seattle signed Robinson Cano, and he was then beat out by Brad Miller for the shortstop spot in Spring Training.

Miller has struggled for the first seven weeks of the season, hitting .154. Franklin hasn't been playing shortstop much in Tacoma, however, as Chris Taylor was getting most of the games there before breaking a finger earlier this week.

Franklin had been splitting time between second and short, then made the first outfield starts of his Minor League career this week. He started one game in the outfield for the Mariners in his prior stint with Seattle this season, but was sent back to Tacoma after hitting .125 (2-for-16), as Zduriencik said he needed more regular playing time.

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