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McClendon still 'tinkering' with lineup

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manager Lloyd McClendon had Abraham Almonte in the leadoff spot Friday night against the Padres, the 16th time in 25 Cactus League games he's penciled the young center fielder into that position.

But McClendon said he's not ready to pronounce Almonte as his leadoff hitter for the regular season.

"Down here, he has been," McClendon said. "But I'm not ready to make those type decisions. We're still tinkering with our lineup. You could see other guys leading off. You'll see somebody else leading off one of the games tomorrow."

That's because the Mariners have a split-squad situation Saturday and Almonte can only lead off one of the games. But so far this spring, he's been in that role the vast majority of contests, with Endy Chavez (five), Brad Miller (two) and Dustin Ackley and James Jones (one each) the other leadoff hitters.

Almonte was hitting just .160 (8-for-50) with two doubles, two home runs and three stolen bases going into Friday night's game. But McClendon likes the skill set of the 24-year-old and used Thursday's game against the Cubs as an example, after Almonte singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.

"I like what I've seen," McClendon said. "Obviously he hasn't gotten the positive results that equate to having a successful Spring Training, so to speak. But he's done some nice things. He's hit the ball on the barrel for the most part. He's made solid contact. We all saw what his speed could do yesterday. There are a lot of good things."

The new skipper continues moving other hitters around in his lineup. He had Miller up in the two-spot against the Padres, with Kyle Seager dropped to fifth.

"I'm just tinkering around to see what fits best," he said. "We'll do a little more tinkering. You may see Seager hit fourth, I don't know. We'll see where we are."

One spot that won't be changing: Robinson Cano will be batting third.

"Not much tinkering there," McClendon said with a laugh.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Brad Miller, Endy Chavez, Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Kyle Seager