PEORIA, Ariz. – For Shed Long, every day seems to bring a new adventure this spring at Mariners camp -- as well as a new position.
Among the numerous new prospects wearing Seattle uniforms, the energetic 23-year-old with the gold chains and white sports glasses has stood out early.
“My eyes are wide open on Shed Long,” said manager Scott Servais, who has penciled the 5-foot-8, 184-pounder in at second base, third base and left field in Seattle’s first four games.
The Mariners are looking for ways to get Long -- their No. 12 prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- in the lineup in order to take advantage of his strength, which is a quick bat with impressive enough pop that he launched a home run halfway up the batter’s eye in center field in Peoria Stadium on Saturday against the Padres after hitting a pair of doubles in his first two at-bats two days earlier in a game that eventually wound up being rained out against the A's.
On Sunday, he played the outfield for the first time in a game since he was 12 years old, by his recall, continuing an interesting transition for a prospect who originally was drafted as a high school catcher by the Reds in 2013 before being converted to second base two years later.
But he’s been catching fly balls with the outfielders all spring and, while nothing was hit his way in his five innings in left field in his debut, he insists he’s getting comfortable there as well.
“Every day I work at second, I work at third, I work at left, I work at short,” he said. “I work everywhere, every day. It’s a grind, but I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to be able to play every position and make it to where the team is comfortable to put me wherever, whenever.”
Servais likes having fun with the outgoing Long, wryly ribbing his “Mr. T starter set” in the jewelry department and appreciating the bounce he’s brought to the early weeks of camp. After Long didn’t have any balls hit his way in his initial outfield appearance, Servais noted: “Shed is living right this spring.”
But while Servais is all about letting players be themselves, he expects full attention to the game when between the lines and that message was imparted Sunday despite Long’s lack of action in left.
“He’s learning a lot,” Servais said. “He learned an important lesson [Sunday]. As he’s standing in left field, one of our coaches noticed he was working on his swing. And that didn’t go over great. If he wants to be a DH, we can certainly make that happen for him. And he got the message, in a good way.
“We like Shed a lot, he’s off to a good start,” said Servais. “It’s not just that he’s hitting the ball great, it’s how he plays and the quality of at-bats. He has an interesting career ahead of him.”
Long has never played above the Double-A level, so it’s a long shot that he’ll crack the Mariners’ Opening Day roster, barring an injury to one of the expected starters. Utility players need to play shortstop and Long doesn’t appear to have the range for that position, but a guy who swings a good bat and can play second, third, a corner outfield spot and even catch in an emergency certainly garners a good look.
“My mom told me, first impressions are everything. She always says that,” Long said. “Definitely, it’s good to come in and have a good start. At the same time, I’m just trying to come in on a daily basis and work hard.
“It makes me feel good knowing they want me in the lineup and are doing whatever they need to do for that. I already told ‘em, whatever you tell me to do, I’ll do it. I just want to help the team win. That’s it.”