Eric Wedge gives Chone Figgins a couple days off to regroup

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Mariners manager Eric Wedge has finally decided to put the struggling Chone Figgins out of his misery.

At least for a little while.

According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Figgins will get the next couple of days off in order to clear his head. Luis Rodriguez will make the start at third base tonight against the Orioles, though Wedge was quick to mention that this is not a permanent change.

“I’m going to give Chone a couple of days just to get him away from it a little bit,” Wedge said. “Obviously I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about him and a few of the other guys, too. We’re looking to navigate through this the best way we feel like (we can) to get him back on track as quick as possible.”

Figgins is batting .190/.232/.256  hitless over 209 plate appearances this season and is hitless over his last 22 at-bats dating back to May 23. The 33-year-old is two years removed from leading the American League in walks, but is currently drawing walks at a career-low rate of 5.3 percent. Meanwhile, he is just 7-for-12 in stolen base attempts. His line drive percentage has dropped sharply over the past two seasons, so his current batting average isn’t just a matter of bad luck. There’s a real chance we’re watching his decline.

The Mariners signed Figgins to a four-year, $36 million contract in December of 2009. He is still guaranteed $9 million in 2012 and $8 million in 2013.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉