Chone Figgins will serve as Mariners third baseman, leadoff hitter

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UPDATE: Eric Wedge confirmed the news today, stating that the Mariners would move Ichiro into the third spot in the order and try Figgins at leadoff. Check back later for the Mariners edition of “Running down the rosters” for a guess at the full lineup.

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And why shouldn’t he be? He hit .188 last year.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times believes the Mariners will soon name Figgins their leadoff man, with Ichiro Suzuki moving down in the order. The Ichiro move is something that’s been hinted at all winter, and FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal recently indicated that Figgins was the likely replacement.

Figgins’ position in the field won’t be quite as set, but he’s not so concerned about that, as long as he’s penciled in regularly.

“Like I told them ‘I’m going to be ready for wherever you play me in the lineup, as long as you play me every day’,” he told the Times. “That’s something I care about.”

It’s hard to believe Figgins has the gumption to make such a statement, as terrible as he’s been in his two years with the Mariners. He went from hitting .298/.395/.394 in his final year with the Angels to .259/.340/.306 in 2010 and .188/.241/.243 last year. By any measure, he rated as one of baseball’s worst players last season, and he collected $9 million in the process. The Mariners owe him another $17 million over the next two years.

Obviously, the Mariners’ decision to restore him to everyday status is financially motivated. In a fair world, Kyle Seager would have every chance to beat him out for the third-base job this spring. At 34, Figgins isn’t necessarily too old to bounce back. But at this point, he should have to earn his spot, not have it handed to him along with his millions.

That doesn’t seem to be the plan at the moment, though. Figgins will see some time in the outfield this spring, but third base is where he’s expected to play most of the time. Seager may well be Triple-A bound unless he forces the Mariners to carry him as a part-timer with a big month of March.

Video: Jared Hoying gets shaken up after making a catch at the wall

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Rangers’ center fielder Jared Hoying put everything on the line to make a spectacular catch at the wall on Saturday, saving a run during the team’s eventual 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays. In the fifth inning, Kevin Pillar crushed a ball off of Yu Darvish, sending it 393 feet to the warning track in center field. It took Hoying 5.4 seconds to reach the ball, gloving it just before he crashed into the wall at full speed.

The center fielder was down on the field for several seconds and looked to be in considerable pain, drawing the attention of the Rangers’ training staff while he caught his breath. Postgame reports revealed that Hoying had not sustained any major or minor injuries during the crash, but simply needed time to recover after having the wind knocked out of him. He stayed in the game through the seventh inning and was able to field another two fly balls with little trouble, neither of them quite as dramatic as Pillar’s attempted hit off the wall.

With the loss, the Rangers now sit 9.5 games back of the division lead.

Former U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning dies at age 85

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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame right-handed pitcher and former U.S. Senator, died on Friday at age 85. He suffered a stroke in October 2016 and was in hospice care when he died, according to former Senate chief of staff Jon Deuser.

Bunning rose to prominence in Major League Baseball during his first full season with the Tigers in 1957, recording 14 complete games and a league-leading 20 wins. The following year, Bunning pitched his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox, just the fourth no-hitter in franchise history. During his first season with the Phillies in 1964, Bunning followed up his no-hitter with a perfect game against the Mets, marking the first National League perfecto in the 20th century. By the time he retired in 1971, he boasted seven All-Star nominations, 2,855 strikeouts (maintaining his second-place ranking on the all-time strikeout list from 1967-1971) and a 224-184 record over 17 seasons.

Following a storied major league career, Bunning entered politics at age 46, serving 12 years in the House and eventually getting elected to the Senate at age 67, where he served two terms. The Republican senator was famously outspoken for his opposition to steroids in baseball, illegal immigration and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other issues, and drew criticism within his party for his ornery nature and controversial statements. He declined to run for a third term in 2010, citing a lack of financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and choosing instead to throw his weight behind fellow candidate Rand Paul.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement following news of Bunning’s death on Saturday:

Jim Bunning led an extraordinary life in the National Pastime and in public service.  He was a consistent winner and workhorse pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

“In his baseball career, Jim was proud of always taking the ball.  The work ethic that made him a Hall of Famer led him to the House of Representatives and the United Stated Senate.  He served the state of Kentucky for more than two decades and became the only Hall of Famer ever to serve in Congress.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Senator Bunning’s family, friends, constituents and the many fans who admired his career in our game.