Mariners cut ex-Gator Wilkerson
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 11:58 p.m.
SEATTLE — Ex-Gator right fielder Brad Wilkerson and pinch-hitter Greg Norton were cut Wednesday by the Seattle Mariners, who promoted catching prospect Jeff Clement and power-hitting outfielder Wladimir Balentien from Triple-A Tacoma.
Following Tuesday night’s 7-2 win over Cleveland, Mariners manager John McLaren suggested changes were imminent.
‘‘It was time,’’ he said before Wednesday night’s game. ‘‘We haven’t had much going. We felt it was time to bring new blood in. I’m anxious to see these kids play.’’
Wilkerson signed a $3 million, one-year contract and was batting .232 with five RBIs in 19 games. He had been sidelined by a hamstring injury, but started in right field Tuesday, going 3-for-3 with a walk.
‘‘We had already made our decision,’’ McLaren said when asked if Wilkerson’s hot night created any second thoughts about the move.
Norton, who made $550,000, was 7-for-16 (.438) in six games. The team has 10 days to trade Wilkerson and Norton, release them or assign them outright to the minor leagues.
The 23-year-old Balentien hit three home runs Monday night for Tacoma, his second game back after missing more than a week with a bruised left knee. The 2007 Pacific Coast League rookie of the year was hitting .254 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A. Balentien made his major league debut last season as one of Seattle’s September callups. He was in the lineup Wednesday night and will play on a regular basis.
‘‘He’s the right fielder,’’ McLaren said.
The 24-year-old Clement was taken by Seattle with the third pick overall in the 2005 amateur draft. He was batting .397 with eight doubles, five homers and 20 RBIs in 23 games with Tacoma.
Clement had 20 homers and 80 RBIs last season with Tacoma, and also made his major league debut last September. He is likely to replace struggling Jose Vidro as the designated hitter in the coming weeks.
‘‘Jeff’s going to get his at-bats,’’ McLaren said.
Vidro, who started at DH Wednesday night, entered with a .209 average, two homers, 18 RBIs and a .270 on-base percentage. McLaren said Vidro would get playing time at DH, first base and second base. The 33-year-old could become a free agent after this season.
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