The Seattle Mariners found a spark in their offense this season from somebody who formerly lit up pitchers at North Idaho College and Gonzaga.
Jason Bay, who was acquired by the Mariners this offseason, has taken advantage of frequent playing time due to injuries in the Mariners’ outfield.
The player from Trail, British Columbia, about a three and one-half hour drive from Coeur d’Alene, is hitting .279 with three home runs and an on base percentage of .375 in 23 games this season with his new club going into Sunday.
Bay’s batting average ranks second on the team among players who have played at least 23 games. Third baseman Kyle Seager leads the Mariners with a .292 average.
Bay is trying to resurrect his career after struggling the last few years offensively with the New York Mets.
Perhaps he feels more comfortable playing in the city he resides in the offseason instead of playing on the East Coast.
Bay has spent almost his entire professional career in the East except for a brief stint with the San Diego Padres in 2003.
Whatever the reason for his recent success, hopefully it continues because he may be taken out of the lineup before he even hits a cold spell.
He did not play in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Saunders, Michael Morse and Endy Chavez filled the outfield for the Mariners.
The lineup will probably scramble again once Franklin Gutierrez returns from the disabled list.
When Gutierrez comes back healthy, I’m guessing one of the outfielders, either Saunders, also from British Columbia, Chavez or Bay will have to take a back seat. Morse’s job should be safe not only because he carries a multi-million dollar salary but he is hitting like he deserves every cent of that money, leading the team in home runs and second with RBIs going into Sunday’s game against Toronto.
Saunders’ offensive numbers are a little better than Bay’s and he is probably a little better defensively also than the former NIC Cardinal, so his playing time may continue while Bay may find himself riding the pine.
Saunders may be finding his swing also after hitting two home runs Saturday.
Saunders is also eight years younger than Bay so I think Seattle will try to keep Saunders in the lineup more so he can gain experience and develop confidence in his game.
Bay has proven he can maintain his consistent hitting based on his college and pro numbers if the Mariners ever do require his bat because of injuries or poor performances by the starting outfielders.
After all, in recent years Seattle has been in the bottom half of the league in run-producing.
In 2005 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bay hit .306 with 32 home runs and 101 RBIs.
Bay earned the National League Rookie of the Year in 2004 and is a three-time all-star.
Chances are Bay will never return to those numbers again, but the fact that he had great seasons like that with the Pirates and averages almost 20 home runs and 68 RBIs a season makes a manager feel comfortable if one of his starting outfielders goes down with an injury.
Although Bay is growing older, maybe he can surprise everybody and transfer his performances at NIC to Safeco Field in Seattle.