M's Liddi Hopes To Make Italy Proud





PEORIA, Ariz. — It's been half a century since anyone born in Italy stepped on the field as a major league player.

That drought could be close to ending.

Third baseman Alex Liddi, a product of the Mariners' far-reaching international scouting system, hit .281/.353/.476 with 15 homers and a Southern League-leading 92 RBIs at Double-A West Tenn last year.

He's likely to start the 2011 season at Triple-A Tacoma, so it's reasonable to think he could be in the big leagues by season's end.

"I would never rule something like that out,'' Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "And when you are talking about Alex Liddi in particular, this is someone who has been making good impressions already."

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound third baseman has been playing the game almost since he could pick up a bat, thanks to his father Augustin, who played baseball when he was younger, and who taught his son the game. His mother Flavia played softball at a high level, too, and that helped push young Alex to baseball.

Liddi seems as driven as any player in the Mariners system. While many of the younger members of the organization tend to gravitate to the Peoria area to work out during the winter, Liddi returns home to Italy. But he spends only weekends at his family's home in San Remo. During the week he's four hours southeast of home.

"Major League Baseball has an academy outside Pisa, and I'm there Monday through Friday," Liddi said. "It would be nice to be closer to home, but it's the only place where you can work out and get very baseball-type workout and be with the trainers and coaches baseball brings over there.

"I know I have a lot to learn before I can be in the major leagues, so I want to make sure I'm as ready as I can be."

MARINADE

• Righthander Jose Flores, the club's major league Rule 5 draft pick from Cleveland, will get a long look this spring. "You've got to get him comfortable,'' Wedge said. "You've got to show more patience than with most guys and give him as much time as you can before making a decision.''

• Matt Tuiasosopo is going to get most of his playing time this spring at first base and third base. The Mariners aren't ruling out the other positions he plays—a little left field and middle infield—but the corners are where he seems to be the best fit in his battle to make the roster.