Mariners' Catricala Refocused For 2013

PEORIA, Ariz.—Last spring, all eyes in Mariners camp were on Vinnie Catricala.

He had exploded onto the scene in 2011, hitting a combined .349/.421/.601 with 101 runs, 77 extra-base hits and 106 RBIs in 521 at-bats combined between Double-A Jackson and high Class A High Desert.

The Mariners named him their minor league player of the year, and Catricala seemed to be on the fast track to the major leagues.

But 2012 turned out to be a disaster. Catricala struggled all season with Triple-A Tacoma, hitting just .229/.292/.348. He hit 10 homers, down from 25 the previous year, while his RBIs dropped to 60.

Catricala, a 10th-round pick by the Mariners in 2009 out of Hawaii, admits now that being so close to the major leagues played with his head.

"I just tried to do too many things, trying to make it happen," he said. "I felt like I was so close, I'm just going to make it happen. I just went the complete other way. It was a learning experience, definitely."

In fact, Catricala now believes, as he performs in his second major league camp, that his struggles will be a long-term benefit.

"I ended up learning a lot about myself and a lot about baseball," he said. "It was the first time I really struggled in pro ball. It put things in perspective—baseball's not everything.''

The Mariners still haven't settled on a position for Catricala, 24, who has been primarily a third baseman with time at first base and the outfield. Manager Eric Wedge said he believes the versatility will help Catricala rise to the major leagues more quickly.

"We still feel strong about Vinnie," Wedge said. "To have struggles at the minor league level, especially the upper minor league level, and to be able to learn from it, that's key."


Alex Liddi reported to camp 15 pounds lighter, down from 230 to 215, and ready to play third base, first base and outfield. He joined Italy for the World Baseball Classic and was slated to be the regular third baseman for Triple-A Tacoma. "He's in great shape," Wedge said. "Fantastic shape. He really worked hard this winter."

• One of the rookies in Mariners camp is their new play-by-play announcer, Aaron Goldsmith. The 29-year-old Goldsmith called the games of Triple-A Pawtucket last year after spending the previous two seasons as the voice of the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. "That was the most exciting spring training game I'll ever call," Goldsmith said after the Mariners' Cactus League opener against the Padres.