When the Seattle Mariners told their players today about the Safeco Field fences being moved in for 2013, the best reaction may have come from first baseman Justin Smoak.
“Can we do it tonight?” he asked.
The dimensions will be cozier if not quite hitter friendly next year, with GM Jack Zdurienck stated goal ‘to make the park fairer for everyone. The idea was that Seattle pitchers would accept and adjust, while Mariners hitters might feel that squaring up a ball would be enough.
“In April and May with the cool, damp air, we’ve all hit balls we thought were out,” said Michael Saunders, who has a career high 19 home runs this season. “How much will that change? I really have no idea.
“The big thing is if guys don’t go up there thinking ‘I’ve got to muscle one up to hit it out.’ Around the league, you see guys hitting 0-2 pitches out, but not because they’re trying to. When you swing normally, you hit the ball better than when you try and crush one.”
Felix Hernandez said moving the fences in didn’t bother him.
“If someone hits one against me, it would go out anyway,” he said. “I don’t give up cheap home runs. If it’s better for my teammates, I’m for it. It makes me want to hit here.
“I’ve had teammates who hated this ball park, who thought it was way too big. When Adrian (Beltre) played here, he used to get so pissed. I have to think it will help us.”
When a committee studied the past few years – they didn’t look at 2012 numbers – assistant GM Jeff Kingston said the fences in center and left center field made the most difference on fly balls.
“We came up with between 30-40 home runs a season difference, for both teams combined,” Kingston said. “When we looked at the ’09 season, for instance, Franklin Gutierrez was really hurt by the park. We figured he’d lost five home runs that season.”
Gutierrez perked up when he heard that.
“Does that mean I get them back?” he deadpanned. “I know it’s frustrating to hit one to the deepest part of the park here now, so we’ll see it it works.”
Kingston said one of the challenges was to adjust the fences without changing the look of the ball park. Rounding off the outfield, for instance, was a no-go from the start.
With the fences still in place tonight, Hisashi Iwakuma will start against the Angels RHP Dan Haren. Here’s the Seattle lineup:
Dustin Ackley 2B
Casper Wells RF
Kyle Seager 3B
John Jaso C
Justin Smoak 1B
Jesus Montero DH
Michael Saunders CF
Trayvon Robinson LF
Munenori Kawasaki SS
Hisashi Iwakuma RHP