In his first at-bat, on his first pitch seen in the Majors this season, Franklin ripped a triple. He hit it off of Yu Darvish, the guy who finished second to Max Scherzer in the Cy Young voting in 2013.
During his short stint in Triple-A Tacoma to start the year, Franklin went 9-19 with 3 HR. Not too shabby.
Since the Mariners didn’t trade him during the offseason or during Spring Training, Nick Franklin remains a Mariner. And now, with an injury to first baseman/DH/right fielder Logan Morrison, Nick has an opportunity to earn a long-term spot on the team with his bat. The question that now needs to be asked: where will he play?
In his time as a 2013 regular, Franklin played second base (after having taken over for demoted Dustin Ackley). On occasion he would play shortstop. He is also capable of playing a little third base– the transition from shortstop to third is fairly common in the baseball world.
News also broke during Spring Training that Nick was doing routine route running and footwork drills with outfield coach Andy Van Slyke. Bob Dutton, sportswriter for the Tacoma News Tribune, tweeted Franklin’s response to potentially playing in the outfield:
Nick Franklin on possibility of OF duty: “I’m really comfortable in the outfield. It’s a lot easier than the infield, that’s for sure.”
— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) April 16, 2014
Franklin has a confidence and swagger that seems to be back and raring to play. At the end of last season he had lost that edge that made him so competitive and so successful.
As of today, he is just too good to keep out of the Mariners lineup, especially as anemic as it has been since the first series in Anaheim. In his first day with the team he was the DH.
He can capably play second base to give Robinson Cano a day off or at least a day exclusively DH’ing. He can play shortstop if Brad Miller struggles or needs a day off. He can play third too if Kyle Seager can’t dig himself out of this slump.
But I think Franklin is most likely to end up playing right field with regularity. Neither Michael Saunders nor Stefen Romero has declared themselves the right fielder. Neither has shown up warranting being in the lineup six games a week. If Franklin keeps hitting it will be hard not to play him every single day. Especially since he can switch hit.
He could also play left field, though Ackley looks to be one of the Mariners top three hitters so far this season– with Cano and catcher Mike Zunino.
When you get down to the most basic thing– winning baseball games– Franklin needs to be out there playing. He provides a bat with serious pop. And he would be an upgrade offensively at a number of positions, even if there is more to be desired defensively.
The Mariners should be thanking their lucky stars they didn’t trade Nick Franklin. He is a gamer, and with his swagger back, look for him to stay in a Mariners uniform for the rest of the season.
Welcome back Nick, we are happy to have you and your bat. Feel free to knock the cover off the ball as often as you’d like.