BY John Hickey 06:27PM 04/22/2011

Figgins cold, but not repeating 2010 mistake

Seattle 3B keeping his swing the way he wants it, instead of tinkering

Mariner third baseman Chone Figgins is trying to stay the course with his swing and wait for the hits to come. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

There may be no one in a Mariners uniform pressing harder than Chone Figgins.

The third baseman got off to a horrible start in 2010 and it took a great second half just to make his final numbers look mediocre — .259, 63 runs, 42 steals.

He’s gotten off to a terrible start in 2011, too, with a .169 average, seven runs and two steals.

There may be better news ahead, however. If you watched the Mariners’ series in Kansas City last weekend, you saw Figgins driving the ball with considerably more force than at any time since the best part of the last two months of the 2010 season.

The Seattle third baseman was just 2-for-18 in the series but he could have had as many as six hits with any kind of luck that wasn’t bad.

The thing is, Figgins didn’t do what he did last year when he’d hit the ball hard. He didn’t come up the next at bat and attempt to hit the ball through the outfield wall.

The result Tuesday night was three hits, three runs scoring and, in combination with right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, the kind of top-of-the-order production that the Mariners could use as a building block toward a representative offense.

But there was slippage, at least in terms of results, Wednesday and Thursday, a cumulative 0-for-7, so his batting average entering Friday’s game against Oakland remained far south of .200.

“The good part about it is that I’m swinging the bat the way I know I should,’’ Figgins said, “and I’m not out there changing what I should be doing.’’

That’s what extended Figgins’ problems in his first year in Seattle in 2010. On April 20 a year ago, Figgins was actually just above .200, at .204, but he was on a slide down from .250 that wouldn’t bottom out until the middle of May, when he was down to .185. It wasn’t until May 30 that he was above 200 to stay, but the hole he’d dug by that time was so deep that his improved second half was scarcely a footnote in the Mariners’ 101- loss season.

He tried this and that at the plate, and nothing seemed quite right. The difference now is that, despite the slump, he’s attacking the ball better than he did at this time a year ago. And the difference is the future hasn’t been written. He’s still got a chance to be a better version of himself at the plate.

The Mariners need that. And if they don’t get it, they need to know that they’re not going to get the kind of production from Figgins they’d hoped for two winters ago when they signed him for four years and $36 million.

If that’s the case, it’ll be time to start shopping him around, perhaps eating part of the contract in order to let both sides move on with their lives.

The thing is, the Mariners don’t have better options in the minor leagues right now, so they very badly want Figgins to be the play they think he should be, at least until Matt Mangini and/or Alex Liddi or some yet-to-be determined third baseman forces his way onto the big league club.

And Figgins wants to be here. He wants to fix what’s wrong and move on.

And for now, given as hard has he has been driving the ball lately, the fix is to keep driving the ball hard and wait for the ball to find the holes in the defense.

Much better than to tinker and fuss to the point where he’s opening up holes in the swing.

Now if some hit could enter the equation, Figgins and the Mariners both might start breathing easier.

Twitter: @JHickey3


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