PEORIA, Ariz. Rookie Jeremy Reed of the Seattle Mariners realizes the opportunity of a lifetime is waiting.
If all goes as expected, Reed, who played for the Peninsula Oilers in 2000, will be Seattle's starting center fielder and will bat second in the lineup after Ichiro Suzuki and before the team's $114 million free-agent tandem of Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson.
''It's definitely a confidence builder,'' Reed, 23, said Monday. ''I hear it. I'm doing everything I possibly can to give myself the best opportunity to do that. I came here to show them I'm capable of doing that.''
In his fourth season of professional baseball, Reed has arrived in the big time. He was acquired by the Mariners last June 27 in a trade that sent Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox.
Unless he flops badly in spring training, he is expected to be in center between Randy Winn, last season's center fielder for the Mariners, and All-Star right fielder Ichiro Suzuki when the new season opens April 4 in Seattle against Minnesota.
Reed hit .397 (23-for-58) with four doubles and five RBIs in 18 games for the Mariners after a September callup from Triple-A Tacoma. In 61 games at Tacoma after the Garcia trade, he hit .305 with 10 doubles, five triples, five homers and 36 RBIs.
New manager Mike Hargrove won't come out and say Reed is his starting center fielder, but he won't say he isn't, either.
''Everything that I've seen from Jeremy, how he carries himself, how he goes about his business, the way he interacts with the coaching staff and his teammates, if he does make the club, which we're wanting him to do, and he is our center fielder, he will do a fine job,'' Hargrove said Monday. ''He'll be able to handle it.''
The trade between the Mariners and the White Sox also brought Seattle Miguel Olivo, who is expected to be its No. 1 catcher this season, and sent catcher Ben Davis to Chicago.
Reed, a second-round draft choice of the White Sox in 2002, was playing at Triple-A Charlotte when the trade was made. In 73 games, he was hitting .275 with 14 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 36 RBIs.
''I moved pretty fast in Chicago,'' he said. ''I felt good things were going to happen.''
Reed didn't want to leave all his buddies in the White Sox organization, but he looked at the trade as beneficial for his career. It turned out he was right.
After a 99-loss season, the Mariners decided Winn would be better in left than center because of his lack of a throwing arm, and Raul Ibanez, last season's left fielder for Seattle, would move to designated hitter.
Now, Seattle's starting job in center appears to be Reed's to lose.
''When I got up here last year, I felt great and I felt confident,'' he said. ''I was nervous at the beginning, but I kind of think that's how it is for everybody. Now, I can't wait.''
Reed thinks he's up to playing every day for the Mariners, both defensively and offensively.
''If I were to get the opportunity to play center and Randy was in left and Ichiro was in right, all that can do is help me be a better center fielder because those guys are such tremendous outfielders,'' he said.
As the Mariners' No. 2 hitter, he thinks he can get on base by drawing enough walks to be effective.
''I've really worked on cutting down on my strikeouts,'' he said. ''I'm not afraid to move a guy over if necessary and give myself up at any opportunity and let Adrian and Richie and Boonie (Bret Boone) and all these guys drive them in.''
New Mariners hitting coach Don Baylor said major league hitters will try to take advantage of Reed's inexperience.
''They always try to see if you know the strike zone,'' he said. ''They know once they get two strikes on a young guy, will he chase up in the strike zone? Now that everybody has a split finger, they'll throw that pitch in the dirt.''
Notes: Bucky Jacobsen's right knee is sore so the Mariners are going to cut down on his spring training workouts. Hargrove said Monday that Jacobsen, 29, will take batting practice every other day now instead of every day. He will ride an exercise bicycle to keep up his conditioning. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound DH had cartilage surgery on his right knee last Sept. 16. As a rookie with the Mariners last season, Jacobsen hit nine home runs and had 28 RBIs in 42 games after being called up from Tacoma, where he hit 26 homers and had 86 RBIs in 81 games last season. Jacobsen came to spring training hopeful of replacing the retired Edgar Martinez as Seattle's DH this season.
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