Cairo's numbers don't measure his value
Utilityman gets job done off bench even if stats say otherwise
TORONTO -- If performance was always judged strictly on numbers, then it's likely Miguel Cairo would no longer have a place in the Major Leagues.
In 39 games this season, Seattle's utilityman has managed to hit just .218 (12-for-55) with seven RBIs. What little power the 13-year-veteran possessed earlier in his career has all but vanished as Cairo hasn't homered since July 28, 2005.
His span of 611 at-bats without a home run ranks as the second-longest streak in the Majors behind Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre (923).
But after listening to Mariners manager John McLaren rave about the 34-year-old, it becomes a little bit easier to understand where Cairo's true value lies. He can play all four infield positions as well as the corner outfield spots and regardless of where he's slotted into the lineup, McLaren knows what type of performance he's going to get.
"Stats are not what he's all about," McLaren said. "He has made plays defensively your best first baseman in the league would be hard to duplicate. He does the little things. Moves runners, he can squeeze, hit-and-run. I've always admired him."
Cairo displayed his defensive worth during Monday night's extra-innings victory over the Blue Jays. Cairo was brought in during the eighth inning to replace starting first baseman Richie Sexson and made his presence felt two frames later.
Clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th, Mariners closer J.J. Putz loaded the bases with nobody out. With the tying run 90 feet away, things looked bleak for Seattle.
That was until Cairo came up with a game-saving play off a scorching grounder from Toronto's Lyle Overbay. Cairo fielded the ground ball cleanly, threw home to get the forceout and then retreated to first to receive the throw from catcher Kenji Johjima to complete the double play and keep the Mariners' lead intact.
The fact that he was able to come into the game late and find a way to contribute to a Mariners victory didn't come as a surprise to his manager because that's the type of player Cairo is.
"Bench players, they have to more or less accept their roles, otherwise they are going to have a tough time," McLaren said of Cairo, who also drove home Monday's winning run on a suicide squeeze. "The guys who want to play every day and are on the bench are not usually happy.
"I think in Miguel's case, he knows he's not going to play a lot but he's always ready. He knows what it takes for him to prepare whenever he's needed."
Cairo's name wasn't penciled into the lineup for Wednesday's series finale against Toronto, but McLaren said prior to the game that he was looking for ways to get the super utilityman more action.
Gregor Chisholm is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.