BURBANK -- It was a strange 2002 season for major-league- baseball
player Jeff Cirillo.
Although the former Providence High star enjoyed his finest season
as a pro at third base, Cirillo’s offensive numbers dipped and he had
one of his worst hitting seasons of his career.
With the 2003 campaign getting underway Tuesday, Cirillo, 33, is
likely looking to put it all together this season, and hopefully lead
the Seattle Mariners to the World Series.
Cirillo provided Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base last
season, but was overlooked for the fielding award, as it went instead
to the Oakland Athletics’ Eric Chavez. Cirillo led American League
third basemen with a .973 fielding percentage and had nine errors in
338 total chances.
In April, he tied the major-league baseball record for consecutive
games played at third base without an error (99), sharing the feat
with John Wehner. However, he committed a fielding error on April 20
against the Texas Rangers to snap the streak.
Cirillo also finished just three chances shy of matching the
all-time record for most consecutive errorless chances by a third
baseman -- 261 from 1974 to 1975 by the Phillies’ Don Money.
A player who has hasn’t been slowed much by injuries throughout
his nine-year career, Cirillo suffered through some nagging problems
He missed two games in April after being hit in ear by a batted
ball during batting practice. The cut required three stitches. Along
with having to leave a game in May with a bruised right triceps
muscle after getting hit by pitch, he also jammed his ankle during a
game in August.
The injuries probably didn’t help Cirillo’s production at the
plate -- he had an 0-for-22 stretch in July -- as he batted .249 with
121 hits, 54 runs batted in, 31 walks, 20 doubles and six home runs
in 146 games.
It was his lowest average since his 1994 rookie season when he hit
.238 in 39 games.
The previous four seasons, Cirillo averaged .321 a year.
On the positive side, Cirillo tied for second in the league in
with 13 sacrifice bunts and was eighth with nine sacrifice flies.
Cirillo -- who was a standout pitcher at USC -- was a CIF Southern
Section Small Schools Player of the Year at Providence in 1986 and
1987. He helped lead the Pioneers to a Small Schools championship in