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Cirillo struggles in injury rehab assignment

Jeff Tully

Jeff Cirillo is suffering through his worst season in his

nearly-10-year major league baseball career.

Not only has the former Providence High and Seattle Mariner

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infielder struggled at the plate, Cirillo has also been battling

nagging injuries that has limited his playing time.

For the first time since breaking in with the Milwaukee Brewers in

1994, Cirillo, 33, was sent to the minor leagues to rehab an injury.

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Cirillo was on the 15-day disabled list since July 24 with a sore

right shoulder and his 20-day minor-league rehab ended Sunday.

Unless Cirillo had an objection, the Mariners were obligated to

activate him -- which they did Tuesday. According the basic agreement

between the MLB players and the owners, a player must be activated

after a 20-day period unless he agrees to an extension.

During his rehab, Cirillo has also not hit well in the minor

leagues. His stint started with Peoria, the Mariners’ rookie club,

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moved to the Inland Empire 66ers of the single-A California League

and ended at triple-A Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.

Cirillo’s road to recovery hit a bump Aug. 13 when he strained a

muscle in his left side. He was thought to be close to a return to

the Mariners when he suffered his most recent injury.

After getting treatment for three days, he resumed his rehab

assignment Saturday night as a designated hitter and hit a home run

in Tacoma’s 8-6 victory against the Nashville Sounds.

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The home run looks to be the highlight of Cirillo’s

less-than-stellar minor-league stint. After going one for three in

Saturday’s game, Cirillo was four for 13 with six runs scored and

three runs batted in for the Rainiers.

Playing for the 66ers, the third baseman was just three for 15

with an RBI in five games.

Before suffering his injuries, Cirillo wasn’t hitting well playing

for Seattle. Cirillo -- a .311 career hitter before being traded to

Seattle two years ago -- was batting .210 with 52 hits, 24 runs

scored, 22 RBI, 24 walks and 11 doubles in 82 games.

Last season, Cirillo also had his problems offensively, ending the

season with a .249 average.

Cirillo has been working on mechanical changes in his swing and

stance the past two seasons. He was working with Mariners’ hitting

coach Lamar Johnson to work out the kinks when he was injured.

Although he struggled at the plate in 2002, Cirillo had a fine

defensive season. He led American League third basemen with a .973

fielding percentage and had nine errors in 338 total chances.

In April 2002, 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

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.

Cirillo was a standout at Providence in the late-1980s before

going on to star as a pitcher at USC.


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