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Lee Tinsley will start in left field for Seattle on Opening Night

March 27, 1997

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) _ In an up-and-down career that has seen him traded and reacquired by two different major-league clubs, Lee Tinsley is looking forward to his biggest thrill in baseball.

On Opening Night in Seattle, the 28-year-old outfielder will start in left field against the New York Yankees. Two years ago, he started in center on Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox.

``This is going to be more exciting because I’m going back to Seattle, where I started,″ Tinsley said Wednesday. ``It’s going to be a great feeling.″

Tinsley, 28, a switch-hitter and a .249 career hitter, is in the opening lineup Tuesday night because the Mariners sent top minor league prospect Jose Cruz Jr. to Triple-A Tacoma this week. Cruz is regarded as Seattle’s left fielder of the future.

The Mariners plan to platoon Tinsley and Rich Amaral, who bats righthanded, in left. Cruz, 22, could rejoin the club this season if he gets off to a good start in Tacoma.

``It’s not going to take Jose long,″ Tinsley said.

Meanwhile, Tinsley, a solid defensive player, will be a key for the Mariners because he can play all three outfield positions. He can back up All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. in center and All-Star Jay Buhner in right.

``I’d like to get off to a good start and then have a good start the whole year,″ he said.

Tinsley will be coming home. He began his career in the majors in Seattle in 1993.

``When Opening Day comes, there’s a lot of electricity and a lot of excitement in the air,″ he said.

And a lot of expectations, too. The expectations never have been higher for the Mariners, who won the AL West two years ago and now think they have the pitching to go with the hitting to get into the World Series.

Even Tinsley is getting into the act.

``It’s something I envision all the time,″ he said.

Originally the 11th player picked in the 1987 draft by Oakland, Tinsley was traded to Cleveland in 1991 and then claimed on waivers by Seattle after the 1992 season. He spent most of the 1993 season at Triple-A Calgary and played in 11 games in Seattle before the Mariners traded him to Boston, where he spent two seasons.

Philadelphia acquired him in a trade for the 1996 season, but he hit only .135 in 31 games before being traded back to the Red Sox. The Mariners re-acquired him last November for minor-league left-hander Brent Iddon and will pay him $400,000 this season. That contrasts with Griffey’s $7.25 million salary this year.

Despite his many career setbacks, Tinsley has remained confident in his ability. He played in 100 games and got 341 at-bats in Boston in 1995 and hit .284 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs.

``I’ve never had any doubts I could play,″ he said. ``I still feel I can be a starter. I feel like I can contribute a lot.″

In his second go-round with the Mariners, he’s had a good spring, hitting .303 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 24 games. He’s enjoyed being reunited with some of his old teammates, especially Griffey. Griffey is from Cincinnati and Tinsley grew up near Louisville.

``I’ve known him since high school,″ he said. ``He’s improved a lot since ’93 and he can probably get even better. He can hit 60 home runs in a season. You never know. That’s the scary part about it.″

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