SEATTLE -- Slugger Richie Sexson was finally released Thursday by the Mariners after a slump that lasted for most of two seasons and made him a target of constant booing from frustrated Seattle fans.
The Mariners would have loved to have been able to trade Sexson, but his $14 million salary this season made that nearly impossible. So now Seattle is eating the rest of that money -- $6,120,219 Sexson is owed from Friday through the end of the season -- in what may be the first of multiple moves to rid the last-place team of underperforming veteran players.
That amount would be reduced by a prorated share of the $390,000 minimum salary if Sexson signs with another team.
"I think we gave Richie a lot of rope ... and there just wasn't enough improvement," said Mariners interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas.
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman told the media on Thursday that if he believed Sexson could handle having less playing time, he would not have been in favor of the trade. But with the team having faced leadership issues this season, Riggleman could not let Sexson's "down in the dumps" attitude go on.
"Look, I've been managing here for 19 days," Riggleman said, according to the Seattle Times. "I've sat him twice and seen the same reaction both times. It wasn't going to work.
"Richie is an everyday player. He's been an everyday player for a long time and he's earned the right to come to the ballpark and not to have to wonder whether he's going to be in the lineup. He needs to play, or go somewhere else where he's going to play every day."
The Mariners, with a payroll of $117 million, expected to reach their first postseason since 2001. Instead they entered Thursday's game at Oakland at 36-55, 18 games out in the AL West. Seattle has already fired general manager Bill Bavasi plus manager John McLaren and remains on track to become the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games.
The Mariners also placed Opening Day starter Erik Bedard on the 15-day disabled list with stiffness in his left shoulder. The move, retroactive to July 5, means Bedard will be eligible to return on July 20 -- and will miss some chances to be showcased for teams interested in possibly trading for him before the July 31 deadline for deals without waivers. Bedard has just six wins in 15 starts and has not pitched since going five innings on July 4, extending his trend of not being able to pitch deep into games.
To fill the roster spots of Bedard and Sexson, Seattle recalled right-hander Jared Wells and selected the contract of infielder Tug Hulett from Triple-A Tacoma.
The Mariners aren't done making moves, either. With right-hander Felix Hernandez scheduled to come off the disabled list and pitch in Kansas City on Friday, the team has to create an opening on the roster. Most likely it will be a pitcher who is moved, as Riggleman noted after Thursday's 3-2 loss to the A's.
"We've got to break down the pitching and see what we have, who's available," Riggleman said.
Sexson, a 33-year-old native of Brush Prairie, Wash., was batting .218 with just 30 RBIs in 74 games and has often been benched in favor of light-hitting and seldom-used Miguel Cairo. McLaren, on his way out last month, said Sexson was trying too hard and that a change of teams would probably be best for his sagging career.
Willie Bloomquist, Seattle's utility player and a close friend of Sexson's, agreed.
"He had to go through a lot of stuff that a lot of other people don't have to," Bloomquist said. "He showed up to play every day and played hard. It seemed more often than not the ball didn't bounce his way ... but my hat's off to him the way he kept his composure and played hard. Someone's going to snag him up and I hope he takes off and does real well."
Even during his 39- and 34-home run seasons for the Mariners in 2005 and '06, Sexson wasn't embraced by Seattle fans since arriving from Arizona with a four-year, $50 million contract on Dec. 15, 2004. Two days later, Adrian Beltre signed to overshadow Sexson.
Then came last season.
He hit a career-worst .205 with 21 homers and 100 strikeouts in '07, which ended with the Mariners mercifully shutting him down for the final weeks of September with a relatively minor leg injury.
He had the lowest on-base percentage (.295) of his career. His batting average was the lowest in the major leagues among those with at least 312 at bats. That would be fine with Seattle -- he has always been a slugger, not a hitter for average -- except Sexson's run production was also a career low for a full season not cut short by major injury.
This season brought more of the same. As of late last month, he had the lowest batting average of all regulars in the AL since the beginning of the '07 season.
Bloomquist hopes the rest of his teammates don't start looking over their shoulders waiting for management to make another move.
"In this business you can't worry about what's going to happen tomorrow or yesterday," Bloomquist said. "If you get caught up in who's going to be next or what's going to happen next, you're not going to play your best baseball. What's going to happen is going to happen. That's out of our control. The only thing we can control is to prepare and play."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.