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Mariners part with two-time All-Star Lawton

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners granted Matt Lawton his wish
by designating him for assignment, ending a brief relationship
between the recently suspended outfielder and one of the few teams
willing to sign him last winter.

General manager Bill Bavasi said Lawton was pleased with
Saturday's move. The team now has 10 days to trade or release the
two-time All-Star outfielder, who had volunteered to be released
weeks ago while rarely playing for a last-place team.

Utility player Mike Morse was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to
take Lawton's roster spot.

Lawton was suspended for the first 10 days of the season after
testing positive last fall for a steroid while he was struggling
with the New York Yankees. Upon his return, Lawton appeared in only
11 games, going 7-for-27 (.259) with one RBI while sitting behind
corner outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez.

The Mariners were so uncomfortable with Lawton in center field
they recently started utility player Willie Bloomquist there to
replace the slumping Jeremy Reed.

Seattle signed Lawton to a one-year, $400,000 deal with a
limited no-trade clause last fall. Idling cost him up to a
potential $1.25 million in performance bonuses based on plate
appearances. Last season, he earned $7.5 million to finish a $27
million, four-year contract.

"In the offseason, he was looking for a chance to play and he
took just above the minimum to play," Bavasi said. "He wasn't
doing this for money; he was doing this for another chance to get
his career back on track after what happened last year in New
York."

The Mariners could send Lawton to the minor leagues after 10
days, but only with the 34-year-old's permission -- which he almost
certainly would not grant.

"Matt's a good player, a good major league player. It's just
where we're at right now," said manager Mike Hargrove, who
preferred another right-handed hitter on the bench instead of the
left-handed Lawton.

"We were just trying to make it work, and it became real
obvious it wasn't going to."

Lawton is a career .267 hitter with 138 home runs. He was an
All-Star in 2000 with Minnesota and 2004 with Cleveland. He made
his major league debut with the Twins in 1995 and remained with
them until 2001, when he was traded to the New York Mets. He also
played two seasons in Cleveland and last season for Pittsburgh, the
Chicago Cubs and Yankees.

Morse, 24, gives the Mariners the additional backup infielder
they needed.

They were forced to put Adrian Beltre and his sore left
hamstring back in the lineup Friday because Bloomquist had a sore
left hand. Bloomquist was hit by a pitch in a game on Thursday at
Oakland.

Morse played in 72 games for Seattle last season, his first in
the major leagues. He batted .278 with three home runs.

The Mariners also activated reliever Julio Mateo (shoulder
tendinitis) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander
Emiliano Fruto back to Tacoma.