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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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June 14, 2007 11:06 AM

The Julio Mateo question

Posted by Geoff Baker

WEAVER ALERT: Before continuing to our regularly scheduled blog, we bring you this Jeff Weaver sighting so you can all get indoors and hide the children. Chicago scored three runs off him in the first inning on two triples (yes, two), a double and a line drive single. The three outs came on a line drive to left, a fly ball to left and a popout. Yeah, he got the popout. So, it's 3-0 Cubs after one. Let's see if this continues, or whether he can settle in as he did last game. On to the regular blog post...


Good morning to you all, though it's already a lovely afternoon here at breezy Wrigley Field. Jeff Weaver will try to show what he's got once again this afternoon and hopefully, for his team's sake, his back holds out longer than four innings this time. The Mariners actually flew Ryan Feierabend in here this morning. He's probably going to fly right back out. The team was worried it might have to burn the bullpen in Miguel Batista's start last night and wanted another arm here just in case. Problem is, to get Feierabend here for a day game required having him catch a flight to Chicago last night -- before the outcome of Batitsa's start was known. So, Feierabend arrived today, was told the bullpen was fine since only Jake Woods pitched last night, and that there was no need to activate him.

Which brings us to the subject of Julio Mateo, pitching very well for Class AAA Tacoma, at 1-1 with a 2.45 earned run average and an 0.91 walks-plus-hits-to-innings-pitched ratio. Seattle needs more pitching and Mateo clearly belongs in the majors. You might not like his efforts on the mound all the time but he's higher in the pecking order than some guys already here (think Sean Green and Jon Huber).

So, here's the scoop:

Mateo has a court date in New York City tomorrow to deal with the assault charges filed against him. Remember, his wife was assaulted at the team's Manhattan hotel last month. Mateo was charged with third degree assault. He has apologized publicly but still faces up to a year in prison (though chances are any punishment would be substantially less as a first-time offender who has undergone counselling).

The team is awaiting the outcome of the criminal case.

"He isn't going to have any problems down there,'' GM Bill Bavasi said of Mateo's pitching numbers in the minors. "We know he can pitch."

So, when does he get to Seattle?

"Don't know,'' Bavasi said, shaking his head and staring off in the distance.

Just because the criminal case is pending, doesn't mean Mateo's status is dormant in Seattle's clubhouse. Players have already gone ahead and held team meetings on the matter in recent days, having been told by the front office that they should decide whether or not they want Mateo back. Some players do and some don't. There has been a lot of talking going on behind clubhouse doors -- with impassioned stances from both sides of the argument -- and when it's all done, there will be no unanimous verdict forthcoming from that group.

The final say, however, even if the players do want him back, will come from Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln. There has been some pressure exerted on the team from outside forces not to bring Mateo back -- to make a statement of sorts by saying "not in our organization."

But there have also been teams who hang on to players accused of assaulting their spouses. Think about the Philadelphia Phillies and Brett Myers. The Phils are probably very happy they didn't let him go (Myers had the charges dropped when his wife refused to testify against him).

Then, there's this guy from the Devil Rays. Straight out of central casting for what not to do if you want to stick with a baseball team. Still, the D-Rays cling to him for dear life in the face of tremendous, mounting public criticism. They already got burned on Josh Hamilton, don't forget. They can't afford to be set back years by yet another top draft pick gone wrong. It isn't easy taking a public stand. No, Mateo is not a top-rounder like Elijah Dukes. Nor a top closer like Brett Myers. But he is a healthy arm on a team that desperately needs major league caliber pitching in an exhausted bullpen.

Whatever call is made, it will not be an easy one. Either in the clubhouse amongst the players, or outside of it by Lincoln.

So, that's it for now. Before the game, one more matter to bring up. Sean Burroughs has been released from his minor league contract by the Mariners. Gone fishing so to speak. Now, there was a move with a potential for upside that wound up going absolutely nowhere. Burroughs seems, to me, like a guy who really doesn't want to play baseball for a living.

The lineups:

CHICAGO

LF Rafael Soriano
CF Felix Pie
1B Derrek Lee
RF Cliff Floyd
3B Mark DeRosa
2B Mike Fontenot
C Koyie Hill
SS Cesar Izturis
RHP Jason Marquis

SEATTLE

CF Ichiro
2B Jose Lopez
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Willie Bloomquist
C Jamie Burke
RHP Jeff Weaver

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