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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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February 29, 2008 12:05 PM

Opening Day (of the spring) game thread

Posted by Jose Romero

Yes, I know, it's still winter, especially back home! Wish you could all be here. It's 79 degrees at first pitch in Scottsdale.

Before we start the game thread, just want to thank those who sent in comments for the nice (and honest) welcome.

Bottom 1

There's the throw down to second base, and Erik Bedard is set to go. First pitch was a ball inside.
Bedard threw 9 strikes and 3 balls n the inning. It took him 9 pitches to retire leadoff hitter Rajai Davis on a ground out, but he needed only two pitches each on the next three hitters, one of whom (former Mariner Randy Winn) got a bloop single. No runs, one hit allowed.

Top 2
Tim Lincecum, the young phenom from UW who is the Giants' No. 1 starter, already looks like a kid out there. Now he's got a mop of hair coming out of his hat that makes him look even younger. The guy is dealing, though. He had Richie Sexson way off balance and got him to ground back toward the mound, though Sexson reached on a bad throw from Lincecum.

Bottom 2

Bedard ran into some serious trouble. He walked Aaron Rowand (the fifth place hitter) after a full count. Then former Mariner Rich Aurilia hit what should have been a double off the left field wall. Somehow, Rowand didn't go to third base even though Raul Ibanez couldn't find the ball for a moment.

Daniel Ortmeier drew a walk to load the bases. Then Bedard rallied to strike out Guillermo Rodriguez with a sharp offspeed pitch that was swung on and missed. The next hitter, ninth man Travis Denker, hit two deep foul balls and then smoked an 0-2 fastball up the middle for a base hit. That scored one run.

Davis hit a sacrifice fly on the first pitch. Kevin Frandsen lined the first pitch from Bedard to right field for a single to drive in another run, making it 3-0. Finally, Bedard got Winn to ground out to end the inning.

Bedard is out after 2 innings pitched. He allowed 4 hits, 3 runs (all earned), walked 2 and struck out 1. He threw 44 total pitches, 31 for strikes. The control was for the most part good, but he did get a couple of pitches up that cost him.

Bottom 4
The M's got a runner to second base when Ibanez singled and stole second, but he was left stranded.
Cha Seung Baek has relieved Bedard and given up only an infield hit in two innings as he starts his run for a roster spot in the bullpen.

Top 7

I was down in the Mariners clubhouse listening to and asking a couple of questions of Bedard, who was either none to thrilled to talk to the media (well, OK, that's a given) or just frustrated with his performance.
Bedard was quite short with reporters, but this didn't surprise me because I had heard and seen that isn't one to say much. At one point he even stopped and said, "This is too many questions."

Well, at least he talked after his outing.

So I missed a couple of innings but the Mariners are now down only 3-2 thanks to two walks and four stolen bases and a sacrifice fly in the sixth. The starters have been removed, Baek and Ryan Rowland-Smith have pitched, and now entering the game in the bottom of the seventh, LHP Jake Woods.

Top 8
It's bases loaded with one out, and Mike Morse delivers a base hit to center field. Two runs score, the M's take a 4-3 lead even though Morse gets a second RBI despite a misplay by the center fielder and he gets thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double.

Bottom 9

Sean Green comes on and closes out the Giants in the ninth, and the Mariners open the spring with a 5-3 win. After the game, manager John McLaren said he thought Bedard looked fine overall, and that the team is looking for him to get right by March 31 (Opening Day) and not throw shutouts every time.

"He knows exactly what he's doing out there," McLaren said. "He's not in shape yet and he's working his way into shape. I think this is a bigger deal than it should be because he's new...What I saw was fine. He's right on target.

"He shouldn't be judged on his first spring training game, for God's sake."

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February 29, 2008 8:08 AM

Today's starting lineup

Posted by Jose Romero

Hello Mariners fans (Saludos aficionados de los Marineros)...

So here I am filling in for the esteemed Geoff Baker, who has delighted us all with his insight and one-liners. After a one-day tutorial on how to step in for greatness, here I am in Peoria manning my post on the Mariners blog. All hands on deck.

I'll soon be on my way to Scottsdale, where the Mariners and SF Giants officially open the spring training schedule this afternoon. You all know that Erik Bedard is starting today, and isn't expected to throw more than 30 pitches. I'll fill everyone in as to Bedard's progress in a game thread this afternoon on the blog.

Manager John McLaren told reporters this morning that Bedard, while quiet and a reluctant star, is blending in well with teammates.

"He's a hard worker. Takes practice fielding drills," McLaren said. "I like to peel off and watch the PFP (pitcher fielding practice) and those guys have been competing. They have a little game among themselves and they have fun with it. They try to outdo the other group and it's good when your better pitchers set the standard. He's out there and he's trying to be the best he can. He's got a lot of pride in what he does. You like to see that."

McLaren had somewhat of an update on pitchers Chris Reitsma, Mark Lowe and Arthur Rhodes, who are all returning from arm surgeries:

"They've made real good progress. I think they are getting closer and closer... I know they are throwing the ball extremely well. I don't know if I want to say they are ahead of schedule, but they've left a nice impression with Mel, all of them, all three."

That being pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. None of the three are game-ready yet.

OK, last thing -- here's the M's starting lineup for Game One of Spring Training 2008:

1. Miguel Cairo 2B
2. Jeremy Reed CF
3. Raul Ibanez LF
4. Richie Sexson 1B
5. Greg Norton DH
6. Kenji Johjima C
7. Wladimir Balentien RF
8. Matt Tuiasosopo 3B
9. Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Bedard vs. Tim Lincecum, RHP (San Francisco)
Other M's scheduled pitchers (after Bedard departs):
RHP Cha Seung Baek, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP Jake Woods, RHP Sean Green, LHP Cesar Jimenez, LHP Philip Barzilla

That's all for now..I'll post again during the game.

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February 29, 2008 7:51 AM

Rest time

Posted by Geoff Baker

Good morning everyone. I know exactly what kind of morning it is in Seattle because that's where I am right now. It's my mid-spring training break, so I'll be taking a week or so off. This makes up for the lost vacation week when the whole Erik Bedard deal broke, so no need to be sending me emails asking about my health. Everything's great. For all of you conspiracy buffs, this has nothing to do with me railing against MLB for its video restrictions yesterday. It was all planned months ago. I'll be hopping on another plane later this afternoon and will actually be touching down in Maui Mariner's backyard for an hour or so before connecting onward to a nearby beach spot.

Unfortunately, when we drew up our coverage schedule back in December, we had no idea that today's contest would feature Erik Bedard against Tim Lincecum. Such is life. Come mid-August, you'll have a vague recollection that today actually existed and will probably be on to bigger and more meaningful games when it comes to your favorite team.

So, we thought we'd give our intrepid NFL beat writer, Jose Romero, a taste of what the baseball life is all about. He's a good writer, is perfectly fluent in Spanish and has some interesting stories he plans to do. He will also be filling in on the blog. I really do appreciate him helping us out. Please, be nice to him.

It's been a great spring so far. One of my most fun when it comes to coverage because of all the diversity of what we've been doing on a multi-media scale. I can't wait to get back and begin the countdown to the regular season. Keep on reading. Don't be afraid to flood Jose with comments and questions. Can't have him thinking this baseball gig is a cakewalk.

By the way, an interesting post by DMZ in USS Mariner yesterday about the impact of possible press fallout on teams as the reason for them being reluctant to sign Barry Bonds. For what it's worth, I agree with him. Not that the press is generating all the "Bonds as clubhouse cancer" stories out of thin air -- plenty of his ex-teammates have gone on-record in the book Love Me, Hate Me to discuss what Bonds is like in a clubhouse -- but that yes, any team signing Bonds would be in a heap of trouble. DMZ also brings up Buck Weaver as a bad dude. There's a pretty good historical debate about that one. Here was my story on Weaver from back in the 2005 World Series that the White Sox won. Enjoy.

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February 28, 2008 12:15 PM

Padres at Mariners: Open game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker


Here is another new feature for this season, an open game thread where you can discuss what's going on in the actual game itself. Try to keep the discussions on-point. I'll give you updates on the games here as well.

San Diego Padres (0-0):

14 Jeff DaVanon CF
13 Oscar Robles 2B
5 Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
23 Adrian Gonzalez 1B
28 Josh Bard C
33 Jody Gerut RF
16 Chase Headley LF
64 Chip Ambres DH
2 Luis Rodriguez SS

54 Tim Stauffer RHP

Other pitchers:
21 Heath Bell RHP
43 Cla Meredith RHP
51 Trevor Hoffman RHP
59 Jared Wells RHP
50 Joe Thatcher LHP
38 Glendon Rusch LHP
37 Mike Gardner RHP

Mariners (0-0):

51 Ichiro Suzuki CF
3 Jose Vidro DH
6 Brad Wilkerson RF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
39 Bryan LaHair 1B
12 Mike Morse LF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
15 Jamie Burke C
16 Willie Bloomquist SS

56 Jarrod Washburn LHP

Other Pitchers:

43 Miguel Batista RHP
41 R.A. Dickey RHP
59 Eric O'Flaherty LHP
35 Brandon Morrow RHP
46 Sean White RHP
31 Ryan Feierabend LHP

Continue reading this post ...

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February 28, 2008 12:05 PM

Sights and Sounds: Buhner, Johjima

Posted by Geoff Baker

We are operating under some new, MLB-imposed restrictions today, since the games are starting. We are only permitted to show you up to 120 seconds of video footage throughout the day. This isn't a surprise, since we've known about it from the first day of camp. It isn't aimed specifically at us, either, just a blanket rule covering all media blogs. So, if you've got a problem with it, contact the Mariners or Bud Selig at MLB headquarters and let them know what you think. Nothing I can do about it from here. They say it's to prevent live broadcasting, which their TV and radio partners have the rights to. I could understand that if we were actually carrying live play-by-play, but that's obviously not the case.

Frankly, I think it's a way to restrict competition. Not like is showing you individualized camp video footage, team-by-team, on a daily basis. I'm sure they're wondering: Why would you go to their site if another site is offering you something more? Good question, why would you? The thing with our site is, it's unfiltered by the teams and MLB. We don't have to worry about whether something is flattering to the team or players when we show or write it. So, I'm sure is going to start shooting its own videos for you any day now, right? Any day now folks...keep waiting...

Or, MLB can choose not to have do that extra work and simpy get around the problem by limiting the content and competitiveness of other sites. The American Way, I suppose? Hmmm. On second thought...that's not the version they taught me in my Canadian history books. The U.S. was much more competitive in those portrayals.

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. On with the show. Today, we've got Jay Buhner in his first day as a Mariners bench coach, watching Richie Sexson take bunting practice, then talking heavy-duty strategy with him afterwards.

The next clip is of Kenji Johjima in an indoor batting cage with consultant Lee Elia and translator Antony Suzuki. Johjima is working on driving the ball up the middle. Hear what Elia says to him at the end and watch the communication between the three.

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February 28, 2008 8:40 AM

Game Day

Posted by Geoff Baker

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After more than two weeks of stretching, limbering up and drills, we've got...well, we've got more of that going on this morning. But after that, my friends, after that, we've got a real live baseball game with two different uniforms. No intrasquad stuff. It's the Mariners versus the Padres in a charity game at Peoria Stadium. Up above, you see a shot of the facility as employees prepare to welcome crowds for the 12:05 p.m. (PST) start. Again, not sure how you can have an exhibition game in an exhibition league, but the Cactus League opener isn't until tomorrow in Scottsdale. But today is Seattle's "home'' opener. Sort of, since the Padres also share the stadium. What am I trying to say? I don't know. I guess, that this is the first game in which the venue should be about half full with M's fans.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 27, 2008 11:02 PM

Batista meets Kenny G

Posted by Geoff Baker


Told you all about this little meeting last night. Miguel Batista did indeed meet Seattle native Kenny G for 20 minutes Tuesday night before the musician played his concert at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix. The pair chatted in a private waiting area. A team representative snapped this picture for Batista to keep as a souvenir. Kenny G also whipped out his saxophone and stated taking requests from the pitcher.

"He played for me,'' Batista said. "It was my favorite song, 'Alone'. Now, I feel like I've had everything. I've talked pitching with Sandy Koufax, had Kenny G play for me. Maybe if I could have an interview with God, then I'd be served. I'd be complete.''

Batista began taking saxophone lessons in Seattle last year, inspired to learn the instruments after listening to Kenny G's music in the 1990s. The pitcher also attended a Kenny G concert last year in the Dominican city of Santo Domingo. What did they talk about? You'll have to read Thursday's paper to find out. But I can tell you Batista sat through the concert. At one point, as Kenny G was playing "Havana'' he walked down from the stage and mingled with the audience. He neared Batista's seat.

"Then he pauses from playing,'' Batista said. "And he goes 'Thanks guy, it was cool today.' ''

Even if some of you aren't big Kenny G fans, you have to like a story like that. Batista's one of the good guys who does a lot for others in need. He deserves it.

What's that about Jeremy Reed, you ask?

Continue reading this post ...

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February 27, 2008 1:40 PM

Sights and Sounds: Intrasquad game

Posted by Geoff Baker

Nothing like the sounds of bats cracking balls, leather mitts popping and umpires calling guys out on strikes. Well, except maybe Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs providing some commentary towards the end. We've got it all here for you. The first -- and only -- intrasquad game the Mariners will play this spring. Team Brown defeated Team Steinmann 2-1 in the six-inning affair.

You'll see lefty (or, we can try righty) Phillip Barzilla notching a called strikeout on Wladimir Balentien right at the top, then brushing back the next hitter, Charlton Jimerson, with a pitch high and inside. The very next offering gets drilled down the right field line by Jimerson for a double, but Barzilla gets out of it on a fly ball. Cesar Jimenez, vying for a spot as a late-inning left hander, tossed two scoreless innings for the victory. You'll see him giving up one of his two hits. He's wearing No. 62.

A few more hits seen along the way. Rizzs even has a beverage tip at the end.

Bronson Sardinha hit a solo home run off Brodie Downs in the fourth to open the scoring and give Team Steinmann its only run of the game.

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February 27, 2008 9:45 AM

Lots of running

Posted by Geoff Baker

intra 012.jpg

A shot, up above (updated at 10:55 a.m.) of today's intrasquad game, which is still going on. Scoreless in the third. That's Phillip Barzilla pitching to Mark Kiger, who ultimately grounds out (next page).

intra 010.jpg

Guest coach Rich Amaral is in camp this morning and he's going to be working on baserunning techniques with some of the regulars. The Mariners, as we've written before, want to be more aggressive on the basepaths this season. Manager John McLaren will spend a good part of the Cactus League identifying who those runners are that can benefit his club by running more.

"I don't want to just run to run,'' he said. "It defeats your purpose when you force things."

McLaren talked about wanting to grab an extra base in crucial situations late. We didn't see a whole lot of that last season from him and I asked him why. He gradually conceded that he was often reluctant to burn his speediest guy off the bench, Willie Bloomquist, because of his versatility. Was hesitant to use him too early, like in the seventh inning, let's say, when another situation could possibly come up in the ninth. That's all part of a manager feeling his way. But also, the presence of Miguel Cairo, a speedy guy, could take that problem away this year. Cairo and Bloomquist can both be used to steal late. So burning one would not negate a similar weapon later on. That's how McLaren sees it.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 26, 2008 10:10 PM

Kenny G. and Miggy B.

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just a quick note before retiring for the evening. Miguel Batista had a big night tonight. Some of you may remember this feature we ran on him last August, where he talked about learning to play the saxophone and how Kenny G. was his musical inspiration.

Well, guess who was playing in Phoenix tonight? Yes, none other than the G-Man himself. Seems Kenny G., a U-Dub alumn lest we forget, heard the news that Batista is a huge fan and learning to play his music. So, he invited him on down to the concert, where they were supposed to meet before he went on stage. Wonder if Batista got invited up on stage? I doubt it, but you never know. When I spoke to Batista about it, he wasn't planning on bringing his sax. Just on a handshake and a quick chit-chat.

"This is just like when I got to meet Sandy Koufax,'' Batista said, beaming. "I can't wait.

(Read our story from last summer if you want to know about the Koufax meeting.)

Continue reading this post ...

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February 26, 2008 12:58 PM

Sights and Sounds: pop quiz

Posted by Geoff Baker

Today's video segment features a pop-up drill with the infielders. You saw the basics of this drill back during our Fan Fest video. A machine is used to send towering pop-ups against a glaring blue sky. This is not an easy drill by any stretch. To make it tougher, coach Sam Perlozzo has the fielders stare down at their spikes at one point, then tells them when it's OK to look up. At that point, they have to spot the ball and make the catch. Remember, none of them know who the machine is pointing towards. So, no, that isn't a shot of Richie Sexson nodding off between pop-ups that you see. He's actually doing what he's supposed to in the drill.

Mariners guest coach Tony Phillips is the guy you'll hear with the cackling laughter in the background. Sort of like a wicked witch hyped up on caffeine. Phillips is a former infielder himself and got a real hoot out of standing next to me and watching this drill. Especially when Perlozzo had the infielders go down on one knee and close their eyes before asking them to react to the pop-ups. Phillips seemed particularly amused at watching Sexson and Jose Vidro racing after balls to the outfield. Who wouldn't be?

In all, it was quite entertaining. Hope you enjoy it.

The lineups have been set for tomorrow's intrasquad game.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 26, 2008 9:43 AM

He's got it, he's got it...

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Richie Sexson makes the catch during a rather interesting pop-up drill this morning. We'll have video on it later. The sun was out, so the catches were difficult. At one point, the infielders were forced to drop to one knee and close their eyes. They were only allowed to open them once the ball was in the air and no one knew whose turn it would be to make the catch. Down below, Jose Vidro has some trouble.

haircut 005.jpg

It's a short workout day here. The team has a golf tournament later this afternoon. Speaking of Barry Bonds...yes, I know that's a poor lead-in. But I'm amazed at just how much time has been devoted to this topic in the comments threads here and elsewhere. No, Bonds is not coming to Seattle.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 25, 2008 1:25 PM

Sights and Sounds: bunt contest

Posted by Geoff Baker

Many of you have written in saying how much you like the bunt drills. Well, the Mariners have a bunting contest going right now. Manager John McLaren has challenged his players to successfully bunt a series of pitches into two small circles positioned just in front of home plate and off to the left and right. Each player gets three rounds of 10 pitches. They have to push six balls out of 30 into the circles. Some high-end golf balls are at stake. It's not easy. The ground is very hard and the balls are tough to deaden.

And not all of the guys you'll see qualify as bunting experts. It starts with Adrian Beltre, then Richie Sexson. Later, you'll see McLaren, who wants some golf balls in a bad way, arguing with Yuniesky Betancourt. The chatty shortstop keeps pleading for a couple of practice rounds. McLaren finally relents, probably because Betancourt is a machine gun of a talker. Kenji Johjima, Jose Lopez and Ichiro also take turns bunting.

Betancourt nailed two bunts his first two times up, then no more. Raul Ibanez wound up winning the challenge today. Ichiro did it yesterday.

The video of players' haircuts didn't turn out any better than the photos. So, I left that out.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 25, 2008 9:39 AM

Bedard to start Cactus League opener

Posted by Geoff Baker

springdrills 019.jpg

Some of the Seattle pitchers were sporting close-cropped hair before today's workouts, part of being on the losing side of a bet made during fielding drills. Ryan Rowland-Smith has the worst do, a mullet hanging down the back of his head. J.J. Putz was on the winning side, but shaved his head down anyway. Hey, it's getting hot down here. You can see Putz and Jarrod Washburn (above) examining Rowland-Smith's peculiar clip. Down below, Mark Lowe is decisively less hairy.

springdrills 010.jpg

Not a huge news day here so far. At least, not after yesterday's announcement of the rest of the starting rotation slottings.

Mariners manager John McLaren did unveil the team's pitching schedule for both the exhibition charity game on Thursday against San Diego, then the Cactus League opener on Friday against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale.

We'll start with the charity game, since it's the one being played here in Peoria. That will see Washburn take the mound first, followed by Miguel Batista, R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Eric O'Flaherty. A pretty good complement of arms that could all be with the team on Opening Day. Erik Bedard will then start the "official" Cactus League opener (never understood how you could have exhibition games on an exhibition circuit, but I digress), followed by Cha Seung Baek, Rowland-Smith, Jake Woods and Sean Green.

So, remember folks. Bedard isn't pitching the home game. He starts on the road. Washburn starts here at Peoria Stadium. Got it?

Continue reading this post ...

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February 24, 2008 1:26 PM

Sights and Sounds: Jose Lopez

Posted by Geoff Baker

Lots of talk this spring about the work second baseman Jose Lopez needs to do to get his game back on-track. In fact, the Mariners even imported longtime major league firecracker Tony Phillips as a guest coach to help inject some spark into Lopez, primarily. Yuniesky Betancourt as well, but Lopez is the biggest project. Phillips isn't a miracle worker. But his job is to drill into Lopez that a major leaguer must bring his "A'' game and intensity level into each and every contest. So, Phillips and Lopez will be spending a lot of time together this spring. The clip starts off with Phillips hitting grounders to Lopez. Next, in an interesting series of clips, you'll see Lopez working on his bunting. He does not have an easy time of it. "That was practice!'' he says after missing a couple. "Now, we talk.''

In one series, Lopez goes 0-for-5 attempting to lay some bunts down to the left side of the plate. Phillips goes over to talk to him afterwards.

The next sequence sees the infielders turning double playes. Quite interesting to watch them in action and see the flow of how they quickly transfer the balls from glove to throwing hand. Almost like watching a symphony when you see it up close. You can hear third base coach Sam Perlozzo's voice throughout. He's the coach who'll work with the infielders this season. On the video, he's the guy hitting the ground balls. The fun part of this video is all the sounds you hear. The instruction from the coaches. The voices of the players. That's why we call it "Sights and Sounds".

Continue reading this post ...

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February 24, 2008 8:09 AM

Batista named the 5th starter

Posted by Geoff Baker

springdrills 021.jpg

It's official. What we've been telling you all week. Carlos Silva is the Mariners' No. 3 starter, followed by Jarrod Washburn at No. 4 and Miguel Batista (seen throwing a bullpen session this morning -- we've added photos since our initial post) at No. 5. What's more, the team intends to use Batista -- if he's needed -- out of the bullpen in weeks where his No. 5 spot is skipped.

"He's aboard,'' manager John McLaren said moments ago. "He's already volunteered his services.''

I asked McLaren whether the team had considered using Batista out of the bullpen last season. He told me there was discussion on it dating back to spring training, when J.J. Putz came up with that sore elbow. But the idea was ultimately nixed. Hear some McLaren audio on this topic, as well as the manager's entire slotting explanation right here.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 23, 2008 1:14 PM

Sights and Sounds: Fan Fest

Posted by Geoff Baker

Remember that autograph crush around Ichiro I mentioned in the last post (and which some of you have commented on)? Today's opening video segment shows it to you. Wouldn't want to be that woman losing the feeling in her legs. J.J. Putz has a little fun with the camera guy (me) on his way to joining Raul Ibanez and Erik Bedard in signing for the crowd positioned down the left field line. M's manager John McLaren proves more adept at catching baseballs with one hand than he does pens.

After the autographs, the players warm up and then participate in the pop-fly drill. You can hear them screaming for the ball. This isn't a game. It's how they do it for real once the action starts. You just can't hear them doing it when there are 40,000 people in the stands. Even Ichiro shouts a clearly-audible "I've got it!'' from center field.

After that, the players partake in batting practice. There's a shot of a ball going over the right field fence, but keep an eye on the center fielder, who climbs the wall to go after another ball hit seconds after that. It's tough to see. The final shot shows the right fielder (I think it was Brad Wilkerson, but I'm not sure) hauling in a ball at the warning track and getting some applause. Hope you get a feel for what the day was like, from a player perspective, down on the field.

McLaren still hasn't announced the rest of the rotation.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 23, 2008 10:33 AM

Must be Fan Fest time

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Ever wonder what a player sees when surrounded by fans clamoring for his autograph? No? Well, too bad, because here it is. A shot of Ichiro in the camera bay area at the Peoria Sports Complex this morning. It's Fan Fest today at the ballpark, so the M's moved their workout next door to the stadium they share with the San Diego Padres and where they play their Cactus League games. Ichiro was actually less under siege here than he was earlier on, standing next to the dugout. Some fans began trampling each other to get his signature and security had to move in. I'll show you video of that later. Happens every year, by the way.

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Continue reading this post ...

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February 22, 2008 5:22 PM

Wilkerson on playing with Ichiro

Posted by Geoff Baker

Bedard 179.jpg

Wow, that Adrian Beltre just doesn't let anything get by him, does he? Look down below, he's at it again.

Bedard 183.jpg

Anyhow, on to the post...

We all got a chuckle out of ichiro's comments on new right fielder Brad Wilkerson this week. Ichiro said, and I quote: "For me, when I play the outfield, if the corner outfielders have too much speed or too much ability and try to do too much, it is harder for me to play center field. In watching him (Wilkerson) play, I think that he is not that kind of outfielder so personally, I am happy about that.''


Any way, I chatted with Wilkerson after today's workouts to see what he feels about how he and Ichiro will mesh in the outfield.

"I talked with him today in the outfield,'' Wilkerson said in an interview you can listen to right here. "I try to talk to him a little bit at a time, to see some things that are going on as far as how he calls the ball, if he shows me a glove. I remember basically playing against him. He plays straight-up, pretty much a lot. I like to squeeze the gap anyway so that's not going to be a problem, leaving us a big hole.

"I just try to communicate,'' he added. "Once we get in the games, we'll see how it's all going to work out. It's going to be fine. It's playing baseball. He's a great outfielder and I think I'm a pretty good one, too, so, it's going to work out.''

Continue reading this post ...

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February 22, 2008 1:16 PM

Sights and Sounds: bunts and live BP

Posted by Geoff Baker

Today's video begins with some bunting practice taken by Mariners hitters, facing a pitching machine. Jose Vidro steps in first and -- being a switch-hitter -- bunts from both sides of the plate. But some funny video (depending on your perspective) of Raul Ibanez up next, shows this isn't the easiest of drills if you aren't used to laying them down.

After that, we show you footage of J.J. Putz throwing live BP. Erik Bedard (No. 45) watches from the side, then comes in to throw some BP of his own. None of the hitters took any swings. They could have, but this is more about pitchers hitting their spots. The hitters like to get their timing down at this point in the spring and often prefer to watch the pitches go by.

After, the hitters go indoors a bit to work in the cages and regroup. They come back out after that for some regular BP and infield work. There was a whole lot of Spanish flying around the infield as the ever chatty Yuniesky Betancourt was carrying on a conversation with Miguel Cairo. After, you see Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez join in. The segment ends with a Japanese photographer nearly getting clocked by a line drive as she sits down the left field line in foul territory. You hear the players yell and scream as the ball heads for her. She swerved out of the way, then sat there, like a trooper, and kept on shooting.

By the way, John McLaren did not announce the No. 3, 4 and 5 slots in the rotation. There wasn't enough time to get to it because of all the rushing around to avoid the rain. Expect something tomorrow.

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February 22, 2008 8:29 AM

Rotation slots to be named after today's workout

Posted by Geoff Baker

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We open this morning, on a dreary-looking, overcast day, with a shot of Erik Bedard throwing live batting practice to the hapless Seattle hitters. No one took any cuts off him, though they had that option. Was a different story yesterday with some of the lesser arms, I'm told. The team switched up its workout routine to get the BP in just in case there's rain later on. Down below, a shot we're unlikely to ever see in a game. Bedard coming on in relief of closer J.J. Putz.

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Appreciate all of you being patient yesterday while I took a day off after eight straight days of work here. So, no, there was no "Sights and Sounds" video yesterday, but I will have some footage for you later this afternoon. On to our topic for this morning, that being the starting rotation. John McLaren told us in his pre-workout chat that he'll name the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 slots at some point after today's workout -- either this afternoon or tomorrow morning. The big reason he wants to do it early is so that the pitchers can get into a routine. They will work backward on a schedule from the March 31 season-opening date.

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February 21, 2008 3:51 PM

Bill James insights

Posted by Geoff Baker

This fresh off the wire from the folks at ACTA Sports, promoting the new book by statistics guru Bill James, titled "Gold Mine" -- which is a collection of what they call "provocative" stats on every team. On the Mariners, James found some interesting tidbits. The most important one pertaining to this coming season might be this one:

-- Seattle's opening day starting players (on the 25-man roster), James writes, made 1,276 starts in 2007, 56 more than any other major league team.

That's huge. It means the M's had a relatively injury-free season in 2008. An optimist might say that's a sign of a team of durable performers capable of seeing their way through a 162-game schedule.

A pessimist might see it as the sign of a team that sticks by slumping players too long, doesn't use its backups enough and is due for an injury catastrophe any day now.

James makes some other observations.

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February 21, 2008 11:25 AM

Questions galore

Posted by Geoff Baker

It's the second day of full-squad workouts here in Peoria. Jose Lopez is here and in-uniform for the team. No, the rest of the starting rotation has yet to be named. I'm getting a bit of a breather today, so I thought I'd answer some of your questions from the past week:

How many options does a club receive for a particular player, and is it a limit set by the player's individual contract or by the collective bargaining agreement?

-- Tom

A: Players on the 40-man roster get three options to the minor leagues over the course of their career. They can be sent up and down several times (for at least 10 days) during a season and it only counts as one option. This is per the MLB collective agreeement.

Do you know of any place where we could listen to classic Dave Niehaus calls? I want to listen to his call of "The Double" again.

-- Anna 11

A: Local boy Jim Caple at ESPN has some links to it in this story on Niehaus. Martinez's double is one of the sample clips in the box to the right.

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February 20, 2008 4:58 PM

State of Ichiro address

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This is one of the more popular media events of spring training. The day Ichiro steps in front of a microphone for the first time. At least it's not boring, like some of those Presidential State of the Union things. Last year's was downright sensational, with Ichiro questioning the team's will to move forward (translate: win) and hinting he may head elsewhere as a free agent.

Not this time around. The clothes are a lot more subdued than he was wearing a year ago, when he donned a pink shirt and knit cap. Yes, those Levi's he's now wearing are designer fashion -- designed by him no less, as part of some deal he has with the jeanmaker. You can't really see his shoes, but I can tell you they looked like he wandered through a kindergarten fingerpainting class and got a bunch of stuff accidentally spilled on them. I'm sure they cost thousands.

Anyway, his clothes weren't the only thing toned down. The rhetoric from a year ago (or was it an accurate depiction?) about the team's direction has done an about-face. Seattle's recent trade for starting pitcher Erik Bedard helped cement that opinion.

"We made a big trade, something that is the biggest of my career with the Seattle Mariners," Ichiro said through interpreter Ken Baron. "What I mean by that is, it was a trade in which we didn't try to avoid risk. To gain power, sometimes you have to take a big risk. And I think the Mariners showed that by making that move."

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February 20, 2008 2:26 PM

Sights and Sounds: Full squad workout

Posted by Geoff Baker

Here are some video clips of today's full-squad workout, beginning with Ichiro taking batting practice. It's almost as much fun watching him when he is gearing up to go in the cage as it is once he's taking his cuts. Later on, you'll see the relievers coming off the field for water, including Brandon Morrow, who can be seen up-close throwing a bullpen session (photo below).

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The fielders worked on their bunt defenses. You'll hear the coaches and players yelling out "one" and "three" depending on who has to charge in for the ball and have their base covered by someone else. It's fun to watch the rotation of the fielders, depending on what play is on. An aspect of the verbal communication and strategy in the game that isn't captured on TV during the season itself. You'll see a shot of coach Eddie Rodriguez at one point, talking into a microrecorder he later stuffs in his back pocket. Rodriguez is in charge of spring training, so he monitors each drill and gives himself verbal notes on the recorder on how to improve each one. He'll also leave himself reminders, like if he wants a certain coach in better position the next time.

Hope you enjoy.

NOTE (10:20 p.m.): To Marinersbrian in the comments thread, yes, that was Peter Gammons in the pink shirt. Good eye.

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February 20, 2008 10:25 AM

Rotation slots decided shortly

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Full squad workouts began this morning, with some bunt coverage drills and then batting practice. Above, you see Ichiro warming up for his first cuts of the spring. Followed below by him actually spraying some line drives all over the place.

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Met briefly with manager John McLaren this morning after he addressed his full squad of players for the first time. McLaren said one of his first orders of business moving forward will be to settle the Nos. 3-5 slots in the starting rotation so that the pitchers know their role going forward.

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February 19, 2008 5:18 PM

Waiting on Ichiro...

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This is the scene at the front gate to the Peoria Sports Complex parking lot moments ago, as fans wait to catch a glimpse of Ichiro emerging from his physical. I said hello to Ichiro a little while ago, before he began the physical. He's going to talk officially tomorrow. For now, he sweats and the fans wait. Patiently, I might add. They've been standing there for more than three hours.

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February 19, 2008 1:13 PM

Sights and Sounds: Day 6

Posted by Geoff Baker

We're focusing heavily on the catchers today. You'll see them working the normal bullpen session to start off, with Rob Johnson taking some sliders. The next shot will be of Jeff Clement trying to handle an R.A. Dickey knuckler. Not an easy task. Once Clement retrieves the ball, Dickey finishes off with a fastball. Much easier. You hear Dickey tell him "Thanks!'' at the end. Dickey sounds almost apologetic that catchers have to handle his stuff. They have a short conference when it's done.

Mariners manager John McLaren likes to work with catchers, both as a group and one-on-one. You'll see him offering some words to the catchers as they practice blocking pitches in the dirt and preventing the ricochet from getting away from them. These aren't fastballs they're taking. There is a lot of spin on these particular offerings.

One of you asked me a couple of days ago how Mark Lowe was feeling this spring compared to late last year. I put the question to him and you can hear his answer on the video. There is some footage of pitchers' fielding practice. Later on, you'll see Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Cairo signing autographs. Then, there is an interesting segment with clubhouse attendant Chris DeWitt, a batboy the past two years who is in his first season in his new job. Ever wonder who scrapes all the mud off player spikes at the end of each workout session? You guessed it. Sounds like a "rookie" job to me. But somebody's got to do it. DeWitt is an avid reader of this blog, by the way.

Look at who just walked in here for his 2 p.m. physical.


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February 19, 2008 8:40 AM

Mariners sign Crosby

Posted by Geoff Baker

UPDATE (11:01 a.m.): Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus just got named winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, on the same day he is celebrating his 73rd birthday. This is quite an honor, since it means he's being inducted into the broadcasting wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. A deserving guy. Ceremony takes place July 25-28.

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Think it's easy to execute a pitch-out? Not always. Which is why they practice it. That's what was going on this morning.

Oh, yes. Our headline. It's true, the Mariners just signed Crosby. No, not Bobby Crosby. We're talking Bubba. As in Bubba Crosby. Yes, I know. Big difference. It's strictly a minor league deal, no spring camp invite. Crosby was actually an everyday major leaguer once. Played for the Yankees from 2004-2006, the D-Rays once (OK, I guess not. You're right, I am confusing him with Bubba Trammel. My bad.), but was in Class AAA with the Reds last season. For 13 games, anyway.

He's still only 31 and has some speed for a guy named "Bubba". But his .553 career on-base-plus-slugging percentage doesn't hold out much hope for him ever helping the big club. Just thought I'd mention him up top because there isn't much news coming out of camp for the moment.

Jose Lopez is going to be a day or two late getting to camp because of visa issues down in Venezuela. The team has been aware of the situation for a couple of weeks and had hoped to have Lopez here in time. Isn't going to happen. To pre-empt your questions, no, missing a couple of days running laps isn't going to throw him off much. Miss three or four days, it could be an issue.

Some of you may have seen our Ryan Rowland-Smith feature from today. He's from a very interesting family, as you can clearly tell from reading.

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February 18, 2008 3:15 PM

Sights and Sounds: Day 5

Posted by Geoff Baker

As promised, today's video feature is finally here after several hours of working through glitches. Today's segment focuses exclusively on hitting, with position players arriving in camp ahead of tomorrow's reporting date. Raul Ibanez is in the first segment, working in the indoor cage. When we return to him a bit later, he is with a coach, hitting off an even smaller tee. I asked Ibanez afterwards what he was working on and he told me it was his bat angle. The goal of the exercise was for him to keep the angle of the bat as level as he could throughout his swing. Just some of the many drills he'll work on in the cage throughout the year. This is the type of stuff that goes on for hours during the season. Serious hitters do plenty of cage work indoors each week -- before batting practice. The purpose is to work on little things just like that. It's the kind of stuff fans rarely see. But trust me, the good players don't begin their day with the pre-game stretch.

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You'll see some shots of Willie Bloomquist chatting with some fans. Sorry about the audio towards the end of that clip. There's also a shot of Mike Morse hitting off a tee in the final segemnt. Mariners consultant Lee Elia is underhanding him tosses. You can hear Elia say "Talk to me Mike!'' He's trying to get Morse to carry on a conversation while he's hitting and not think so much about his stroke. Enjoy. I apologize again for the delay. We had a bunch of great stuff we were trying to add to this segment, but it just couldn't be saved.

By the way, some of you were asking me about the new pitcher the Mariners picked up, one Anderson Garcia from the Phillies.

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February 18, 2008 9:10 AM

Put this under your tree

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Got to be careful what you order on those online sports merchandise sites. Sure, that $1.99 baseball looked great in the Web photo, but that fine print specifying that delivery charges would be extra? Be sure to read the whole thing next time.

In case you were wondering, the ball is being mounted near the front of the Peoria Sports Complex. Gives it more of a baseball look, I guess. You never know. The locals may have thought this was a hockey rink.

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What's Yuniesky Betancourt doing? My guess is, he's asking his bat if the aforementioned ball is big enough to make contact on the next time he swings at a pitch two feet over his head. Well, maybe not. Hey, it's Monday. Let me indulge you with some humor. All kidding aside, Betancourt gaining more discipline at the plate will be key to this offense maintaining what it did last season. I'm looking for plenty of development from him in that area. The players are just starting their workouts this morning, so I don't have any great photos for you yet. I know some of you like to log in early on Mondays, so I wanted to get this post up quickly for you.

Anything interesting going on today? Well, let's see.

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February 17, 2008 1:38 PM

Sights and Sounds: Day 4

Posted by Geoff Baker

Today, you'll get to see Richie Sexson take his first cuts of spring training in the batting cage. Keep an eye on Yuniesky Betancourt, off to the left of the cage, in the second sequence of video. Betancourt starts yammering away in Spanish at Adrian Beltre as another player replaces Sexson in the cage. Any idea what he's saying? The Spanish is so rapid-fire that I can't keep up.

You'll see a behind-the-cage shot of Betancourt taking BP as well.

We shot some of the pitchers' fielding drills. You'll see the pitchers practising their pick-off moves to first base, with J.J. Putz making two throws over. Later, there's a sequence where Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn handle consecutive comebackers to the mound and make the throw over to second base. The final video sequence shows a close-up of pitchers handling comebackers. Cha Seung Baek, a pretty good fielder, is about to step in and the coach clearly wants to challenge him with a harder hit ball. But the horn, signaling the end of the drill, blasts just as Baek steps in. The players get a hoot out of beating the coach to the buzzer and all jog off the field without Baek taking another turn. Baek himself is rather pleased.

UPDATE: 3:27 P.M.: Sorry about the earlier technical problems, hopefully we're all fine now.

Thought I'd leave you today with this tidbit on pitcher R.A. Dickey, the second ":victim" in the team's daily morning singalong. Dickey was picked at random and chose a rendition of the Tennessee Volunteers fight song to serenade his fellow teammates with. Glad I wasn't around to hear it.

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February 17, 2008 10:20 AM

Sexson, Beltre, others check in

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Few guys in camp have more pressure on them than Richie Sexson this coming season. Sexson is from the Pacific Northwest and feels the boos and jeering everytime he gets it from the home crowd at Safeco Field. Some may say there is no pressure on Sexson, given how he can't possibly do any worse than his .205 batting average, sub-.400 slugging performance of last season.

That's one way to look at it. Another is that his career could be on the line with a repeat performance. It's doubtful he'll get another $14 million yearly contract after this current one expires at season's end. But a repeat of last year, and he may find himself below the $1 million mark. Not to mention the pride factor. No one wants to bomb in front of the home crowd, no matter how wealthy they are. In any case, the fortunes of Sexson could very well impact this team's fortunes in 2008. He took his first cuts in the batting cage this morning.

No, I am not going to rate the first swings of spring training. Lets just say he hits the ball further than any of us can. What matters is how he does it in April and May. Joining him in camp were Adrian Beltre and Yuniesky Betancourt, who also took batting practice.

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February 16, 2008 12:42 PM

Sights and Sounds: Day 3

Posted by Geoff Baker

You asked us for some video of new pitcher Erik Bedard throwing his bullpen today and we've obliged. You'll see Bedard in the first three video scenes from today's selection, warming up alongside Felix Hernandez.

Some additional video shows catcher Kenji Johjima getting to know Carlos Silva. An interesting scene in that the Japanese-speaking Johjima is conversing with the Venezuelan-born, Spanish-speaking Silva. Interpreter Antony Suzuki is there to translate from Japanese to English, because Silva speaks the latter language as well. Lots of lingo going on, though the end-of-conversation fist-pump is universal.

There's a pitcher's view of Jarrod Washburn (No. 56) after that, then a catcher's view of Washburn.

Today's catcher drills focused on blocking pitches in the dirt.

The final footage is of closer J.J. Putz batting balls towards a group of his fellow pitchers. Catch the last one, where Cha Seung Baek makes a leaping catch and is congratulated by teammates, who refer to him as "Chewy". Putz kids around with Baek and lets the bat fall to the ground at the end after pretending to hand it to him.

By the way, the M's have claimed pitcher Anderson Garcia off waivers from the Phillies and added him to the 40-man roster (there was a spot open). The 26-year-old right hander is 29-31 with a 3.85 ERA in 221 minor league games over seven years, including 39 starts. The team is looking at him as pitching depth for now. In other words, he'll likely start the year in the minors, but if some injuries pile up, who knows?

UPDATE 2:08 p.m. -- To answer some questions: No, the M's did not forego a year of Bedard with yesterday's on-year deal. He is under club control one more year. If the two sides don't reach a multi-year pact by next spring, he'll agree to another one-year pact or head to an arbitration hearing and have the one-year amount decided for him. Either way, he stays with the M's at least through 2009.

The catcher wearing No. 71 is Jair Fernandez, born in the Colombian city of Cartegena, which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting back in 1995. Had my first meal in a Japanese steakhouse there, too. But I digress. Fernandez is 21 and hit .260 for Class A Wisconsin last season.

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February 16, 2008 10:05 AM

Looking for vocal leaders

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Nothing like a little pitch-blocking drill to get those quad muscles stretched out nice and early in the morning. Hope Jamie Burke is having fun.

I'm sure some of you are intrigued by the headline of this post. After all, we've debated "vocal leadership" on this site for the past year. But I'm just messing with you a bit today. Because right now, when I say "vocal leaders" I'm not talking about Ichiro taking a more active clubhouse role. I'm talking about what's going on in the Mariners clubhouse down here in Peoria before each day's workout. Seems the coaching staff is trying to keep things light and has introduced a daily singing routine by players into the morning's schedule. The first "victim" to belt out a tune was non-roster invitee Roy Corcoran, a 27-year-old right handed pitcher who signed with the club as a minor league free-agent in November.

Talk about picking on the defenseless.

Anyway, Mariners manager John McLaren knew Corcoran's brother, Tim, a pitcher for the Devil Rays the past three years and whose time with that club overlapped McLaren's. So, there you have it. Corcoran chose a Brooks and Dunn tune. No, I don't know which one. They all sound the same to me. By the end of the day, other M's players were refering to Corcoran -- to his face -- as the American Idol.

"It's kind of a light moment in the day to start the day off with a laugh,'' McLaren said in audio you can listen to right here.

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February 15, 2008 4:00 PM

A second day complete

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A nice glance up above at Cha Seung Baek covering first base during pitchers' fielding practice earlier today.

We've gotten word within the past hour that Erik Bedard reached agreement on a one-year contract with the Mariners, thus avoiding arbitration. He'd been seeking $8 million, while the Orioles had countered with $6 million before his trade. So, you assume they split the difference to something in the middle.

Not much else going on here today. Many of you have commented that the players do not seem to be running all-out. Keep in mind. It's only the second day of workouts with eight more months still to go before the post-season. The players have been told to dial-down the intensity level a notch, so I wouldn't read too much into things.

Hey, anyone ever wondered about the difference between players signing autographs and coaches doing it?

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February 15, 2008 12:23 PM

Sights and Sounds: Day 2

Posted by Geoff Baker

Several of you wrote in to say you liked yesterday's new "Sights and Sounds" feature from down here, so we've done another. It was a relatively cool, windy and cloudy day here. Started off in sunshine, but that's quickly evaporated. I doubt it got any hotter than 60 today. Not quite Seattle weather, but hardly pool time either.

Among the clips I've assembled today, you'll see Mariners consultant Lee Elia schooling Mike Morse in the batting cage. No, Elia isn't just here to swap baseball war stories with John McLaren. You'll see Wladimir Balentien taking some batting practice in the outdoor cage. Some footage right after that of hitting coach Jeff Pentland taking a walkie-talkie call from first base coach Eddie Rodriguez, who's in charge of the day-to-day operations down here. Things have to run with pinpoint precision, or these workouts can quickly lose focus and it's Rodriguez's job to stay on top of things.

There's a shot of McLaren confabbing with ESPN columnist and TV personality Peter Gammons. Some pitchers' fielding practice as well, in which you'll see Chris Reitsma flub one of the grounders at the end. He wasn't the only one. The pitchers have to run laps after a miss. Some more tutorials for the catchers. Most of the pitchers threw yesterday, so you won't see them back in the bullpen today. Hope you enjoy.

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February 15, 2008 8:39 AM

The slimmer Felix

Posted by Geoff Baker

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No, that's not Felix Hernandez drooling over the latest empanada recipe from Carlos Silva. But Hernandez, as we mentioned a couple of days ago, has dropped even more weight from what he did last spring. Here he is, standing with Silva just a few moments ago, as the players prepare to hit the field in Peoria for their morning workouts.

I asked manager John McLaren this morning about Wladimir Balentien and what his chances are of being brought north, even if it's only to play a couple of days per week. Remember, McLaren said yesterday that there was no way Jeff Clement would be allowed to do that -- that he had to make the team as a regular, or else get full playing time in Class AAA.

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February 14, 2008 4:02 PM

First day done

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The players have all left the Peoria Sports Complex and gone home for the day. Manager John McLaren said it was good, for a first-day workout, noting that he had to tell several players (mostly veterans) to show a little less adrenaline than they were. McLaren was talking about J.J. Putz, Arthur Rhodes and others he doesn't want to see wear their arms out too early. Rhodes is coming off an injury and Putz, well, he's Putz and no one wants him using his arm up on meaningless practise days.

A look down at the photo below sees Putz in the center, chatting with McLaren on the left and bullpen coach Norm Charlton (speaking of adrenaline and getting too pumped up) on the right. Putz was just about to begin his first throwing session of the spring.

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February 14, 2008 12:17 PM

Sights and Sounds: Day 1

Posted by Geoff Baker

We already did a "Sights and Sounds" segment at the Erik Bedard press conference last week. This latest video will be a series of clips designed to give you a feel for what today's morning session for pitchers and catchers was like. You'll see some good video of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (wearing No. 41) warming up in the bullpen. Of an exchange between catcher Kenji Johjima and manager John McLaren. You'll also see Jeff Clement and some other young catchers being schooled on their technique towards the end of the video. Sit back and enjoy.

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February 14, 2008 8:46 AM

The Mariners are coming!

Posted by Geoff Baker

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As you can see, the Mariners have taken the field for the first time this spring. The pitchers and catchers, anyway. But it's interesting, because to hear manager John McLaren talk, the pitching staff will be where the most competition is found in camp. At least in the bullpen.

"There is some competition,'' McLaren said in some audio you can listen to right here. "We've got our starting five, so we're competing for the bullpen mainly.''

Seattle will likely go with a seven-man bullpen yet again. McLaren wouldn't commit one way or the other. He said the option of going with six relievers will be explored, given the added solidity in the rotation. But McLaren also mentioned the fact the M's will have fewer off days in April compared to last year.

"We certainly don't want to be using guys too much, too soon,'' he said.

That means more pitchers will likely be needed. Hence, as of today, look for a seven-man pen yet again.

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February 13, 2008 4:04 PM

Hernandez gets physical

Posted by Geoff Baker

You can read that headline any way you want. A sweat-laden Felix Hernandez just finished his physical, having endured the grueling treadmill exercise -- in which a player finds his top speed, then increases the incline on it every two minutes. Being in shape helps a player in these types of things. Hernandez insists he's in better shape this year than last, having found it easier to carry out his off-season workout regimen for a second straight winter.

Anyhow, once he caught his breath, he paused and gave our blog the spring's first interview. Nope, you won't hear this stuff anywhere else.

On losing the No. 1 starter's job: "I was thinking about it," Hernandez said of the days leading up to the Bedard trade. "I was thinking that maybe Bedard was going to be the Opening Day starter. They told me yesterday and I said 'fine'."

On how Bedard -- who he describes as "a horse" -- and Carlos Silva will help the team: "The bullpen is going to be better because we can throw a lot of innings. We can go deep in the game. The bullpen's got to get some rest. Last year, we used the bullpen a lot, every day. And those guys were tired. Sean Green was tired at the end of the season. And I think those two guys are going to help."

Also, on what new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre expects of him: "He told me 'You've got to throw inside a lot this year'," Hernandez said.

And then: "I love throwing inside. I'm going to prove it this year."

Hear the entire thing right here in this clip.

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February 13, 2008 10:28 AM

Field of dreams?

Posted by Geoff Baker

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UPDATE (1:24 p.m.): I know some of you were wondering how Felix Hernandez would look this spring as opposed to a year ago, when he went on his Ultra-Slim-Fast plan. I can tell you, having just talked to him, that he weighed in at 226 pounds last spring. This year? He is currently 218 pounds and looks the part. I noticed it right away. Whether or not this translates to good pitching, we'll have to see.

10:28 a.m. -- We'll find out whether the dreams of Mariners fans will come true over the next eight months. For now, this is where it all begins, right here at spring training in Peoria, Ariz. As I type this, some pitchers are already taking their physicals. Down below, you can see Horacio Ramirez playing catch with new starter Carlos Silva (closest to the camera).

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We have a bit of minor news already, in that manager John McLaren has told Erik Bedard he will be the team's Opening Day starter. Not that there was ever any doubt. But it's nice to get little details out of the way bright and early.

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February 12, 2008 4:42 PM


Posted by Geoff Baker

I'm staring outside at a lovely palm tree in my front yard, so that can only mean one thing. Either I've been abducted to Hawaii, or I'm in Arizona getting ready for the start of spring training. As in tomorrow morning, when pitchers and catchers report. That was quite the debate we've had over the last 24 hours. I'd like to thank Graham over at Lookout Landing for getting the ball rolling in the right direction with the coin flip analogy. The best part about is was: he got people to focus on the methodologies and thinking behind all the simulations and predictions about the 2008 Mariners going on in the Seattle blogosphere.

Never thought it would lead to a blog-battle with this site used as the battlefield.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 11, 2008 3:40 PM

Missing the point?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just to be clear, I am very in-tune with what Graham from our comments thread was trying to say in his Lookout Landing post I refered to earlier today. The point is, all that anyone trying to predict the M's fortunes this season through numbers has to work off of is probability. You can take "X'' as the general public consensus of what makes a good team and work off the probability of that. Or, you can add to that with some sabermetric numbers and try to make it more educated than just a random "X'' guess. The latter would seem to be the way to go. Fair enough? Great. I understand it. I assume the vast majority of you do too. We don't need an "Intro to Stats 101" class to explain the whole point behind the coin-flip analogy either.

If you flip a coin with a 50/50 chance of getting "heads" each time, but you wind up with "heads" nine times in 10, it doesn't make you smarter or "right" for defying the odds of probability. Here's my point, once again, for those not yet clear on the concept. When you try to push this probability thing to a baseball context, the point gets blurred. How do we define probability? Whose probability numbers do we believe? Which numbers, when added to the 'X'' quotient, are making it a better guess?

If we're examining Bill Bavasi and his logic at building a team in regards to the Pythagorean record the M's had last year, which probabilities do we look at?

Do we argue that the M's had only a 78-win Pythagorean record last year, ergo they can't possibily contend this season even with Erik Bedard?

Or, do we look at numbers showing that teams outperforming their Pythag one year have a better chance at improving the following season than teams that underperformed their Pythag. Since the M's fall into the former category, it reasons that they stand a chance at improving upon their 88-win season to...what exactly? 89 or 90 wins? 94 wins? In my book, anything close to that makes them a contender. Especially with the addition of a potential No. 1 starter in Bedard.

Two theories, two very different win totals. So, which probabilities are the "right" ones for Bavasi to play in regards to the Pythagorean expectation?

Not so cut-and-dried, is it? That's kind of how we end up with simulations like this one, performed by the U.S.S. Mariner using ZiPs projections, which have the M's at roughly 77 wins, while others like this one done on Detect-O-Vision, using some of Ron Sandler's projection system, see Seattle as an 88-to-98-win team. That's quite a win total spread by both sides. Who's right? Both use some impressive numbers to make their points. But who to believe? Which of the two is trying to defy the probability odds?

So, how do we judge Bavasi to be right or wrong in playing the odds, if the numerical projections can be that far off? If Bavasi wins a division title this year, can any of the anti-trade advocates truly say he was "lucky' the way any folks coming up "heads" nine times in 10 while flipping a coin would be? Or, if Bavasi finishes third in the AL West, will those who advocated against trading for Bedard be the "lucky" ones -- assuming the trade was the "right" move to make as per Detect-O-Vision?

I'm waiting to hear why those advocating against the M's making their Bedard move right now are so steadfastly certain that their numbers are the best place for Bavasi to start his building plan. I've already told you why I believe the team made the right move. It's got nothing to do with my media access. I'm just not buying the counterargument. And if my point of view leads to a winning, playoff club, can that really be dismissed as "lucky" the way coming up heads often in a coin flip would be?

Sorry, but that sounds awful smug. Way too certain for folks dealing with so much uncertainty.

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February 11, 2008 8:50 AM

The uncertain nature of probability

Posted by Geoff Baker

Came across yet another interesting read on Lookout Landing over the weekend. What makes it interesting is that it strikes at the heart of the disconnect between those fans who lean heavily on newer, statistics-based research versus those who insist the uncertain nature of baseball makes it unlikely that any season can be predicted reliably.

Here is the main thrust of the argument the author makes:

"Two friends are arguing over the likely outcome of a set of ten coin tosses.
One declares -- quite sensibly, since these coins are known to be fair -- that he expects said coins to be distributed evenly.

The other, more radical in thought, feels that they'll come up all heads but one.

The coins are flipped. Nine heads, one tails.

'Ah', says the second friend, quite happy, 'You were wrong. That's why we flip the coins!'

Very clever post. A response, one would think, to our "That's why they play the games" point from last week. Hey, I welcomed folks to start using and thinking about that line, so I'm glad to see some are taking me up on it. First off, let me clear up some perceptions: all of you are fans of baseball, if not the Mariners, or I doubt you'd spend much time on this site. So, please, when you're talking to one another, do it with respect. Adam is as much a part of this blog as Merrill, or Mr. X, or Oregongal.

Secondly, when we talk about "That's why they play the games" we're not suggesting the Kansas City Royals have as good a shot as, say, the Boston Red Sox do of winning the World Series this coming season. In regards to the Mariners, we are simply basing that statement off of our own list of analytical points, which, quite clearly, run contrary to opinions -- because that's what they are -- espoused by some other, equally devoted, fans or bloggers. We are conceeding that we are not always going to be right and that those who disagree with us do have a shot at seeing some of their predictions come true.

Of course, some predictions are "more probable" than others. A lot of legwork goes into some and they can be more valid than those that involve gut hunches.

But can this be likened to a coin flip? As much as I loved the author's anecdotal style, no. Because the absolute certainty of coin flips -- in which there are two absolute outcomes of 'heads' or 'tails' with no degree of variance from that 50-50 proposition -- does not exist in a sport where perhaps a 75-sided coin might better explain the challenges any prediction faces.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 10, 2008 4:18 AM

Blog Event Video

Posted by Geoff Baker

As promised, here is some video from last Thursday night's Seattle Times Mariners Blog Event at our auditorium. This is the post pizza, questions and answers session. You can catch a look at Donovan and Oregongal introducing themselves to the others. AJ Daddy's down near the front on the far left, but tough to see. You can see a good view of Weebs in a black baseball cap and blue top seated near the middle of the crowd throughout the clip. Brett Miller from Lookout Landing, who posts sometimes as Bretticus, is seated in front of him with the loose-hanging, striped shirt. I was really pleased with how informed and inquisitive many of the M's fans in attendance were. As I mentioned, we tried to keep it to a small and intimate gathering. Any bigger and we'd need another venue. Maybe down the road. Many thanks to all those who attended. I hope you had fun and, for those of you new to this blog who have become readers since that night, welcome.

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February 8, 2008 3:22 PM

Bedard says hello

Posted by Geoff Baker

Bedard 011.jpg

Just got back from the Erik Bedard press conference. He's excited to be here. No, seriously. You'd never tell, because he's a low key guy. But prompt him a little and he doesn't mince words. He's happy to be out of Baltimore and with a team that looks like it can contend for a playoff spot.

"That's the big thing,'' he said. ''With Baltimore, it seemed like we were going backwards. Obviously here they're going forward and trying to build a team that's competitive and can get in the playoffs and win.''

Hear the start of the questions/answers session right here. And some more of it in this clip. We asked him afterwards about what he thought of Baltimore's efforts to offer him a contract extension, then what he thought about whether he or Felix Hernandez is the No. 1 starter. He apparently doesn't care much for either topic.

See some sights and hear some sounds from today's press conference with the video below. Remember, it's not meant to be a series of interview clips, so don't pay too much attention to the quotes. Some of the footage jumps right in to the middle of GM Bill Bavasi speaking to a crowd of reporters. The point of this video is just to give you a feel for what it's like to be at one of these things.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 8, 2008 12:00 PM

Deal done; 2 p.m. press conference

Posted by Geoff Baker

The deal for Erik Bedard is finally official. It's the 5-for-1 that's been reported: Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Cam Mickolio and Tony Butler. I'll be at the Safeco Field newser in a couple of hours.

I know some of you want me to comment more on this deal, if it's at all possible after the past 12 days. I'll tell you what I've been saying here, on radio, on TV and at last night's Blog Event. I'm still, as of this moment, picking the M's second in the AL West. But when you're the second-best team in a division and the gap isn't all that huge (six games in real life last season), you owe it to your fans to fight for that playoff spot. The M's, with this deal, have done that. No team is built perfectly. But this team just seriously upgraded its starting rotation, not just with Bedard, but with Carlos Silva as well. This was a two-pronged upgrade, as we mentioned back in December when Silava signed.

Made no sense to throw all that dough Silva's way without tackling the front-end of the rotation as well.

This is one of the more dramatic, one-season transformations of a rotation I've seen yet. This team's Achilles heel last year was the rotation. It's now arguably the team's biggest strength.

Just talked to Sherrill, who flew in to Baltimore with Jones last Sunday, then flew back to Arizona with him after the tests were done on Monday. He's packing his things up in Peoria, preparing to fly to Orioles spring training in Florida. He's had nearly two weeks to think about what's gone on and admits he's never seen a situation like this where an essentially done deal takes nearly two more weeks to finalize.

"I've heard the stories of (Orioles owner Peter) Angelos getting burned by Albert Belle (whose career ended from a degenerative hip) thing,'' he said. "And he wants to scrutinize and go over each and every aspect of a player's physical health beforehand.''

Sherrill says he'll miss the M's: "It's the team that gave me my first shot."

But he's looking forward to his new stint and a possible upgrade to the closer role. He's talked briefly with team officials "but they haven't said exactly what my role will be. I just want to play ball."

Continue reading this post ...

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February 7, 2008 6:43 PM

Live Blog Fest

Posted by Geoff Baker


Here we are at the Seattle Times Mariners Blog Event. Lots of good pizza and soft drinks being had by all. Erik Bedard is here, sweating from his physical. Actually, no he's not. It was just a funny suggestion made by someone in the crowd. Ha, ha.

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February 7, 2008 10:56 AM

What real life looks like

Posted by Geoff Baker

LATEST UPDATE (3:19 p.m.): Looks like the Angels aren't the only AL contender with mound concerns. The Red Sox are coping with this bit of news about Curt Schilling. Remember, the Red Sox are one of those teams the M's may have to beat out for a wild-card. It's why they play the games...

UPDATE (12:21 p.m.): A baseball source has just confirmed that Erik Bedard's plane is scheduled to land in Seattle shortly. His physical will begin later this afternoon but -- get this -- will likely take place over a two-day period. That means (groan!) a news conference won't be held until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. Possibly not until Saturday. My girlfriend, Amy, will not be happy about that one. They'd better make it an early deal because we have Valentine's Day dinner reservations (I'll be in Peoria already by the 14th) that night and we aren't cancelling. I don't care how good this Canuck pitcher is.

10:56 a.m. -- Lets hope Erik Bedard really is on a plane to Seattle. If not, I'm doing something for myself this weekend and any news conference can wait. So, just as Bedard gets set to bolster the Seattle rotation, we get news out of Los Angeles about this guy from the Angels. Try not to crack and huge smile or dance a jig just yet. It's still early on in the process. And the Angels do have depth in their rotation if Kelvim Escobar were to pull a Bartolo Colon, circa 2007. Meaning, sit out the first month, then come back largely ineffective the next five.

But that, folks, is why they play the games.

This Escobar thing, however small for now, is just the type of nagging ordeal that can even up a battle of rotations in a hurry. Don't get me wrong. You all know I'm a big Escobar fan and don't want to see him seriously hurt. I've been touting him since the late 1990s and have waited years for him to win a Cy Young Award. It just might not happen in 2008 based on what we're now hearing.

So, another hot topic to discuss at tonight's big Blog Event. Sorry to those of you we couldn't accomodate. We had to keep the number at a decently small amount to preserve some intimacy and to make that ticket giveaway at least a little exciting for all. So, the M's are about to get Bedard at a time when the Angels appear to be stuck with Escobar-lite. Remember, the shoulder has been bugging him since last August.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 6, 2008 12:43 PM

Batista/Vidro and the offense

Posted by Geoff Baker


Mariners pitcher Miguel Batista provides medical supplies to young flood victims in the Domican Republic.

While folks on seven continents wait for Erik Bedard to complete his physical in Seattle today (if it's not today, I give up), the debate amongst Mariners fans as to the value and merits of this deal will shift towards the offense. As it should.

Even Miguel Batista, who I spoke to last night, would like to see a little more pop imported before the season begins. And why wouldn't he? What pitcher doesn't want some bats behind him? I like Batista and the work he does with people less fortunate than him, which is why I want to get some photos on to the blog of how he's spent his winter before we get into another baseball debate.

Batista has spent his entire winter traveling to various countries to teach baseball to younger players, provide them with equipment and listen to their stories. He'll be helping flood victims in his Dominican homeland right up until he reports to Peoria for spring training on Feb. 13. This is a story that needs to be illustrated, so enjoy the photos as we now move on to a discussion about something close to our hearts (and apparently, Batista's as well) about hitting.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 5, 2008 4:31 PM

Bedard deal vs. Blog Fest

Posted by Geoff Baker

As you may or may not have deduced, Erik Bedard was not in Seattle for his physical today. He may arrive here yet on an inbound flight, possibly today. But if he doesn't get here until tomorrow, I don't like the odds of a Wednesday press conference. More like Thursday. And we all know what's happening on that day, right? You don't? Well, it's the great Seattle Times Mariners Blog Event. Remember, the RSVPs close for good tomorrow. Can't give you an exact time when the link will close down because we have to cap it at a certain number. So, if you're thinking of coming out, you might as well RSVP today.

Now, if the press conference was at, say, 3 p.m., all that would mean is that yours truly will be sweating buckets by the time the Blog Event gets underway at 6:30 p.m. But I'll be there. Have no fear. We have folks coming in from out of town, so there will be no cancellation. Bedard will have to wait. I was at the King 5 studios in downtown Seattle today to talk in-studio with host Paul Silvi about the up-coming event and what life running this blog and interracting with some of you has been like.

If you want to see it, you can catch it at 9:30 p.m., 11:30 p.m. or 12:30 a.m. on Northwest Sports Tonight on King 5. Or, you can see it on KONG TV at 10:30 p.m. (UPDATE: 11:55 p.m. -- or, you can see it right here.) Being fresh off the snomobile from Canada, I still have no real clue what KONG TV is, but it sounds kind of cool. Like a giant ape. Anyhow, Silvi was quite the gracious host as I plugged the blog event like a used car salesman -- complete with the sports jacket. Tune in if you get tired of seeking things out online.

In other TV news, FSN and the Mariners today announced their 2008 television schedule, which includes more than 150 games -- all in HD format. So, you'll be able to get a nice, clear picture of whether this Erik Bedard trade was worth the wait. Prior to this year, FSN carried about 107 games per season while local stations picked up another 30 or so. This year, after a new deal between the M's and the network, all the games will be on FSN or MLB's national package on Fox.

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February 5, 2008 12:45 PM

Projecting Bedard's Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

This might not be the best day to talk to Erik Bedard about signing a contract extension with the Mariners. Take a look outside at that cold rain. What a day for Bedard to be in town for his physical. We keep hearing that it's going down today. The physical, that is. Who knows when they'll announce this thing? June 25? That was me being funny, by the way. Ha, ha.

Anyhow, you can tell this deal is getting close judging by the amount of angst out there in blogland. Someone asked on this site whether I'd eat my "goddamn crow" when the Mariners "suck it up" this year. Well, in the spirit of such insightful debate, will any of you eat said damned bird if the M's win 85+ this season? Nah, I didn't think so. Moving right along...the U.S.S. Mariner tries to quantify this debate a little more artfully than the previous-mentioned commenter by taking the latest ZiPS projections and playing out computer simulations of what the 2008 season will look like for the Bedard-armed Mariners.

The projections didn't come out too good. The first of them had the team winning 70 games. All of them had Seattle placing anywhere from third to last in the AL West. No seasons better than 81 wins. Needless to say, I'm somewhat skeptical.

Continue reading this post ...

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February 4, 2008 3:08 PM

Sherrill in Baltimore; Tillman confirmed in deal

Posted by Geoff Baker

That's what Larry Stone and I have just confirmed as we work the phones this afternoon. In fact, George Sherrill flew out to Baltimore from Phoenix yesterday alongside Adam Jones, the centerpiece of this proposed trade for O's pitcher Erik Bedard. They took their physicals this morning. Sources say that Sherrill is already on a flight back to Arizona. No word yet on whether Jones is on the plane with him.

From what we're hearing, the other players said to be involved in the deal on Seattle's end may not be required by the Orioles to take physicals. (UPDATE 4:03 p.m. -- We've had it confirmed from multiple sources that Chris Tillman is indeed part of the trade package and has been told as much. If all the principals have been notified, it would seem a trade could happen tomorrow if all needed physicals are approved). The Orioles are apparently far more worried about the major league guys since they will be expected to help the big club right away. It appears that Bedard has yet to fly to Seattle. Our take on this? The Mariners probably want to get the "all clear" sign from the Orioles on Jones and Sherrill before bringing Bedard in for a physical. Never know with Peter Angelos running things in Baltimore.

So, what to conclude? No deal today. Probably no deal tomorrow, though there's still a chance (better, since even players not taking physicals have been notified). We keep hearing it may not go down until mid-week or even later. Hey, I hope it's earlier, but we've waited eight days already. What's a few more? Should make our Seattle Times Mariners Blog Fest a real interesting event by the time Thursday rolls around. Wouldn't it be fun if the news conference was a few hours before it? Think of all we'd be able to talk about! We got a big whack of RSVPs from some of you over the weekend and some more today. There are still some spots left if you want to attend. But we are going to cap it at a certain number, to preserve the intimacy and your chances of winning those Mariners tickets.

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February 4, 2008 10:15 AM

Bedard trade back on track

Posted by Geoff Baker

It took a while, but we've finally gotten it confirmed that Adam Jones is indeed in Baltimore taking his physical today. Would have liked to have this out to you last night, but unfortunately, we could not get anyone to verify it. Finally, we can. We'd rather be a few hours late than be wrong. Remember, how often folks had said Jones was in Baltimore prior to last night? Well, we told you that was not the case. Now, we can tell you this trade is about to finally go ahead.

Still seeking the whereabouts of Erik Bedard, the pitcher who is set to become the No. 1 arm in Seattle's rotation. Bedard, you may recall, was about to be traded to the M's eight days ago before Jones leaked news of the deal to Venezuelan reporter Augusto Cardenas of Diario Panorama. That set off a chain of events, most notably an angry reaction from Orioles owner Peter Angelos, that prompted Baltimore to cancel a Jones physical set for last Tuesday. The deal has been in limbo since.

We have not heard anything more about second baseman Brian Roberts being add to the package the M's will receive. I think it's safe to put that in the wild rumors category and assume this is a straight deal for Bedard. We'll let you know as soon as we hear more. For what it's worth, George Sherrill has not returned my calls for nearly 24 hours -- in complete contrast to what he'd done prior to yesterday. Sherrill usually returns all of them within the hour. A class act who will be missed in Seattle. This should be a good deal for both teams, no doubt about it. They are both getting pieces they want. Who "wins" this deal might not be determined for at least a year. It's very possible both teams will win.

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February 3, 2008 12:28 AM

Need a Bedard update?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Sorry, I don't have one for you. Nothing about Adam Jones and physicals either. But Larry Stone, who has been working on this all day, does have some info.

"By the way,'' Stone writes, "despite Internet reports, Jones was not in Baltimore for a physical on Friday. As of Saturday, he was still at home."

I know who Stone got that info from and I assume he wasn't lying. We're trying to stay as accurate as possible and not let the rumor mill get out of hand.

By the way, for what it's worth, I think the Giants have a good shot at upending New England tomorrow. Better than just about any NFC team would have. Aw heck, I think they're going to win, and not just because of the defensive line. That alone won't do it. For me, having a 265-pound running back helps. If the Giants control the ball, it should be very interesting. That means Plaxico Burress needs to play the game of his life and make the first down catches like he did in Green Bay. If you can beat up on Al Harris, you can take any corner in the league. The biggest deal in this game? If I was a betting man, I'd say the lack of a fear factor plays into New York's hands more than anything else. They won't waste the first quarter being in awe of the Patriots, since they just played them a month ago. That's a huge deal in football. Bigger than some folks realize.

I know I'm overstepping my turf here, but hey, had to fill up this post with something.

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February 2, 2008 7:51 AM

Wilkerson and luck

Posted by Geoff Baker

Came across this interesting blog item on newest Mariners outfielder Brad Wilkerson. It was penned by Brett Miller, a regular contributor on one of our favorite sites, Lookout Landing, and who I had the pleasure of meeting while giving a talk to the local Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) chapter at Safeco Field during FanFest last weekend.

It essentially argues that Wilkerson was a victim of simple bad luck throughout most of last season, attributing his mediocre statistics to one bad month and a terrible rate in his batting average on balls in-play (BABIP). For those of you who don't know what that is, it's exactly what it sounds like. Regular batting average takes into account things like strikeouts. BABIP does not. It measures the number of at-bats in which a hitter makes contact on a ball -- minus strikeouts -- that wind up being hits. It also excludes home runs. Average line drive hitters tend to get a .300 batting average.

One thing I disagree with in the post is that you have to view this deal as being a downgrade from what Adam Jones would have brought in 2008, as opposed to whether it's a downgrade from Jose Guillen last year. I don't think you can look at next season and measure from there before a game has been played yet. A team looks at the previous season and how it can improve. So, you ask yourself, can I help my starting rotation try to take a giant leap forward while keeping last year's corner outfield situation roughly the same? That's what you base your future team designs on. You know last year earned you 88 wins, or a better than .500 season if you don't want to narrow it down too much, and now you figure out how to best keep that model and move forward. In my opinion, anyway.

We'll let Miller take it from there. In the interest of balance, because many of you know where I stand on feeling the Wilkerson signing was a decent one and he can come close to replacing Guillen, we bring you the "Wilkerson stinks" argument from another favorite site, U.S.S. Mariner. (OK, fair enough, it doesn't say he stinks. It's just not as rosy.)

Continue reading this post ...

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February 1, 2008 9:21 AM

M's need more than weak division

Posted by Geoff Baker

Lots of discussion the past day or so about the Brad Wilkerson deal and the chances of the Mariners winning the wild-card rather than the AL West. On Wilkerson, I think it was a solid move with a big potential for upside. On the hitting front, Wilkerson was a lot closer to a league average hitter his past few, injury hampered, seasons than Jose Guillen was in 2006 before signing with Seattle.

Though Wilkerson's upside is not what Guillen's was, it should be only a small offensive downgrade. Defensively, it's a small upgrade. Compared to Adam Jones, who may finally get traded "officially" in the next day or two, Wilkerson could exceed his offense, while not being as good defensively. How much will that cost the team? We don't know, but I assume that Wilkerson overall will be at least a slight downgrade from what Jones overall will produce in his first full season. How that translates in the won-lost column is anyone's guess. And when it comes to Seattle's overall defensive efficiency, much will depend on the continued improvement of the middle infield versus the regression of the older outfielders. Remember, this team won 88 games with two below average defensive corner outfielders last season, combined with a sub-par starting rotation.

A suggestion by Donovan in the comments thread yesterday, which I had made on a couple of occasions previously, is that Seattle's wild-card hopes could be greatly improved by the fact there will likely be two weak teams in the AL West next season. The operative word in that sentence is "could" because when it comes to the AL wild-card, recent history shows the "two weak teams" theory doesn't guarantee much.

Continue reading this post ...

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