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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 22, 2008 8:29 AM

Rotation slots to be named after today's workout

Posted by Geoff Baker

Bedard 170.jpg

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.

Bedard 162.jpg

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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Some of the things that went into his choices?

"We cruched some numbers,'' he said in audio you can listen to here. "Who benefitted by the extra day's rest, splitting up the lefties -- that was part of the formula -- how they did against certain opponents. Sometimes that doesn't all work, but it's some of the things we talked about.''

I've already told you my guess: Carlos Silva at No. 3, Jarrod Washburn at No. 4 and Miguel Batista at No. 5.

Silva will likely give you more seven-inning games than the other two guys, so he's my third starter behind Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez. If the goal is to split up the lefties, Washburn goes fourth so you don't have him and Bedard going on consecutive days. Putting Washburn third would accomplish the same goal, since there would still be that same pitcher between him and Bedard, but as I said, Silva gives you more innings on a per-game basis and I like him facing the third starter of other teams.

Putting Batista (pictured below throwing a bullpen session this morning) in the fifth spot gives the team some intriguing options. First off, he'd probably be the best fifth starter in all of baseball. Most No. 5 guys aren't capable of winning 16 games and throwing close to 200 innings with a league average ERA. But here's another thing: Batista has served as a back-of-the-bullpen reliever before and could come in handy in that role should the M's need him there down the road.

Bedard 174.jpg

I always thought the M's would have been better served last August by removing Batista from the starting rotation and making him the eighth-inning setup man. I'm sure the team had designs on this as well. In fact, some insiders have hinted to me that the M's were thinking about this. In the end, they opted against it.

Either way, it was a tough call. Batista was one of the rotation's more consistent arms last season and pulling him would only have made the rotation worse. Also, the way the entire back of the bullpen, save J.J. Putz, seemed to be running on fumes, it's possible management thought that using Batista late would have been like sticking a band-aid on the dike about to burst.

Bedard 175.jpg

Me personally? I'd have prefered to see Batista coming out of the bullpen that night in Cleveland rather than Rick White. But once Batista was kept in the rotation, White was the only other option that had been made available to manager John Mclaren by GM Bill Bavasi. If you're going to criticize that move -- which many of you have -- the criticism should be pointed at Bavasi for not supplying McLaren with a better option. Once White was the only option for the eighth, you have to use him. And I'm not just talking about the Cleveland game either. You had to use him in the other contests as well. The whole purpose of getting him was so that Putz would not have to work multiple innings every night.

This year, if Batista is the fifth starter and gets skipped on occasion, he could be brought in to spell the bullpen from time to time as the season progresses. McLaren said skipping the fifth starter will be a possibility. Much will depend on how the other arms are throwing and whether an extra day of rest is needed, or not. Sometimes, giving a pitcher added rest is worse than the reverse. Makes them feel too strong and causes them to overthrow, which can result in injuries. So, allowing the fifth starter to take his turn after an off-day runs the risk of throwing off the arms of someone like Bedard or Hernandez. That's not in the team's best interest, so I expect to see the No. 5 guy skipped on occasion. And that would leave Batista free for other duties.

I'm not getting this from the team, just speculating for now. But this I will tell you. Come August, if the M's find themselves in a similar situation to last year, with a bullpen running out of gas, you will see Batista out there in the eighth before any Rick White types are allowed to take the mound. A rotation as deep as this one is right now can afford that luxury.

Batista is the type of professional who will do that dual role without complaining. Anyway, it's not an issue for now. Just something to think about down the road.

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