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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 24, 2008 8:09 AM

Batista named the 5th starter

Posted by Geoff Baker

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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.

Now, if the starters are all going seven innings or more and the bullpen is well-rested, Batista may not be used in relief. Silva, pictured below, showed an ability to go seven innings last season, which is likely why he was slotted third. Batista has indicated a preference for getting his work in and not going too long between starts. So, the team would likely try to accomodate him with relief work. Skipping him won't really be an issue in April, but could come into play after that.

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"The guy has done everything you can do as a major league pitcher,'' McLaren said, adding that all three pitchers understood the reasoning behind the moves and are fine with them.

Batista indicated as much in interviews last week.

Splitting up lefthanders Washburn and Erik Bedard was also one of the considerations at-play in this slotting.

"I know last year when we had our two lefties together,'' McLaren said of Washburn and Horacio Ramirez, "the results were not very good.''

They were especially not good in Washburn's case. One of you pointed out the other day that an opposing manager can set a lineup to face lefty pitching whether it's on back-to-back days or with a righty in-between. The suggestion was that this whole splitting up thing wasn't that big a deal. That too much thought is going into it.

I disagree.

The one thing that happens with back-to-back lefty starters going is that the opposing hitters, particularly the lefthanded ones, can adpat better to a southpaw. When a lefty throws to a lefty, there is the illusion of a ball coming straight at the hitter once it leaves the pitcher's hand. Throw lefties out there consecutively and the hitters get used to this illusion. Put a righty in-between them, their sense of balance gets thrown off. It's kind of like bringing a hard-thrower in after a soft-tossing slop pitcher. The fastballs look like they're all coming in at 110 mph because of the difference in pitching styles.

But bring a hard-thrower in after a hard-throwing starter, it's a little easier to adjust. Unless the hard-thrower in J.J. Putz or somebody. But you get the point.

I'm not saying splitting up the lefties is going to make Washburn a Cy Young Award candidate. But it should enable him to have at least a slight edge over what he faced in those situations last season. In theory, anyway, which is what today's moves are based on.

Lots of fundamentals being worked on this morning. Here's Yuniesky Betancourt, below, working on getting his bunts down.

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Here they are, below, working on their defensive situations, where runners are placed on base and balls are hit to the outfield. Singles, doubles to the gap. There is a defense for every situation and players are expected to position themselves accordingly.

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