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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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March 4, 2008 3:12 PM

Under the rocks in East Phoenix

Posted by Jose Romero

End game: Oakland 9, Seattle 6
Mariners are 2-3 in Cactus League, have lost second in a row.
Sorry for not posting for a while, I was working on some breaking news (unrelated to the M's).
-Mike Morse played the whole game and was 2-for-4. He hit a home run in the top of the ninth and is now batting .636 in spring training (7-for-11). Talk about making a case to win a roster spot, but it's still early.
-The reason why Balentien and Ibanez were on the ground in the fifth inning in the outfield was indeed a swarm of bees buzzing around them.
-Erik Bedard will start for Seattle tomorrow vs. the Angels.

Batista pitched hurt

Batista admitted that he hurt his back on the lower left side above the hip, and it affected his performance in the second inning. The back tightened up after the first inning and he couldn't finish his pitches. Batista gave up two runs on two hits, walked one and struck out two. The reason he stayed in for the third inning is because, as he said, he wanted to prove something to himself and he feels like he's in the best shape of his career, that he can pitch when hurt.
Batista said that as he hit the ground and shifted his weight, he felt a sharp pain. He said it's probably a muscle strain. Not sure yet if it will affect when he pitches again.
In the second inning when he gave up his hits, runs and walks, his location was off. He said the back had been tightening up for the past week or so.

Top 7

Just got upstairs after listening to Batista and Dickey. Looks like I missed some action.

Bottom 5

OK, that was super strange. Ibanez and Balentien were lying on the grass in the outfield and it delayed the start of the inning. I guess there were bees out there. They were down for a minute or so and then got up, and play resumed. I'll have to check that one out.

Bottom 4
3-2 A's on sac fly. Then 2B Chen bails out Dickey by snagging a hard line drive up the middle on the fly. Inning over.

Update: Dickey is struggling with his control though Johjima is handling the knuckler well. Three walks in the inning and two on five pitches EACH. Bases loaded, one out.

Now pitching...R.A. Dickey for the Mariners. Johjima is catching him.

End 3rd

Batista sets them down in order. 10 total pitches. 41 for the game, 27 for strikes. Hard to tell what he's working on. But his day should be over now. He worked fast, that's for sure. I would say that regardless of what any other starter is working on (Washburn talked about adjusting his changeup grip yesterday), whatever Bedard does is bigger news right now and worthy of more scrutiny since he was such a huge addition. He's also the Opening Day starter. So he can't be so easily dismissed.

Top 3

Yung Chi Chen just went yard to left field. M's third HR of the spring. 2-2.

End 2nd

Batista got raked with two out in the bottom of the second. Two hard-hit doubles after walk brings in two runs, 2-1 Oakland. Batista has thrown 31 total pitches, 20 for strikes. He gave up two earned runs in his last outing last week, though that didn't count in spring training stats.

Top 2

With two outs, Balentien rips it some 405 feet to almost dead center, off the wall for a double. Johjima was dead at the plate had not the second baseman cut off the relay throw from CF. But he threw to third and they got Balentien in a run down. Johjima was barely rounding third when the CF was up with the ball. Run scores, 1-0 M's.

Bottom 1

Update: 3 up, 3 down for Batista -- 13 total pitches, 8 for strikes.

After two deep fly outs by Betancourt and Ibanez in the top of the first, Miguel Batista is on the hill. Raul gave it a ride to the wall. Batista is working pretty fast, strikes out leadoff man on a foul tip.

That's the setting here at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the A's and Mariners are under way at 1:04. It's 71 degrees and sunny.

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Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:39 PM, Mar 04, 2008

What is Batista working on today?

I.e. do we dismiss his stats today like we did with Bedard when Bedard was working on one of his pitches specifically?

Posted by Ziasudra

12:52 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Jose - your tracking procedure is excellent - I can check back every now and then and feel current.

Posted by William

12:57 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Sounds like your a little sensative about the whole Bedard thing. Dude, get over it. Your story was an overreaction to Bedard's 1st start. Don't try to back up your point by stating obvious things opening day starter and the like. Bedard was pitching in spring trainig. Somewhere I hear Allen Iverson saying " Practice!!!!". Hope all those Jake Peavy fans in San Diego are ok after his rough outing the other day.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

1:13 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Jose - How do you walk two on 5 pitches? Somekind of punishment for throwing the knuckleball?

Have you conducted any of your interviews in spanish? (with spanish speaking players of course...)

Posted by AKMarinersFan

1:15 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Ibanez teaching Balentien relaxation techniques? Or maybe that's going to be Ibanez fielding position this year? Really wouldn't change much.

Posted by Lance

1:16 PM, Mar 04, 2008

AKM, I'm sure you're jesting. If not, that's five pitches each.

Posted by Zorro

1:18 PM, Mar 04, 2008

"Jose - How do you walk two on 5 pitches? Somekind of punishment for throwing the knuckleball?"

Maybe 5 pitches a piece? I really hope Dickey pulls it together. I was getting excited about sending Horacio down :(

Posted by scottM

1:22 PM, Mar 04, 2008

from Donovan: "For the longshot guys, I'd say every at bat does count, because they aren't going to get very many, especially once we get to mid-March."

This is exactly the point I was making about Jimerson and Tuiasasopo. Both choked in this clutch situation. Tuiasasopo was always a very long shot to make the team and probably just buried that dim chance.

The Ichiro comparison is logically absurd because I was talking about the guys on the bubble. Ichiro is not remotely on the bubble. (i.e., learn to read before responding from the hip).

As for Jimerson, the way Morse has been hitting in ST (including during this same rally where he kept our chances alive), I would say that right now he has the distinct edge over Jimerson. Choking with a guy on second and third and only one out, as Jimerson did, may only be one at bat, but this was a key at bat. You have to make contact in those key situations. He didn't. Morse did.

Posted by Mike

1:33 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Hey Merrill...from the previous thread you were asking about Ibanez and whether last year's defense could have been affected by his hammy. I'd say absolutely (and quickly add "why the heck is he out there hurting the team"). But do check out the link from Lookout Landing that looks at flyballs converted into outs. Definitely some caveats here since Raul is not responsible for the entire outfield but good food for thought.

Posted by Donovan

1:38 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Jimerson and Morse are both out of options, so I agree they are the frontrunners for 4th OFer. Jimerson's main advantage is speed, and since he's likely to be used more as a pinchrunner than a fielder, that's key. Balentien will be called up this year, but I don't think it will happen until they need him to start (i.e., somebody gets hurt or slumps badly). Clement still needs to learn how to catch, and they want him playing too, so he's in Tacoma.

Posted by stuckincubsland

1:59 PM, Mar 04, 2008

It's shaping up like Cairo will be handed a spot, with the M's losing either Jimerson or Morse. I know Lou stuggled with his bench, but he at least gave young guys a chance over vets if they earned it. I see a lot of Cubs' games here in the midwest and he still injects energy into the lineup with youth. I do now understand why the M's are so fixated on wasting youth and running out stale vets who really don't offer anything. I know Donovan talks about Cairo playing 2b, but Willie plays second, and if Lopez needs so much help he shouldn't be starting. These kids are playing lights out, it's a shame that it probably won't even matter.

Posted by Donovan

2:04 PM, Mar 04, 2008

I think the working assumption that puts Cairo on the team is that he could play 2B everyday if Lopez tanks it. I don't think they feel that way about Willie, though Willie is almost certainly on the roster. If Lopez is looking right by opening day and Cairo does nothing, then Cairo could easily get released.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

2:22 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Keep an eye on Balentien everyone. I received the regular mob attack when I suggested the best bat in the minors belonged to Wladimir, not Adam Jones. It will be interesting what decision the M's make if he
goes on a tear the next three weeks.

Posted by Rain King

2:27 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Responding from the hip? Are you kidding me? Learn to have a dialog without ridiculous flaming.

My point is this, bubble or not, just as an 0-5 veteran, non-bubble player will not be any worse off in the roster, I contend that one at bat (and you were only talking about one at bat) will not make someone any less likely to make the team.

Suppose he turns around the next game and hits a HR. He still doesn't have a shot? I'd suggest that it's your performance over the shots you are given, not a snapshot of one at bat. He's young, being clutch is built up over time.

But I do agree with you that you are on a short leash after a particularlity poor at bat.

Posted by stuckincubsland

2:29 PM, Mar 04, 2008

If Cairo beats Jose out this ST, then great, he's earned something. To keep him with the assumption that he can play 2b everyday is a poor reason to keep him. You have a starter and a guy that can back him up. If Lopez tanks it, you can give Chen or Willie a shot. I don't know that Willie is starting material, but Cairo has proven that he is not. He cannot hit, and his defense isn't good enough to make up for his hole in the lineup.

Posted by scrapiron

2:34 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Resin - Good point. At the FanFest Bavasi said he purposely overhyped prospects he was looking to trade. Bavasi talked about Adam Jones non-stop, but hasn't said much about Balentien comparably, so maybe he'd like him as a long term solution in Seattle? There's no doubt Balentien has more power than Adam, I just don't know if his speed or defense will ever be as good.

By the way, right after that statement by Bavasi he went on to talk about what a great player he thought Tuiasosopo was going to be. I took that as a player he wasn't high on but was trying to hype up for trade.

Posted by scottM

2:53 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Chill out Rain King. You brought up Ichiro when my post was about guys on the bubble who are trying to make the team. This made your argument illogical. Pointing this out was by no means "ridiculous flaming."

The real discussion should be about Morse VS Jimerson, and I appreciate that you agree that Jimerson didn't help his cause any by choking yesterday.

To flesh this out better, I should have pointed out how solidly Morse has been playing so far in ST (including in this same clutch situation). Also, if McLaren is planning to keep powerlite utility guys Bloomquist and Cairo for their speed, then I think Jimerson's speed advantage over Morse is largely negated. Morse, like Jimerson, is under a great deal of pressure in ST. Thus far, Morse is earning that final spot. (Again, Balentien, will likely be stockpiled, so I think we're talking Morse VS Jimerson only here).

Posted by Donovan

3:16 PM, Mar 04, 2008

I think when you make the final cuts/selections, you balance the fit now with your long term plans, at least with young players. Balentien is obviously viewed as a star OF of the future, and that plan trumps any impact his bat would have off the bench. He will be groomed to be a starter, whether that is in May, Oct, or next year. I agree with Resin - given the construction of this team, I would want him over Jones. Clement is similar, though I think there are still real concerns over his catching ability. Morse v. Jimerson? The way Morse has been hitting, it would be hard to argue against him. In the end, it may come down to which one they think has more upside down the road, since the other is likely lost to waivers. Morse is 2.5 yrs younger, and that might make the difference.

Posted by Fg

3:18 PM, Mar 04, 2008

I've always been a Morse fan. I wonder how much more he has to prove though than he has, he hits at the major league level, he hits during spring training and plays, albeit modestly, infield and outfield positions. Why is he not considered the bench player du jour? A better Willie Bloomquist so to say? And as to speed he looked plenty speedy to me, perhaps not Lou Brock, but defnitely an upgrade at most of our positions.

And why the heck is Batista pitching hurt in a ST game? Shouldn't his health primarily be a concern? Especially for a veteran? Didn't Mclaren say that ST first was to stay healthy? Perhaps Batista should take a few pointers from Ichiro on the big view on helping the team? Hope he is okay.


Posted by Donovan

3:22 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Just to clarify - As far as the 2B situation goes, I don't like the current situation at all. If Cairo was brought in to push Jose in ST, then fine. I don't like burning a roster spot on him, if the only rationale is as a contingency for Lopez, should he fade in the second half. I don't like that, but it looks to me like that is the plan. I would rather see a young, eager bat on the bench than an emergency backup. Maybe the team has a higher opinion of his ability than we do here.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

3:46 PM, Mar 04, 2008

JOse - can't leave us hanging...what's the breaking news? Alexander leaving the hawks ( I hope).

Posted by Mike

3:49 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Scraps---I'm not sure Bavasi's hype job works on other team's scouts. I'd like to believe that Balentien is our secret ace in the hole but it seems just about everyone outside of Seattle thought he was inferior to that guy who is now playing in Baltimore. You might be right about the power though. I could live with a 30HR outfielder who plays average D. Here's hoping he gets there.

Posted by grant

4:51 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Morse should make the big club this year. He can play 6 positions on defense and has proven he can hit. What more does the guy have to do?

Posted by John

5:48 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Cairo will make the club because he's a veteran backup for Lopez, and he's solid all around the infield.
Morse will make the club because he's a right-handed bat in the outfield with at least some pop, and he's versatile enough to play the infield, too. Plus I don't think Bavasi wants to give up on the Garcia trade yet.
Bloomquist will make the club because he's also versatile, including the only backup center fielder for Ichiro with any experience. And he's a Washington kid, which seems to be attractive to the front office folks for some reason. Plus he's decent at stealing bases when you need one.
Reed is gone. We don't need another left-handed outfielder, and a light-hitting one at that.
None of this is news to anyone, but for my money, unless Morse completely stops hitting, that's what is going to happen.
Balentien and Clement probably go back to AAA, which is a shame, particularly because I think Clement or Balentien would make a better DH than Vidro.
I understand the importance of giving Clement a full season to catch, but I think you're hurting your big league lineup - at least a little.

Posted by scrapiron

6:20 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Last year the Mariners brought in Rey Ordonez to "push" Yuni, and they released Ordonez as soon as spring training was over. (IMHO he would have been a better fit than Ellison was, but I digress)

This year when I heard they brought in Miguel Cairo to "push" Lopez, I figured they'd repeat the same pattern as last year, and Cairo would be gone as soon as spring training was over. Then McLaren announces his great strategy plan of using Bloomquist/Cairo more often as defensive replacements/pinch runners late in games and the other one sitting on the bench as an injury insurance.

Posted by Snowbound

6:33 PM, Mar 04, 2008

The difference with Ordonez and Cairo is that the guys they normally bring in (Ordonez, Vina, and others) are normally brought in as NRI guys. Cairo is not in that situation, he was actually signed to a major league contract when the M's signed him. He's going to be on the roster come opening day unless he suffers injury as the M's would still be on the hook for a portion of his contract.. I just don't see them bailing on him during ST.

Posted by Mr. X

6:46 PM, Mar 04, 2008

Snowbound stole half of my thunder. Ordonez wasn't brought in to "push" anyone. He was an NRI who had a decent spring. The fact that he was considered to make the team at all shows how disgustingly awful our bench situation was last year.

Cairo also was not brought in to push anyone. He was brought in for "bench depth" on a major league contract, and will hopefully banish Willie Bloomquist to what he would be on any other contending club. Pinch runner or emergency defensive replacement if everyone else has been used, or in case of injury. Cairo should be the first infielder off the bench every time in 2008. McLaren didn't "announce this strategy", it was reported the same day that Cairo was signed.

Posted by Donovan

7:13 PM, Mar 04, 2008

We are in complete agreement John, except I don't know what makes you think the bit about Bavasi being determined to make a piece stick that he got for Garcia. Why? That trade hardly looms large in Bavasi's legacy, nor was it one of his more controversial, given the context. You keep a guy because you think he will turn into something useful, not because you are still trying to justify a deal that most people have already forgotten about.

Posted by Lola

10:57 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Wait- so are or aren't bees the official word on the "super strange" antics in the outfield?

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