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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 5, 2008 8:00 AM

Doubleheader today

Posted by Jose Romero

Sort of. The Mariners play their first and perhaps only minor-league game of the spring. They could schedule another down the road but it's not certain.

Following that game, it's the regularly scheduled spring training affair against those hated Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Is that what they are now? Or is it just the Los Angeles Angels? There's only one team in L.A. for my money, and as much as I like what Arte Moreno has done, it's the Dodgers.

Anyway, last year's first-round draft pick, Phillippe Aumont, is scheduled to pitch this morning. I'll have some details later in the day but now I have to do the walk, as Morris Day and the Time spoke of in a song from the 1980s, to the Padres' section of the complex here in Peoria.

Before I go, let's take a look at the regular-heavy lineups for today's big-league game. M's manager John McLaren talked this week about wanting to win this game and told a story of how the Angels brought two busloads of players to a game against Seattle in spring training one year in Peoria, and then-manager Lou Piniella asked McLaren, his bench coach at the time, why so many.

"They want to win," McLaren said. "That's what it's all about."

McLaren intends to send a similar message to the Angels, that the Mariners intend to reverse the trend of Angels' more recent dominance of them. L.A. was 13-6 vs. Seattle in 2007.

Lineups here:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3-2):
9 Chone Figgins 3B
24 Gary Matthews Jr. RF
27 Vladimir Guerrero DH
48 Torii Hunter CF
16 Garret Anderson LF
47 Howie Kendrick 2B
39 Robb Quinlan 1B
5 Jeff Mathis C
6 Maicer Izturis SS

90 Nick Adenhart RHP

Other Pitchers:
94 Henry Bonilla RHP
52 Jason Bulger RHP
66 Jose Arredondo RHP
86 Steve Marek RHP
83 Darren O'Day RHP

Seattle Mariners (2-3):
51 Ichiro Suzuki CF
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
28 Raul Ibanez LF
44 Richie Sexson 1B
6 Brad Wilkerson RF
2 Kenji Johjima C
10 Greg Norton DH
4 Jose Lopez 2B
16 Willie Bloomquist 3B

45 Erik Bedard LHP

Other Pitchers:
20 J.J. Putz RHP
35 Brandon Morrow RHP
54 Sean Green RHP
58 Cha Seung Baek RHP

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Posted by scrapiron

8:29 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Yep, basically the opening day lineup out there today except for Beltre, who's not in camp, and Vidro, who's still injured.

If Bedard struggles today, don't crucify him. Remember that Bedard has spent all of his previous springs in Florida. This is his first time in Arizona. So what, you say? Breaking ball pitchers have always complained that the ball doesn't break well in Arizona and they struggle. Bedard's forte is precise control of his curveball, which he hasn't been able to manage yet.

My guess is that the drier air in Arizona makes it a little hard to get a good grip on the baseball, allowing for fewer rotations on breaking pitches.

Posted by scrapiron

8:35 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Jose, could you ask McLaren exactly how many bench spots are actually open to competition?

The PI is reporting today that there is only one bench spot up for grabs, and it's between Norton, Morse or Jimerson.

So Balentien is definately ticketed for Tacoma, and if Morse or Jimerson doesn't make the cut they'll be placed on waivers because they're out of options.

Posted by James from Walla Walla

8:38 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Hey MooselakeManny, From Yesterday's Thread

I totally agree!! Why it took so long to bench Sexson last year and play Broussard, I will never understand. The Mariners have a lot of time and effort invested in our young position players.
We are out of options on part of them, Morse and Jimerson. Common sence would dictate to now give them a real chance. The Mariners need to suck it up and eat Vidro salery, we NEED POP in the DH bat. I contend we put Ibanez in the DH spot. Now put Morse/Balentien in his spot, giving us better better defense. Then put Reed as the fourth OF. He could platoon and back up all of the OF positions. As far as the IF positions go we should keep only Willie or Cairo. Having just one would give us the flexibility of using Morse as IF backup. Thus, allowing us to keep Balentien on the roster as well. Having this nice blend of emerging young player would help energize the rest of the Mariner players.

Posted by ak-rowdy

9:12 AM, Mar 05, 2008

It looks like the angels don't want to go easy on Bedard. I don't know any of their pictures but I think that lineup is most of their starters.

Posted by ak-rowdy

9:14 AM, Mar 05, 2008

should be pitchers (not pictures). I always misspell that.

Posted by Chuck

9:24 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Sure wish the regulars would start hitting.

Posted by Chuck

9:26 AM, Mar 05, 2008

I understand Ramirez pitched with pain in his back yesterday. It would seem that a 37 year old veteran would realize the ramifications of pitching in pain--especially in a meaningless game in ST. Dumb!

Posted by Chuck

9:28 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Sorry, my bad--make that Batista who piched through pain--stil dumb!

Posted by Sharon

9:41 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Surprise surprise, Soriano is hurt - from the ESPN spring training blog:

Rafael Soriano missed the first week of the Braves' spring training games with a stomach ailment. But he might be facing more than tummy trouble.


Manager Bobby Cox says Soriano had minor inflammation in his right elbow, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Braves think Soriano, who missed the 2005 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, is experiencing soreness that's typical for some pitchers in spring training.


Soriano singed a two-year, $9 million contract in January after he showed promise in the role last season. He converted 9 of 12 save chances behind former closer Bob Wickman, who has since been released.

Posted by Mike

9:43 AM, Mar 05, 2008

I'd still much rather have him than HoRam. We could actually let Morrow develop into a starter.

Posted by Manito

9:44 AM, Mar 05, 2008

I totally agree with James from Walla Walla. Ibanez as DH, Morse/Balentein in LF, and Reed as 4th OF.Release Vidro and pay only his 1st month's salary.I might swap Jimerson for Reed as Jimerson is out of options and would be picked up by another team when put on waivers. Keep Bloomquist and cut Cairo, paying only his 1st month's salary.

Posted by scrapiron

9:53 AM, Mar 05, 2008

The Angels are playing their starters except 1B, C and SS. But even those are the second string guys.

Where the Angels are taking it easy on us is the pitching. That's basically their AAA pitchers out there. If the Mariners starters can't pound out some runs on those guys we're in trouble.

Posted by gk1300

9:54 AM, Mar 05, 2008

The Ms want to win and yet Stinkson is batting. AND batting 4th!

Posted by Mike

10:11 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Manito-

As much as I don't like Vidro as DH, I like the thought of him as a pinch-hitter.

What I'd really like to see is a trade for a first baseman (Nick Johnson, for instance, is currently battling Dmitri Young to start for the Nationals and one of them is going to lose out). Then you could platoon our two worst defenders, Ibanez and Sexson at DH.


The problem is Bavasi does not seem to understand or care that Ibanez is a defensive liability and shouldn't hit against lefties. He also seems to think that Vidro is a good DH.


We really do have enough talent to contend with just one or two moves but we won't make them. Hello 84 wins.

Posted by Manito

10:16 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Could Morse, a former SS, play 1st Base and put Sexson on the bench as a pinch hitter? Then we would use Balentein as our "power hitter" and play LF. Why did we sign Cairo when Chen can "push" Lopez? Our best team would include Balentien, Morse, and Jimerson. Cut Vidro and use Ibanez as our DH!!!

Posted by Mike

10:21 AM, Mar 05, 2008

I'm not sure Morse can hit enough to justify playing first. And I'm going to continue whining about acquiring Johnson since that lefty swing is tailor made for Safeco.

I think Morse might hit enough for leftfield if Balentien isn't ready.

Posted by Manito

10:23 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Interesting post by Mike. What are the numbers on Nick Johnson? Would he be our full-time 1st baseman? What would it take to get him: Horam and Reed? How do you see that affecting the Morse, Jimerson, Balentein competition? Why is Norton even part of the discussion? Is he that great?

Posted by Donovan

10:30 AM, Mar 05, 2008

The key question that drives how many 25-man roster spots are still open is how many pitchers the M's will carry. If we follow recent precedent (and that of most MLB teams), and carry 12 pitchers, then there can only be one spot open - 4th OFer. I'd say right now it comes down to Morse or Jimerson. Forget Norton and Reed. Cairo, who signed a ML deal, not minor league, as several posters noted yesterday, was always on the team as the utility infielder. Willie is almost certainly on the team for pinchrunning and emergency field duty wherever. Burke is the #2 catcher. That's 25 folks. There isn't room for anybody else. ST is almost never an open tryout for starting positions. None of those were ever in question on this team. If you weren't going to play one of the regulars from last year, then you would have gotten rid of him during the offseason. There could still be a trade, but it gets less likely with each day.

The interesting wrinkle is if Mac decides he can go with 11 pitchers, and I think that question (or whether it is actually a question) needs to be addressed by the media. I can imagine that the team wants to keep mum on their thinking for a while, until we see how the bullpen looks, but you could conceivably take both Morse and Jimerson north on March 31st. It isn't going to be Balentien or Clement. They don't want those guys starting the season on the bench, nor should they. Those guys are tagged as future stars. Balentien would be an immediate call up if a starting OFer got hurt. Clement either needs to develop as a catcher or learn a new position. He can't do either in the Majors this year. He's most likely a Sep call up in 08.

Posted by Mike

10:34 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Manito-

Johnson was hurt all last year. He's around 30. He walks a lot and hits for some power. I don't know what it would take to get him. Probably not a ton if he doesn't beat out Dmitri Young. It will certainly take more than Reed and HoRam since they are pretty untradeable. Here's a link to his stats.

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/6401

Posted by Manito

10:36 AM, Mar 05, 2008

With our strong starting pitching rotation, can't we carry one less pitcher and add one more player to our bench? Should it include Vidro? McClaren tends to like a set lineup. What would it be? Would we platoon at any position? What players should be on the bench? Like Mike proposed, what are the one or two moves we should make before the season starts? The Boston Globe suggested that the Mariners are a good fit for Barry Bonds! I sure hope Bavasi reads the various Mariner blogs as we seem to have better ideas on how to build a winning roster.

Posted by Donovan

10:44 AM, Mar 05, 2008

I've posted this before, but nobody seems to think it has any merit: We have no basis to conclude that Mac likes a set lineup. You can't deduce that from his practice last season under extenuating circumstances. Hargrove certainly refused to vary the lineup much, and Mac had to live with that legacy. He was not brought in to shake things up. He was trying to hold things together on a team that was technically in contention, but about to run out of gas. Yes, they would have been better giving guys regular rest all season last year. Blame Hargrove for that failure, not Mac. We will see this year what his real tendencies are. This is his first year as an anointed manager. Keep in mind that unlike Hargrove, Mac DID bench Sexson for a time last season, and when he put him back in Sexy hit well - for a few games. I don't think Mac will be as stodgy as others do, and I think he gets a bad rap for last year.

Posted by Mike

10:48 AM, Mar 05, 2008

We've had the Bonds argument. I'd be for it. But many people (including the Ms) think the headaches caused by Bonds would not be worth a .270 increase in OPS from the DH position.

And Donovan....I hope you are right about Mac but with the way the bench is beginning to shake out, I don't see much incentive to platoon or give guys a day off. Perhaps Morse could give Raul some time off against lefties. But a likely bench of Morse, Cairo, Bloomquist & Burke will not push the regulars for any meaningful playing time.

Posted by zona

10:52 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Mac...Why are you announcing to the world that you want to "send a message to the Angels" by winning today's game? Why not just play the game and let your play do the talking. That way you don't look like an idiot if you lose the game.

Posted by Donovan

11:00 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Mike - I don't disagree. The line between the starters and subs on this team is clear. I think the good news is that Cairo, Willie, and Morse (if he makes the team) can all play multiple positions, so you can rotate them around the lineup. I'd like to see one of those guys in the lineup every other day. Lots of rest for everybody. Cycle the hot bats through the DH slot. With today's incentive laden contracts, players hate down time, but that's tough. If you lay this pattern down in April, then they have to accept it. We will see if Mac has the guts take that path.

I think going with a 6 man bullpen would be a gutsy and confident call too, but if all it nets you is Jimerson or Reed on the bench, is it worth it? Open question. Balentien's bat would be worth it for sure, but I just don't think they want him in that PH role. Maybe I'm wrong and he makes the team at DH/platoon OF. I think a mid-season call up is far more likely though. Maybe we drop a pitcher in June/July and bring up a bat if the bullpen looks solid. It's a long season, and the opening day roster is just the starting point. There will be some different guys in the dugout come Sep.

Posted by Mike

11:12 AM, Mar 05, 2008

The problem is all you get is rest for your players. Cycling through two terrible hitters on a regular basis is a recipe for a lot of 3-2 losses. Bloomquist and Cairo are terrible hitters.

Donovan, do you think Mac would dare platoon Ibanez some? Raul is Bloomquist-like against lefties.

Posted by Donovan

11:46 AM, Mar 05, 2008

Terrible is an overstatement. Bloomquist and Cairo are mediocre hitters. Point taken though. They are late inning subs and rest for the regulars - that's it. Still, you need to rest guys. I wouldn't even play Ichiro 160 games. Probably Ichiro gets whatever he wants in real life.

I think for the first month of the season, you pretty much go with your first team and (in my fantasy world) regular rest all around. You have to give them the chance to find a groove. That includes Raul and even Sexson. Like I said, if Richie wasn't going to start, then that should have been dealt before ST by acquiring a ML-ready 1B.

After that, it depends on individual performance and the team's success. If Raul or anybody else shows a pattern of struggling AND (this is key) you have a hotter option on the roster (Morse maybe?), then hell yeah I'd platoon him to some degree. I'd be lying if I claimed to know what Mac would do. What I would not do if we were in contention (and I'm certain Mac won't) is randomly shuffle the lineup to find combinations that work. That's only a tactic for teams that are tanking it.

Raul has always been very professional in his approach and has a history or working out of slumps. His bat is not my main worry. A lot (including the M's season, but certainly the everyday lineup) depends on what Richie does in April/May. No way can can Mac give him two months plus to work on things if he doesn't show major improvement over last season. I'll be howling like everybody else if that scenario unfolds.

Posted by scrapiron

11:57 AM, Mar 05, 2008

I like Nick Johnson too but there are 14 million reasons why we won't get him.

Besides, the Mets are desperate for a first baseman and I've heard rumors they're going to make a run at Johnson.

Posted by FJC

1:12 PM, Mar 05, 2008

Free Jeff Clement!

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