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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 12, 2008 4:01 PM

Sights and Sounds: Ichiro

Posted by Geoff Baker

I know some of you can't get enough of this Ichiro "slump" thing, so I've decided to play along. Here's some video of Ichiro from today, going about his routine. Didn't ask him about it, so I'll just assume what's going on and put it into a story. The way I see it is this:

Ichiro, desperate to snap an 0-for-21 spring slump, decides that maybe he'll try bunting for a hit the next time up. So, he gets a little work in. Nothing great happening.

Former manager Mike Hargrove, in camp to do some consulting on a handful of hitters for GM Bill Bavasi, looks on with interest. Later, Ichiro tells anyone who will understand his Japanese (like the trainer wearing the shoulder bag) that his bat simply refuses to hit the ball.

Hargrove walks over to Lee Elia, a consultant for manager John McLaren, behind the batting cage. "See that guy over there?'' Hargrove says, pointing at Ichiro as he warms up. "I've been studying him with my consultant's eye and I'll bet you he doesn't get a single hit, even in batting practice!''

"You're on, but it's double or nothing,'' Elia says. "My consultant's eye says he gets a hit!''

"Put her there!'' Hargrove says as they exchange high-fives and some laughs.

"Hate to take your money, old boy,'' Elia replies with a back slap.

Ichiro has some plans of his own, which involves a private chat with the day's batting practice pitcher. Maybe telling him to lob a few balls right down the middle?

For a moment, Hargrove's wager looks solid as Ichiro fouls a pair into the netting. But later, his singles stroke is back. Crisis averted for yet another day. That's surely how things went. Or maybe not...perhaps this is all being taken way too seriously. But hey, you wanted updates.

Later, we see Ichiro doing some long-toss with Raul Ibanez. The interesting part of the footage is where coach Eddie Rodriguez is offering some throwing tips to Ibanez, especially the form he should use on his follow through after the throw. Ibanez and Ichiro later jog off the field.

bigisland08 083.jpg

Up above, you see manager McLaren coming off the field after today's game, a 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. McLaren stops for his post-game chat with reporters. He liked the job done by his rehabbing pitchers, most notably, Arthur Rhodes. He was also pleased with the work by Mike Morse, a 3-for-4 effort with a double and two RBI. Morse is now batting .536 this spring.

"He's got to feel good about it,'' McLaren said. "We felt good about it.''

bigisland08 084.jpg

McLaren goes on to talk about the competition between Morse, Wladimir Balentien and Charlton Jimerson as that extrra right handed outfield bat. Balentien went 1-for-4 with an RBI double.

"They all bring a little something to the table,'' he said. "They all bring a little something different.''

Hear what McLaren said in-detail right here.

Down below, see Morse signing autographs for some fans as he heads off the field.

bigisland08 087.jpg

Caught up with Arthur Rhodes after the game. He was treated to a mini-standing ovation from the fans as he headed off the mound after his 1-2-3 seventh inning -- his first mound action in nearly a year. Three straight groundball outs. Remember when I told you there's no real plan to get Rhodes in a real game before May. He begs to differ,

"I'm ready to go right now,'' he said. "I know (they say) patience. But by the end of spring training, the way I'm going, I want to be on this team.''

Rhodes, for all his veteran savvy, admitted to some rookie jitters as he headed out to the mound from the bullpen. We'll let him tell it. Hear it all right here in this audio clip.

Mark Lowe also tossed a scoreless inning, working a 1-2-3 eighth.

COMMENT: 5:35 p.m.: For JP in the comments thread, it's two minutes of actual Mariners footage we're allowed to show. The Seattle Times logo at the beginning and end of the clips doesn't count.

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Posted by JP

5:13 PM, Mar 12, 2008

ooooooo.... I'm tellin. That was over 2 minutes, Geoff!

Posted by DrLo

5:29 PM, Mar 12, 2008

The improvised Ichiro story is good. No idea if this is behind Ichiro's thinking on taking extra bunting, but bunting is an excellent way to work on keeping one's head in and following the ball into the zone. Perhaps Ichiro was feeling that he was pulling his head a bit, even ever-so-slightly, and was looking to correct this. On the other hand, maybe he was simply practicing bunting because it is a skill that he uses and regularly works on, and that frankly any professional baseball player should possess.

I think Morse has been the guy given the least fair shake in management's "vets who've been through the wars" hangup over the past few years. He has done everything the team has asked each time he's been up, and he has delivered, despite being used infrequently and inconsistently. Not to mention his versatility. Interesting to see how Morse's torrid spring contrasts with Bloomquist's hot spring last year. Bloomquist's name was the first word out of everyone's mouth last spring, with many folks even arguing that he should start, while Morse's spectacular spring this year hardly warrants more than the occasional mention. Morse definitely deserves the 4th outfield spot, and if the team comes to its senses and let's Cairo or Bloomquist go, Jimerson should also be kept. Nothing against Balantien, but I think he deserves more playing time to develop, and he has options remaining.

Posted by DrLo

5:31 PM, Mar 12, 2008

The improvised Ichiro story is good....

No idea if this is behind Ichiro's thinking on taking extra bunting, but bunting is an excellent way to work on keeping one's head in and following the ball into the zone. Perhaps Ichiro was feeling that he was pulling his head a bit, even ever-so-slightly, or otherwise not quite seeing the ball as he wants, and was looking to correct this. On the other hand, maybe he was simply practicing bunting because it is a skill that he uses and regularly works on, and that frankly any professional baseball player should possess.

I think Morse has been the guy given the least fair shake in management's "vets who've been through the wars" hangup over the past few years. He has done everything the team has asked each time he's been up, and he has delivered, despite being used infrequently and inconsistently. Not to mention his versatility. Interesting to see how Morse's torrid spring contrasts with Bloomquist's hot spring last year. Bloomquist's name was the first word out of everyone's mouth last spring, with many folks even arguing that he should start, while Morse's spectacular spring this year hardly warrants more than the occasional mention. Morse definitely deserves the 4th outfield spot, and if the team comes to its senses and let's Cairo go, Jimerson should also be kept. Nothing against Balantien, but I think he deserves more playing time to develop, and he has options remaining.

Posted by drlo

5:32 PM, Mar 12, 2008

SORRY for doubling up! Something wrong with the system, as both of these submissions were "in error". Apologies.

Posted by Get Griffey

7:06 PM, Mar 12, 2008

This was something that people apparently didn’t read, conserving Ichiro and his lake of hits this spring. Larry Stone wrote this about Ichiro’s 01 debut spring and whay we need not worry now either.

“Later that spring, Piniella told hitting coach Gerald Perry that he should ask Ichiro to cut loose with the bat. As The Seattle Times' Bob Finnigan quoted Perry later that season:

‘I went to Ichiro and told him he had to start driving the ball, to make the defenses honest. He looked at me and winked. I swear to God he did.’

Perry reported to Piniella, who responded, ‘Well, tell the SOB to give us a hint so I can sleep at night.’

Footnote: The next day against Oakland, Ichiro hit three line drives, two that were doubles and one into the visitors bullpen for a home run, his first. Ichiro went on, of course, to win a batting title with a .350 average.

The moral: Don't sweat out Ichiro's still-.000 average this spring. I'll make a bold prediction: Ichiro will hit better than .300 in 2008 and collect more than 200 hits. Many, many more.”

Read the whole artical here http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/larrystone/2004266076_stone07.html

Posted by oregongal

8:32 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Welcome back, Geoff. Everytime I'm away from the blog for a day, something interesting happens. I'm glad Ramirez is off the roster, but I feel bad for him. He seems like a nice young man--even today he didn't snap or lash out--and I wish him well. Maybe he can find a niche in the NL, though I have to admit I don't want him around LA.

Thanks for giving us some of your "other" reporting background. Kind of puts the "wars" of baseball (puh-leeze) and lunatic fans in perspective.

Weebs, good for you. Enjoy marriage. It's wonderful.

Posted by Luke

10:26 PM, Mar 12, 2008

geoff, be sure to get some footage of bedard in his post game interview.

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