Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
March 22, 2008 4:35 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A shot above of Adrian Beltre, trudging off the field with other Mariners following an 8-5 loss to the Texas Rangers in front of 11,029 at Peoria Stadium. Most of the action in this game took place the first inning, when the Mariners jumped ahead 4-2. After that, it was a long, slow afternoon for Seattle pitching. The hitting slowed down a huge bunch as well and there were the requisite baserunning and fielding mistakes.
Manager John McLaren summed it up perfectly afterwards.
"I don't care about when spring training ends,'' McLaren said. "I do care about how we play the game and I don't like what I've seen lately.''
Well put. Not much more to say. Hear the rest of it right here if you don't want to take my word for it. But really, it's very straightforward. Spring training statistics don't mean all that much. But playing the game well? Playing it the right way? That certainly does matter when the regular season is eight days away from beginning. Right now, the M's are not playing the game right. Haven't for a few days. And yes, unlike Ichiro's 0-for-21, or Erik Bedard's seven homers allowed in 18 innings, not playing the game the right way is a reason for concern.
Getting the proper reads on fly balls, so the trail runner doesn't pass you on the bases? That's playing the game right. Tracking down pop flies so that your pitcher doesn't have to give up runs in trying to notch extra outs? That's playing the game right. Getting ahead of hitters if you're a pitcher? That helps. Even a rather routine looking rundown play nearly got botched in the late innings when Beltre failed to tag the runner and Miguel Cairo had to finally run him down.
Anyhow, we won't go into it all again. Teams do tend to lag this time of spring. And yes, the M's are tired of playing meaningless games. But it's not that easy to flip the proverbial switch once the season starts. Not when it comes to playing the game right. McLaren has the look of a worried man. He's got some legitimate concerns about his offense and, to a lesser extent, his bullpen. The last thing he needs is to worry that his players have forgotten the fundamentals. This team has a lackadaisical look to it at the moment. Look for that to change in coming days.
On the positive side, Chris Reitsma had one of his better outings of the spring, giving up a run over two innings of work. Arthur Rhodes allowed a double, but also struck out a pair in his outing. Reitsma looks to have a shot at the opening day roster. Mike Morse had the bat going today, collecting three more hits and two RBI. Morse is now hitting .542 for the spring. If his defense winds up costing him a job, there are going to be some ticked off M's fans out there. The downside? Jake Woods allowing four consecutive singles to start his outing and turning a 4-3 lead into a 7-4 disadvantage.
"I'm a little disappointed in the pitching today,'' McLaren said.