Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
April 2, 2008 10:35 PM
Posted by Larry Stone
What a day it was for the Mariners. It started with J.J. Putz going on the DL -- pretty devastating news -- and ended with their No. 5 starter, Miguel Batista, getting the save.
After the game, Batista showed us the fortune cookie he got today when he ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant: "Someone will need your help this month."
Pretty funny. He had shown the fortune to John McLaren when he got to the ballpark and found out that Putz was going on the DL. Using Batista for the save emerged as a good option for McLaren for several reasons:
1) It was his normal throw day;
2) He had been a closer for Toronto as recently as 2005;
3) Mark Lowe and Eric O'Flaherty were pretty much out of commission after working the first two games.
McLaren was prepared to give Sean Green first crack at it. Green started the ninth (after also working the eighth) but walked the leadoff hitter, Josh Hamilton. That's when Batista was summoned to face the 4, 5 and 6 hitters for Texas. He got Hank Blalock and Milton Bradley to fly out, and Frank Catalonotto to ground out.
I asked McLaren if using Batista to close was a one-time thing. His answer left a little wiggle room: "At this moment, yes."
My hunch is that Mark Lowe will end up doing the bulk of the closing. O'Flaherty has struggled a little early, and Lowe's 95 mph fastball is suited for the job. He seems to have a pretty unflappable demeanor as well.
You've got to be encouraged by the Mariners' starters. Carlos Silva was simply outstanding, and he showed a lot of emotion on the mound, too. He said he was motivated to match the efforts of Felix and Bedard. The three of them have combined for a 0.95 ERA in their starts (two earned runs in 19 innings). There's a long way to go, but if the Big Two becomes a Big Three, it bodes very, very well. I'm interested now to see how Jarrod Washburn, who I thought looked pretty sharp in spring, does Friday in Baltimore.
The bats still need to pick up. Even though the M's got their first two homers of the season from the Joses (a three-run shot by Lopez, a solo by Vidro), they managed only seven hits. Ibanez, Sexson and Wilkerson -- 3, 4 and 6 -- are a combined 4-for-33 (.121).
But I'll leave you with a statistic that shows some progress in their approach at the plate. For the second time in three games, they had more walks (2) than strikeouts (1) on Wednesday. They have now walked 14 times in three games. Last year, they didn't collect their 14th walk until the 8th game.