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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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April 2, 2008 10:35 PM

Mariners 4, Rangers 1: The aftermath

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.

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Posted by oregongal

11:32 PM, Apr 02, 2008

Larry, I was wrong, you can tell the future. You got the 4-1 score, just a day early. Very intricate April Fools joke. :)

Posted by joe

11:56 PM, Apr 02, 2008

Since the M's have depth at SP, maybe they could slide Batista to the closer role for now and move Baek or Dickey into the rotation. Problem solved!

Posted by oregongal

12:43 AM, Apr 03, 2008

I'm a big Batista fan and I think he has the toughness for a closer. I just don't think he has the arm. He's come in twice and been successful, and I wouldn't mind seeing him again in a similar situation, but anything on a regular basis seems pretty high risk.

Posted by Nat

1:17 AM, Apr 03, 2008

Larry, that's a great, feel-good story: Mariners lean on power, the fortune cookie message Batista had a sort of heads-up about his closer role tonight and hey, it worked out! I also really liked what Silva had to say about wanting to be 'in there with the big guys,' Bedard and Felix. So he pitched up to their level - yay! If he can keep doing that...I figured the addition of Bedard would challenge Felix in his outings, and the two of them would motivate the players, but I didn't realize how their pitching would impact the other pitchers in the RO. Wow! Now if the rest of the offense can just come around...

But the Mariners are not the only ones struggling with offense. I've been checking out quite a few other team blogs in teh last day or so and am seeing the exact, same frustration!!!! The cooler heads in baseball bloggerland say, "Pitching is ahead of hitting and it takes a month or so to really get the bats going." So maybe there's hope yet for Richie and Wilkerson, and Vidro's hitting and base stealing don't look half bad so far. I'm feeling better about the mariners than I did after last night's game, at least!

It's always good to take the first serires! Goodnight, you night owls-

Posted by Anna11

8:09 AM, Apr 03, 2008

I was at the game, and liked what I saw out of Silva. His ability to pitch out of trouble in the 7th inning was huge. He threw a lot of pitches in the first, but was able to settle down (admittedly, this was helped by Yuni's amazing catch) and eat up some innings.

We thought that either McLaren was crazy or crazy smart for putting Batista in as closer. Could using Batista as a reliever on his normal throwing days end up tiring him out excessively later in the season?

Posted by Geoff

8:45 PM, Apr 03, 2008

Larry- On a different note, how long should McLaren give Sexson before he moves him down in the order? I'm not suggesting doing something daft, but 1 for 11 starting the season? Maybe for a kid making the league minimum, but for a veteran earning $15.5 M? I don't have much sympathy or patience for this kind of return on investment. It's 2007 all over again.



Posted by bomberboy

1:22 PM, Apr 04, 2008

When Sexson gets moved, it better not be down in the order. I hope he snaps out of it but if this bunch is a contender the end of April is D-Day. And then we just move him out. He cannot pinch hit or is contribute or the highway time...

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