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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 7, 2008 3:42 PM

O'Flaherty, Oh Mariners!

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, back up from the clubhouse after Seattle's 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles caps a four-game sweep by the home side. Aubrey Huff takes Eric O'Flaherty deep in the eighth to snap a tie score. The Camden Yards fans, pictured above, were far happier than the guys inside the visiting clubhouse. On to John McLaren: yes, his explanation was that O'Flaherty was his situational lefty -- accent on WAS -- and that he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre decided it was best to get him "back on the horse'' right away. Even on a third consecutive day. George Sherrill did it today. Then again, Sherrill has produced far better results.

The end result is, O'Flaherty is not the late-inning, situational lefty anymore. Remember I talked about McLaren giving some guys enough rope to hang themselves? Well, O'Flaherty just did. Not in permanent fashion, but at least for now. McLaren wants to use him in some non-pressure situations going forward and the team will probably go with lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith in the eighth and ninth for now. Arthur Rhodes is on the minor-league DL and not eligible to come off until Thursday. He has thrown back-to-back games in extended spring training. Not sure you throw him in late right away, so Rowland-Smith looks like the guy.

Frankly, I thought he'd be the guy today and asked McLaren if he had any hesitation about using O'Flaherty three days in a row.

"Absoloutely none,'' he said. "Mel and I talked about it and Mel said he felt strong. We were very comfortable in using him.''

I wasn't comfortable seeing him out there. Not with Rowland-Smith available. But I don't manage the team.

McLaren said his decision was two-fold: he wants to get O'Flaherty going and Rowland-Smith did not yet have the mindset that he might be coming in to pitch late. I understand the first part of the equation, but not the second.

Rowland-Smith did pitch late in some games towards the end of last season and performed well in higher-leverage situations. I spoke to Rowland-Smith after the game and asked him how much advance time he'd need to get fully prepared to handle such a role.

"To be honest with you, it doesn't matter when it is,'' he said. "First inning, or eighth, ninth.''

Rowland-Smith says all any reliever wants to do is get into a game, regardless of when it is.

"It's not like the seventh inning's gone by and I'm sitting there not watching the game,'' he said.

So, there you go. Rowland-Smith says he really didn't need any advance warning. But he'll get it anyways.

Is this a firing offense on McLaren's part? No, it isn't. It's a move that did not work out and cost his team a game. The way Seattle's been hitting, the M's might have lost this game even had O'Flaherty retired the side in order. O'Flaherty failed and now he's been pulled. His leash, it turns out, was a short one.

Many of you were clamoring for the M's to "play the kids" in key roles and they tried it with O'Flaherty, a big part of the bullpen last year. It hasn't worked out in Week 1, with lefties now 7-for-11 off him with a walk and a hit batsman.

Others were clamoring for the M's to have less patience with some non-performers. The patience has run out on O'Flaherty, at least in the late innings. At least for now.

As for the hitters, Brad Wilkerson was pinch-hit for by Mike Morse. His leash does not extend forever. As I said, I do expect to see the team take action if this goes on too much longer. A 2-5 start was not the result the M's were looking for after one week. But again, it's still only one week. No one is getting fired. You wanted moves and some moves are coming. We'll see what Tampa Bay holds. It had better hold some hitting for the M's or this week could get ugly indeed. A nice time to have Erik Bedard going.

Be back a little later...

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