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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 16, 2008 7:35 AM

Pack small stuff for trip

Posted by Geoff Baker

Guess the Mariners got the memo about the need to manufacture runs. Ichiro gets on in the first inning and instantly swipes third base. Yes, the timing was right, with a lefty on the mound and a righty at the plate. But hey, the timing's been good on other occasions too. This time, he put himself in a position to tie the game on the first of three sacrifice flies by Jose Lopez.

Seattle had only two sacrifice flies heading into the game. But the M's now have seven. It's not often where the ability to manufacture runs will factor into an 11-6 game. But those five sacrifice flies, tying a major league record by one team, proved the difference on the scoreboard. Also nice for M's fans to see Jose Vidro finally notch a double. He's going to have to do better than one per month to stay in this lineup every day. His team needs at about eight per month from him on-average, unless he suddenly becomes a home run hitter. Kenji Johjima also got his bat going yet again. Looks like he's slowly climbing out of that hole he dug himself.

Now, on to Oakland. I leave on a flight in a couple of hours, but will first be doing my Talkin' Baseball segment for the Mitch in the Morning show on KJR 950 AM at 8:20-8:25 a.m. Things won't change this weekend on what is obviously an important early-season trip against the A's and Angels. Important, because if the M's mess around and get swept -- minus Erik Bedard this weekend -- they will find themselves in a Johjima-sized hole before April is even three weeks old.

So far, the 7-8 M's are only two back of each club despite a bunch of early-season headaches. But it's important not to let that gap grow, lest the team wants to spend the entire season catching up. Remember, the schedule only gets tougher in May. Reasonable goals for the Mariners this trip? A split in Oakland and two of three in Anaheim, leaving them with a 3-2 record. Felix Hernandez goes tonight, so that Oakland split would seem the barest minimum. In fact, the M's have their two top starters -- Hernandez and Carlos Silva -- going this series, so things could get really ugly in a hurry on this trip if at least a split is not achieved. The A's have played well the first two weeks, despite a loss yesterday. But with Rich Harden down yet again, it gets tougher from here.

Joe Blanton goes for Oakland tonight and has had Seattle's number in the past. But the Mariners did knock him around a bit in 2007. No Jason Ellison heading to the Coliseum with Seattle this time around, so someone else will have to throw it down with Blanton if he shoves Ichiro again.

A's have a .688 team OPS, so their offense is living up to its no-game reputation. Jack Cust will be in the lineup tonight, and does bring some pop. But it's the starting pitchers, taking a 3.02 ERA into this series, that have helped the A's to a 9-6 record thus far. In other words, these might not be the highest scoring two games. The ability to manufacture runs could be huge. Let's see if the M's carry any of yesterday's game into tonight. Yes, it's early. But this series has meaning in, if nothing else, the Mariners not letting the AL West start to get away from them before they really get their season underway.

Best to keep that gap at just a couple of games, at least for now, while the team rides out the injuries to Bedard and J.J. Putz.


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Posted by Eric

8:01 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Hey Geoff, when will we know if Morrow gets Bedard's roster spot?


Posted by jujay

8:10 AM, Apr 16, 2008

I think we need to get the sweep done in Oakland

Posted by stango

8:15 AM, Apr 16, 2008

So, Geoff, is the idea of Morrow eventually being a starter officially dead?

It seems that his role for W. Tenn is exactly the same as last year with the M's.

Not that I ever really saw him as a starter...

Posted by Donovan

8:27 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Obviously, the Bedard situation is both fluid and touchy, but what's the story now with Putz? Have they scheduled a simulated game or some other more strenuous workout yet?

One other thought that hasn't been said out loud enough - Thank God for Sean Green. Where would we be this season without his solid innings?

Posted by PRchef

8:49 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Thanks for the update Geoff

For some reason I can't get the am signal in my radio this morning. Can you please do the link to the podcast of your weekly spot on the next post?

Have a fun trip. By the time you get back, the Ms will have swept the As and won the series vs the Angels and be atop the division.

Bet you will not miss the wheather up here

Posted by i heart Morse

8:58 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Proposition for Post-April 24th-Pitching-Staff:

Bedard
Felix
Silva
Wash
DICKEY

Batista
Rhodes
RRS
Lowe
Green
Putz

Praying all are healthy...that looks pretty good to me.

Posted by Lance

9:03 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Good stuff on the radio, Geoff.

But, please, Geoff. Could you learn to pronounce Jeff Clement's name correctly? You're setting a bad example. Now Mitch is saying it wrong.

BTW, for those who couldn't/didn't catch it Geoff said something about it being vidoed for the blog. He'll talk about J.J. back this weekend, and lots of other stuff. Stay tuned.

Posted by Nat

9:09 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Adam, I just finished reading the THT link about Bedard, and it is sobering. This suggests something farily serious. I would assume Bedard has had an MRI by now! The FO may not publicize it but they aren't going to bury their collective heads in the sand about the health of the guy they deem their ace pitcher. I'd like to get a more comprehensive answer from McLaren, something more than generalities.

Geoff, can you find out about Bedard's condition and in particular, if Bedard had an MRI and the result from it? Thanks-

Posted by eastcoast

9:17 AM, Apr 16, 2008

2 of 3 vs LA?? That would be a HUGE victory. Unfortunately, the starting trio of Dickey, Washburn, and Batista instills very little confidence at this moment. If the M's plan on making a statement, then they had better be bringing their gun to a knife fight.

Certainly not to look past the A's, who seem to have an endless supply of good young SP. Hopefully Felix will get this team off to a good start tonignt. But I agree with Geoff re: the ability to manufacture runs. Was last night an aberration or is this team truly out to change its free-swinging identify.

Posted by R2D2

9:29 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Bedard had an MRI during Sundays game.

Posted by Stevo in Oregon

9:34 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Nice game last night. Good job.

Now, is it just my imagination that Willie Ballgame pretty much produced as much in one game as Wilkerson has produced in 14? If Wilkerson isn't going to hit home runs, I would just assume see Willie or Willie/Norton or Willie/Wlad out there all the time. Willie has more range than Wilkerson and he can create havok on the basepaths - Wilkerson can do neither, and if he doesn't hit homers, he's pretty much worthless. Anyone else's thoughts?

Posted by Nat

9:42 AM, Apr 16, 2008

R202: I missed that. Any specific results noted from the MRI or another MacLaren generality?

Posted by Donovan

9:48 AM, Apr 16, 2008

eastcost - Last night wasn't an aberration. The M's have not been a free swinging team all season, which is a sharp contrast to 07. Their K and BB totals are both tops in the league or close to it. Their ratio is far and away the best, as Geoff noted in a recent post. This has been the most dramatic and surprising improvement in the team to me, and it seems to be across the board, which suggests a concerted effort by coaches and players to reform their style from last season. The change is definitely leading to more baserunners, but it is what you do when you get them on that ultimately counts.

Posted by on the ledge

10:02 AM, Apr 16, 2008

To say they got their bats going last night is one way to put it.
Another way would be to say we faced some really horrible pitching.
And we still gave up a lot of runs, at home, to the the Royals?

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

10:05 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Next Year's Roster

C- Clement
3b- Beltre
SS- Betencourt
2b- Lopez
1b- Ibanez
LF- Balentein
CF- Ichiro
RF- ???
DH - Griffey

Is this going to happen or what?

Posted by thatgirl

10:25 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Stevo - I agree with you. I'm no sabermetrics junky by any means, however my women's intuition is to favor Bloomquist vs. Wilkerson any day. Just to check on my gut instincts I went out to Fangraphs and did a quick compare between the two. Although the sample set is smaller for Bloomquist he's definately ahead of Wilkerson in many stats. But for my money Bloomquist has something I've yet to see from Wilkerson and that's a gritty, gutty style of being a playmaker. When Bloomquist is on the basepaths (and he's healthy) good stuff usually happens. I've not seen this intangible with Wilkerson.

http://www.fangraphs.com/

Posted by Adam

10:34 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Willie stinks. He's a 25th man at best. Just because he's hit better than Wilkerson at this point means nothing. He's also hitting better than David Ortiz, btw...

Posted by Ben

10:34 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Here's a "glass is empty" (or perhaps broken) sort of article about Bedard for cliff jumpers (lemmings?):
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/erik-bedard-windup-worries/


Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:51 AM, Apr 16, 2008

I agree with both Stevo and Adam, about Willie.

As a long-term solution, Willie is not viable. He's a true utility player, a 25th man at best. The times a few years ago where we've seen him plugged into e.g. 2nd, 3rd or left, for more than a couple games, didn't really pan out. A long-term injury to Wilkerson would call for calling up someone like Wlad or Reed, not plugging in Willie indefinitely.

However, Wilkerson is only an adequate defender and his bat hasn't gotten going. Angel Stadium, IIRC, is a pretty big outfield. Willie is at least as good as what we've seen from Wilkerson, plus he likely has slightly more speed to run down fly balls and slightly more speed on the basepaths. He's not the master base thief he's sometimes made out to be - last night's CS showed that - but he's just a better overall option right now.

Until Joh is reliably smacking doubles and long singles again, he needs someone on the bases faster than Wilkerson (ok, someone on the bases at all, as opposed to non-existent Wilkerson).

I don't think Willie's won Wilkie's job, but I'd be perfectly happy to see him out there for the next 2 series. Especially since, in violation of several laws of physics, Willie can be simulataneously playing in the field and be on the bench (we just call the WB on the bench "Miguel Cairo" to keep them straight). Quantum physics and baseball! Gotta love it.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:53 AM, Apr 16, 2008

What are this weekend's pitching matchups? if I'm doing the rotation math right it's what, Dickey, Washburn, Batista? Against who, who and who from the Angels?

Posted by Nat

11:01 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Chris, unless something changes-

Felix vs. Blanton
Silva vs. DiNardo

Dickey vs. Saunders
Washburn vs. Santana
Batista vs. Mosely

Posted by Lance

11:02 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Tally, you sure get bored easily. You're already pondering next year's lineup in April? You've already moved on to next season I take it.

How about a lineup for June of this year?

Interest item in Monday's SeaTimes. When Ichiro grounded into a DP on Sunday it was the first time in his career, over 15,000 PAs, that Ichiro has ever grounded into a 3-6-1 DP. Is the legendary Ichiro slowing down a bit that he can't as easily beat the pitcher to the bag?

Posted by eastcoast

11:33 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Donovan - absoultely, you're correct. However, I'd argue that it takes more than 15 games to erase/change a teams identity. Regardless of what the stats show, I still consider half of the M's starting 9 "free-swingers" (Ich, Beltre, Yuni, Joh, +/- Lopez). As long as this is the case, the M's will be more prone to being shutdown by the Jacksons, Greinkes, and Saunders of the world. But don't get me wrong, I'm also pleasantly surprised with what does appear to be a concerted effort on the part of the organization to change the philosophy at the plate. Of note, was looking at the early season Rainier stats and noted a very good BB/K ratio. Few examples, Clement 7BB/6K in 43 AB's, Balentein 6BB/8K in 38 AB's to name a few. I truly hope that this IS a permanent change in approach because I firmly believe it would pay huge dividends in the long-run.

Posted by Stu

11:34 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Hey Geoff, pack a broom for the A's.

Posted by R2D2

11:35 AM, Apr 16, 2008

bedard mentioned he was going for an MRI in the ch. afterwards he stated something about a tear. nothing about it sounded good.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

11:36 AM, Apr 16, 2008

No no no. still on board of 08. Its just frustrating, because we have all these glaring holes in our team, and all these young guys who are almost ready to come up, but we still have to settle for some sub-par players for the time being. Lets hope we have enough to get it done this year. I like the idea of pulling Wilkerson for Bloomquist. If Willie can hit 270/280 and play LF well, that would be a HUGE upgrade over Wilkerson. Wilkerson is beyond lame.

Posted by Everett fan

11:38 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Didn't Mac say they won't replace Bedard until Thursday? Isn't that when JJ is elegible to return? Is it likely that if JJ is available, he takes the spot; if not, they can get Morrow, or whoever. I'd guess Corcoran will be the odd man out when the next DL gets well.
PS for all the bad-mouthing of vidro, he is showing signs of life. He no doubt has earned the rest of April to impress.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

11:38 AM, Apr 16, 2008

meant to say RF

Posted by Lance

11:53 AM, Apr 16, 2008

Interesting quote in the SeaTimes, today, from Kenji, whose average is up to .220.

"I struggled a lot when I started the season," Johjima said. "I'm finally getting to where I can compare my number to my teammates. I'm not there yet."

I wonder how that makes Vidro, Sexson and Wilkerson feel? I guess he doesn't consider them teammates. Not teammates to compare himself to, anyway. Can't say that I blame him.

Posted by FuKell

12:10 PM, Apr 16, 2008

The news about Erik from Ben don't look so good. Although R.A is impressive, he is not the answer for Erik's absence. That sure worries me. Some of you guys and Geoff say it's still EARLY in the season to panic about recent lost in Bal, any winnable games or small things. Well, it's not about April or August in the season. it's all about winning period. With that been said, the defense needs step up ,and we still need help offensively. Any updates on JJ, Brandon and Erik please? roster moves? Thanks.

Posted by John

12:24 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I'm going to wait and see how Dickey pitches against the Angels, but I think he will be a huge addition this year. I didn't understand him being left off the team in the first place, but having him now is big. I think Geoff's concern about Seattle getting swept in Los Angeles is legit. Without Felix, we'll be lucky to take one, and the best shot is going to be with Dickey because I can't see Washburn or Batista even keeping us in the game for more than a couple of innings.

Posted by Ben

12:26 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I'm really not all that worried about our early losses. We've only lost one series and we should have won 2 of those games.

The whole league is somewhat unsorted and upside down right now. Detroit and Cleveland are not playing up to their potential right now. The yankees are just 1 game different than the mariners.

What we do this week and beyond is more important.

I'm excited about Dickey's spot start. I don't think Bedard will be out for too long. The link i posted is more than likely a bit inaccurate and just speculation.

And to some of you - willie bloomquist is not going to be an every day RF... nor is he going to hit over .300 if given 500 at bats. There was a left handed starting pitcher last night and so "Bradtastic" Wilkerson got a day off.

Posted by BrettJMiller

12:36 PM, Apr 16, 2008

What's the word on Erik's torn HIP Labrum? That's the rumor from BP, that it's a minor tear and his hip labrum and there's a chance he makes his next start but an equal chance he has surgery and misses 2 months.

Got any info on this, Geoff?

Posted by Greg K.

12:37 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Posted by Stevo in Oregon

12:48 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Ben,

With all due respect, I never said Willie should be an everyday right fielder. However, if you are going to go with a punchless Wilkerson with average or below range and speed on the bases, you might as well go with Willie, who also won't hit homers but has better speed, base-running savvy and outfield range. If Wilkerson doesn't start hitting some doubles and/or HR's in the next three weeks, it's time to pull the plug and bring Wlad up and let him play there along with Norton and Willie (who can play many different positions) on occasion. And I agree with everyone else - release Cairo.

$9 - $119 million - we sure don't have a top 10 batting line-up. Let's get Billy Beane or the Marlins GM....think what they could do with our bank. We're getting to be like the hi-priced Oriole rejects of the 90's and the A-Rod Rangers. And we trade for damaged goods in Bedard and throw Soriano and others away for nothing. Bavasi has to go.

Posted by Stevo in Oregon

12:51 PM, Apr 16, 2008

We just can't succeed with a line-up of a $14 million dollar 'walker' in Sexson and a DH and RF that are singles hitters (and only on occasion). Those positions should be your biggest boppers.

Posted by Ben

12:59 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Well let's just give Wilkerson a little more time, that's all i'm saying. At this point, it only takes 2 good games to raise the batting average to a decent level. So the good stats and bad stats are all a little exagerated at this point.

I like Willie. He's a good backup. We definitely don't need Cairo. But from what i hear, Balentin is not quite good enough in teh outfield yet - and if he plays like Morse did, then he's going to be worse than having Wilkerson out there. Morse gave up routine fly outs for doubles.

I still say go get Lofton - ditch Cairo. We make that adjustment and i think we're instantly a much better, well rounded and deeper club... and it's very easy.

Posted by Stevo in Oregon

1:15 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I agree Ben. Lofton is a proven winner and won't make a mockery of the outfield like Morse. It's too bad Wlad isn't quite ready defensively.

Posted by K-Man

1:44 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Using "strength of schedule" as a determination of what a baseball team can be expected to accomplish just doesn't work. Just because someone's "power rankings" say that the Oaklands and Orioles of the world are lowly teams doesn't make it so. The games are played on the field and any number of skill factors (a hot pitcher), or random factors (a seeing-eye single, etc.) can determine the outcome. I've also noticed that *some* teams play down or up to their (percieved) competition. Thus the M's lose four against the O's in April, but very well could sweep the Yanks in NYC in May. Twice! You read it here!

Why are so many guys wearing number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day? Seems like that "waters down" the honor somewhat, don't you think? And what does it say about the (very) few guys that AREN'T wearing 42? I think maybe they should go back to letting one guy on each team wear the number, or no one at all. The number was retired for a very good reason.

Kenji stunk it up for a couple of weeks, and as a concequence a lot of folks here were advocating benching him, playing Burke everyday or bringing up Clement. Now suddenly he's a hitting machine! Don't you think maybe Wilkerson might accomplish the same miraculous transformation? I have to admit I wish McClaren had not decided to platoon him. I think he hits lefties well, and hasn't had that chance here as yet.

A bartender once told me it's very easy to appear smart by predicting negative results in baseball, because (unless you're the 2001 M's) negative stuff happens more often than not. Just point to the slumping hitter and predict that he'll strike, pop or fly out. Brilliant!

Let's go M's!

Posted by knuckler

2:49 PM, Apr 16, 2008

There has been a lot of cries about the poor outfield defense on right with calls for Lofton (who we do not own), and Balentien (whose defense is not ready)-- what about the forgotten man Jeremy REED?. Too bad we cannot combine Reed's glove with Balentiens glove!!

Posted by knuckler

2:51 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I mean Balentiens bat.

Posted by Alex

2:58 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Right now we have 24 on our roster. I want to know what everyone thinks about how it will look when: putz, bedard, and morse return.

The way I see it is: Baek goes, Morrow and Putz replace them. With the way Dickey has pitched there is virually no way that he will once again clear waivers. Then who does Bedard take out of the lineup? Is it Corcoran who has pitched well?

Here is who the 12 pitchers would be:
Bedard, Felix, Silva, Wash, Batista
Putz, Green, RRS, Morrow, Dickey, Rhodes, Lowe

or does Corcoran take someone else out?

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