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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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May 25, 2008 8:47 AM

Morrow may transition to starter

Posted by Geoff Baker

yankks0525 005.jpg

Just got done talking with John McLaren during his morning briefing and the subject of Joba Chamberlain was brought up. The Yankees have allowed Chamberlain to go multiple innings in the bullpen, building his arm strength gradually until he'll be able to start (once he throws about 70 pitches in a game). McLaren said the organization is contemplating the same thing with Brandon Morrow.

"We have thought about it,'' he said. "We haven't come to a conclusion yet, but that is a possibility.''

Morrow could either go back to Class AAA to begin the transition, or work out of Seattle's bullpen in the majors.

"There are a couple of schools of thought,'' McLaren said. "That he could be like Chamberlain and work on it here.''

By the way, Kenji Johjima will catch Jarrod Washburn today.

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Posted by Chris from Bothell

8:53 AM, May 25, 2008

Hiya Geoff and company. Going to try to think for a minute of new questions. Roster shuffles, pointing out timid veterans, and assessing which of management should stay/go are already all well covered.

And the dynamic duo of Joh and Wash is hardly worth commenting on.

Morrow transitioning to starter is going to be interesting, as he only has about 1 and a half pitches. Maybe someone will be the Guardado to his J.J., and show him that one more pitch that 'flips the switch' from ordinary reliever to seriously useful 3rd or 4th starter. Not convinced this organization can do it though.

And the deep culture problems in this organization are obvious, because everyone's comments on "someone needs to step up, someone needs to change" w/o naming names, are getting pretty consistent and very passive-aggressive. Mac says some guys need to step it up but is quick not to offend. Bavasi "rips into" the team but is quick not to single out individual players. Raul speaks of his brand of leadership entirely in the passive voice. Ichiro talks to being on the verge of something needing to change, but in vague terms, like a supervillian alluding to his secret lair. And now Carlos spouts the nonsense of wanting to say something, but not wanting make anyone upset. So they have a pretty consistent team culture over there... of cowards...


New questions

1. How is this being covered in the Japanese media? I could go digging and shove some websites through Babelfish, I suppose, but that's not the same as Geoff nudging a few of the Japanese reporters.

2. Is Stottlemyre now mortal? I was so excited to have him come over here in the offseason, because of his reputation with young pitchers, and all that he'd done in New York. Has this shown now that he was simply present for New York's winning ways, and not nearly as good or instrumental as we thought?

3. How does Charlton deal with this? He was part of some winning teams, with mental toughness , clubhouse leaders, blah blah blah. I'm surprised he isn't also getting on people.

4. Has anyone seriously attempted to interview Japanese ownership? They've provided massive payroll, went out of their way to lock up Joh for reasons no one can fathom, and the absentee landlord bit is not seeming to help. The owner has famously never been to a game (and I don't recommend he break that trend any time soon). I would think ownership would look at trends and be concerned, and act before their cash cow stops losing money. And because they've been so uninvolved, it would certainly send a message if they came down off their mountain to express what they expect from the players, management, etc.

5. Whither Dave? When Niehaus gets back from his rounds of interviews at Cooperstown, I'd love to know how he feels. He's the local authority on sucky Ms teams, having witnessed much more than his fair share. Can he put this season in context? Is this season bad for his morale, and making him reconsider his previous statements about continuing to work for the foreseeable future?

6. Similar note - do the players besides Raul and maybe Ichiro have any knowledge of or attachment to the team's history? Would it make any difference if say, Niehaus came down and said, "look, guys, I'm not getting any younger - I've put up with 4 good teams and 27 lousy ones, I'd like to call another postseason game before I die"? Or if say Buhner or Edgar came through the clubhouse to talk to people? I could totally see this bunch being indifferent to the former and bristly about the latter, saying that their team and their performance was their business.

All I could think of for now.

Posted by ricofoy

9:00 AM, May 25, 2008


Good questions. I'll take a stab at Stottlemyre. His reputation far exceeded his abilities. Much like pitching coach "genius" Leo Mazzone. It's easy to be a great pitching coach when as it turns out, you have 3 hall of famers for the bulk of your coaching career..Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz.
We all know how it turned out for him in Baltimore. 2 years and fired!

Posted by Hawk

9:01 AM, May 25, 2008

In this forum, one finds the following solutions to the M’s woes:

More leadership in the clubhouse
Get in their face
Demand accountability
Somebody has to step up
Show some life
Stop accepting poor play
Better chemistry in clubhouse
Show some life
Call the players out

Numerous posters have even suggested that Jose Guillen provided this last year and imply that the absence of this type of leadership has caused the team’s demise.

I say this is “voodoo baseball,” a mystical analysis that presupposes players don’t care if they strike out, get clobbered by mediocre opposing batters or boot grounders at the worst time. I’d like somebody to explain how a manager or “leader in the clubhouse” can demand from Jose Lopez (or Yuni) that he not bobble a routine grounder. Or that Raul cover more ground in LF. Or that Washburn/Silva throw faster than 88 mph. Or that Sexson actually makes contact with a mediocre fastball down the middle of the plate. I can’t believe there’s a player on this team who steps to the plate wanting to make an out. Or who says, “Guess I’ll just boot this grounder.” Or who thinks, “Time to throw a batting practice fastball so the batter can enjoy rounding the bases.”

In short, it’s about talent, not the mystical, vague “leadership” stuff I keep reading about.

Leadership, whether it’s from the manager or players, can realistically impact only game strategy and the mental aspect of the game. Therefore, I think we can blame poor leadership for things like swinging wildly at bad pitches (free swingers without power, now that’s a losing combination), failing to “hit the other way” when the situation calls for it, swinging for the fences when a runner’s on third in a close game, “nibbling” at the corners and walking too many guys, base running blunders, throwing to the wrong base, etc.

The M’s are guilty of some of the above, but primarily the problem is a lack of good hitters, compounded by a low OBP (could Edgar come back and teach these guys how to take a pitch?)

On paper, the starters aren’t as bad as they’ve shown this month – my bet is they retrurn to their April (and career) form before too long. None of these posters trashed the starting rotation during April. The team is spiraling downward primarily because of (on any given night) woeful run production, an inexperienced bullpen and mystifyingly bad defense. This seems like a .500 team that has totally lost confidence in itself. They’re playing “tight” and “scared.” They need less pressure, not more.

Posted by -j.

9:05 AM, May 25, 2008

Could this be?!?!? A rational and smart move by the Mariners?

No. no no. It can't be. I'll believe when I see it.

Thanks for the info Geoff.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

9:06 AM, May 25, 2008

Hawk - Your leadership paragraph sounds more like a description of the coaches' job. The coaches should be calling out and correcting these things as they see them. Which is why I continue to be mystified as to why some of the coaches have jobs.

Posted by scrapiron

9:06 AM, May 25, 2008

How about starting Morrow, but only letting him go until he hits his pitch count, even if it's only 2 or 3 innings? Gradually increase his pitch limit each start. Make Washburn his designated long reliever. This also gives you the added benefit of having a soft tossing lefty follow a hard throwing righty, which should benefit Washburn as well.

I would do the same with RRS and Batista as well. Let's see what the kids can do.

Posted by -j.

9:07 AM, May 25, 2008

Nice post, Hawk. Totally agree.

Posted by Esteban

9:21 AM, May 25, 2008

With regards to the previous post:

I find posts like “Carlos Silva on clubhouse accountability” and “McLaren safe; Bavasi rips into players” really tiresome. While not specifically stated, the tenet of the message is clear: “This team isn’t really that bad; it’s because the clubhouse environment is so bad that the team is playing poorly”, “the players aren’t playing up to their abilities” or other such fodder. By extension, of course, Geoff and others who ignored projections by ZIPS, PECOTA and the Hardball Times that had the Ms at under .500 are let off the hook. I mean, who could foresee that the team chemistry was going to be so bad, right?

I don’t doubt that the clubhouse atmosphere isn’t great right now, as losing has a way of throwing a damper on the collective psyche, but I don’t for a second believe that this is the cause of the team’s poor performance. Baseball, unlike football, basketball, hockey and soccer consists largely of individual performance that is not dependent on direct contributions from teammates – actions such as catching, throwing, hitting. The only exception to this would seem to be the interaction between the pitcher and catcher. Want a cheerful clubhouse? Win. Want to win? Build a team that can pitch, play defense and hit.

As far as Morrow getting to work on his repertoire at AAA with an eye towards becoming a starter: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Posted by I've had it

9:28 AM, May 25, 2008

Hawk, great points. What is really comes down to is Bavasi put together a really mediocre team that, if it overachieved might win 85-90, but really was a 75-80 win team. If players underachieved, this is what you get.

Leadership is helpful and can keep the focus from game to ganme, but if the players are not any good, leaderhip does not mean much. What we are missing with Guillen is not his leadership it is .285/25/100.

Chris, as for Murrow, he has four pitches, but as a relieved you only throw your two best so he will be fine, he will just need some time and when could be better than this year when the season is over in May.

Posted by Esteban

9:30 AM, May 25, 2008

"By the way, Kenji Johjima will catch Jarrod Washburn today."


Posted by fire_chuck_a_first

9:39 AM, May 25, 2008

McLaren's mind moves at the speed of a snail.

Posted by Bill

9:42 AM, May 25, 2008

Posted by Quinault

9:45 AM, May 25, 2008

Wasn't the Morrow starting the whole point of Winterball? In my little mind during the off season, I had Morrow or Baek as the 5th starter - having not foreseen the Silva fa signing. It was an addition by subtraction sort of deal - no more HoRam/Weaver. It is possible to send Morrow to Tacoma and call up either pitchers or position players as a strategy. It might seem desperate at this point of the season. But that is how I describe the actions to date this year - filling the dugout with an all star cast of former managers/coaching staff, overpaying (and not signing an extension) a pitcher, bringing in Wilkerson/Cairo and having 3 pitch runners on the bench to start the season - while Mike Morse was left in the minors (and now out for the season). I am almost cringing at what is next. Oh and for those who said that Guillen was a vocal team leader - he spoke up inorder to save himself bench time/get another contract and started the season with a MLB suspension for steriods. If that is what you want then Raffy Palmerio is available somewhere.

Posted by Strasburg In 2009

9:53 AM, May 25, 2008

Joba Chamberlain has started in over 300 innings of work over the past 3 years divided between his time at Nebraska and in the Yankees minor league system. Even in his meteoric rise last year through the minors he was always used as a starter. He also has some semblance control of his secondary pitches.

Morrow (outside of winter league) has thrown only 96 innings of starting pitching in 2006. He has not been a serious full-time starter in 2 years. He has shown little to no control at times of his fastball, much less his secondary stuff.

The Mariners are an inept organization and trying to stretch out Brandon Morrow at the major league level without developing any of the necessary skills to be a quality starter in the minors is just another bad decision.

Posted by -j.

9:56 AM, May 25, 2008

Heres an idea.

Send Morrow to Tacoma to start...

Bring back Corcoran to take his spot who was throwing up a sub-2 ERA before he was unceremoniously demoted.


Posted by AD21

10:00 AM, May 25, 2008

"We have given no thought to making any changes in managerial personnel," Armstrong said. "Same for the GM. Listen, he's part of the solution, not the problem."

I don't think it really matters at this point what moves are made. When someone makes a statement like this, it's pretty obvious the people at top doesn't have a clue.

Posted by Walla Walla Girl

10:04 AM, May 25, 2008

Bavasi is attempting to shift the blame from himself to the players. Armstrong says there is no problem with managerial personnel and that they are doing a good job. He too blames the players. Uh, who hired the players?

As for Morrow, I am not convinced he has what it takes to be a starter at this time, but it's interesting that the idea was presented on this blog a long time ago.

Posted by John

10:10 AM, May 25, 2008

The M's aren't going to improve that much because they just aren't very good. The sad part is Bavasi seems completely unable to see it.

Posted by Chuck

10:12 AM, May 25, 2008

I hate to sound like a broken record but here goes: The mariners brass are in business to make money. As long as they keep getting butts in the seats they will continue to do what they are doing. I made my statement by giving up my season ticket last winter when I saw that Boovasi and Mclaren were coming back. Boovasi let the only clubhouse leader go (Jose Guillen) and he retained "Mr. veteran lover" Mac. Then he turns around and blames the players because they are not producing. Well in effect what he says is true, but its time he pointed the finger at himself and McLaren--it is their jobs to get the right players and motivate them. Richie is beyond motivation--so get rid of him. Lopez is now one of the best hitters of a sorry lot but he makes too many errors--someone should be screaming in his ear when he makes an error. I realize everyone makes errors but some of his "errors" are hits that he should have gotten to had he been prepared when the pitch was made. The starting staff needs to understand that they don't have to throw a shut out to win. They will understand that when the hitters start hitting. The hitters have to approach every at bat as though it is the most important at bat of the day, regardless of the situation. If the manager instills that in the players, and plays the best players, then maybe we'll see some progress. And by the way, whose idea was it to keep Cairo and sign Jo to an expensive 3 year extension with a #1 draft choice in AAA?

Posted by Drinking Beer and Booing

10:13 AM, May 25, 2008

So at least Bozo Bavasi and Chuckles the Clown Armstrong have been forced to make public statements. How long can this poor play continue before they are again forced to go public again?

Right now it's the "patience, stay the course" mantra. The only way out when you play that card is to have the team turn around. Should they continue to struggle then major moves will either be in the offing or management's credibility will continue to vaporize. and at this point they have little credibility left.

Posted by The hard truth

10:13 AM, May 25, 2008

Why do so many people keep saying the Mariners are a better team than this? How are they better? Why is it not clear that the players that have been assembled are simply no better than they appear? In some cases, they have passed their prime, in others, they are simply not talented enough for one reason or another to compete in the major leagues. The argument keeps being made that youth is to blame, that Betancourt and Lopez make errors and brain-dead decisions on the field because they are young. That’s absolutely absurd. Hundreds or even thousands of much younger players have reached the majors and played well. What about Robin Yount, at 19, just for an example? What is it about lack of sufficient talent for the major leagues do people not get?
Raul Ibanez was great for awhile, but as an outfielder, he is past his time. Period. Sexson has been past his time as a major league hitter for a couple of years. Period. Lopez and Betancourt as infielders are below average. Period. Beltre has held his own as an average hitter but not enough to sustain the team. As a hitter, as far as making decisions, Betancourt is a AAA player, period. Jojima reached his peak as a hitter and is far down the other side of the curve, period. Likewise Vidrow. As far as the starting pitching, Washburn was never above average as a starter and with a weak team behind him, he’s not that good. Apparently Batista is the same. And with the team behind them, with the lack of support behind them, Bedard, Hernandez, and Silva have apparently reached a limit of effort and have fallen into a malaise. I’m not ready to say they are also not good major leaguers but at this time, they are essentially being asked to do it all and they clearly cannot.
Even if one stands up somewhat for members of the bullpen, they are being either misused, or the games are lost so early they can’t change the outcome so its hard to evaluate whether on the whole they are major league caliber or not.
With all this, the moves that have been made, on the field and off, strongly indicate that not just the players but also the managership and general managership are also below major league ability. That is what has led to the perfect storm we have before us now. It may be true that if the team is simply not talented enough to compete in the major leagues, the manager is no better in his strategic moves and his choices of lineups and who plays.
As for the front office, after saying there are no moves that can be made now to help, how does one even begin to defend giving up Norton? Until some day Bavasi explains that, as well as the extension of Jojima he has to be considered absolutely incompetent. But then again, the fact that this teams consists of failed major leaguers for the most part says that plenty eloquently.
So here we are, Bavasi says there is nothing that can be done, he assembled this sub-par team and we’re stuck with it, so get used to it. And Armstrong and Lincoln seem to accept this. What explanation can there be other than―contrary to the obvious protestations they must make―that the ownership of this team simply has no interest in winning as long as they are running a profitable business? And how is that not a form of fraud?
And finally, when will these people who perpetrated this on us make some statement of apology? All they do is tell us they have no intention of doing anything about the situation because they don’t know what that would be. That isn’t good enough. Major league baseball, for the sake of its own integrity (lol) should investigate the Mariners from top to bottom.

Posted by John

10:15 AM, May 25, 2008

I wonder if the Mariner batters know that they don't have to swing at that cutter that's 8 inches off the plate inside? Lopez looked like he was going to swing no matter where it was.

Posted by John

10:21 AM, May 25, 2008

Thank God we have someone with the grit and ability of Washburn going today! When I think of stopper, he's the guy that comes to mind.
I'm betting they don't hit 5 runs until the second or third inning today.

Posted by dc

10:27 AM, May 25, 2008

Now there's an idea. Make Morrow a starter.

I hope Washburn can handle himself okay and not get too stressed out by having to throw to Johjima. I'd hate for him to feel uncomfortable out there.

Posted by scottM

11:12 AM, May 25, 2008

"The team is spiraling downward primarily because of (on any given night) woeful run production, an inexperienced bullpen and mystifyingly bad defense. This seems like a .500 team that has totally lost confidence in itself."

You wrote a well reasoned post, Hawk, but you somewhat contradict yourself. By suggesting that the team has lost confidence in itself, you infer that there are factors beyond raw athletic ability impacting play.

Likewise, Jose Lopez's gnawing lack of concentration in the field is something that a "winning culture" and external leadership can affect. If Lopez stays keener in the field because he doesn't want to let his teammates down, or is slightly afraid of the consequences of his flubs, then he will likely play better. It's been said in here before that with this team it hasn't been one letdown, but various factors causing the team to lose. Lopez may be the worst in the field, but mental lapses have also been demonstrated by ALL members of this team. Whether it's the bullpen, the starters, or the position players, these screw-ups have been painfully ill-timed.

This team proved that in '07 they have the talent to win 88 games. They are definitely better than they have shown. It's not "voodoo baseball" to think that a higher level of accountability, more pride of self, more concentration for nine innings by all the players will result in winning at closer to a .550 clip instead of the .350 percentage that's plaguing them now.

Leadership/confidence/sustained concentration/clubhouse camaraderie and winning expectations are not "voodoo" as you suggest.

Posted by ChicoV

8:10 PM, May 25, 2008

Hawk, ask the Yankees how far talent will get you. Cooperation, chemistry and leadership are key ingredients in ANY of lifes pursuits except the solitary ones. From Family to Corporate to Sport if you need more than one person to succeed you ignor chemistry at your own peril. Life itself should have taught you this lesson.

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