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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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July 2, 2008 10:50 PM

Washburn, Cairo pave way to victory

Posted by Geoff Baker

miles0702 059.jpg

Another "quality start" of six innings, two earned runs allowed by Jarrod Washburn tonight ina 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He could have gone deeper, retiring the final six batters he faced. But Jim Riggleman pulled him after 98 pitches. Washburn had thrown 119 and 118 pitches his last two outings and Riggleman told us pre-game he wasn't going to push it with the lefty's arm in case of fatigue.

But Washburn is certainly making a case for himself to be used as trade bait, especially for a National League team. Remember, he's owed about $15 million between now and the end of 2009. That's a lot of money. So, a team picking him up won't have to ship off a ton of prospects to get him. And not every playoff team needs a frontline ace. Some just need a steady, middle-of-the-rotation guy. That's Washburn. Right now, it is, anyway. In May, it wasn't.

"I feel good physically, mechanically I feel great,'' he said. “I'm making pitches and guys are making plays behind me.''

Washburn is throwing a split-fingered fastball again. He does it about 6 to 8 times per game, when he really needs it. Tonight, he used it to strike out Rod Barajas on a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning.Called it the best splitter he's ever thrown. Came in at about 86 mph.

Remember back in May, when opponents were combining for a 9.30 ERA off Washburn? Big innings killed him. Didn't want that this time. He'd pitched around Scott Rolen to get to Barajas. You can do that against some teams, like the Blue Jays or in the NL. It worked this time.

"That's big,'' he said. "It's early enough in the game where it could go either way. We'd just put two on the board and I wanted to stay out of the big inning.''

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman wanted to pull Washburn after five. But Washburn persuaded him to let him go one more inning, despite the heavy pitch count his last two starts, and retired the final three batters in the sixth.

Two RBI doubles for Miguel Cairo tonight. He's certainly contributed in some different ways this season. Dustin McGowan had thrown him some high 90s heat in the first inning, foiling a bunt attempt. Cairo knew he had to get his bat "on top of the ball'' quicker the next couple of times.

"When you get that kind of pitcher, you know you're going to get some fastballs,'' Cairo said. "He threw me that pretty hard in the first at-bat and I told myself 'Hey, you'd better get ready' in the second at-bat.''

Brandon Morrow tossed a perfect ninth for the save. He looks more and more like a closer every day. A serious closer. Maybe one of the best in the league. We'll see how he does on three straight nights. Maybe. The M's will have to keep this up -- an impressive 8-4 run so far under Riggleman -- when more serious opposition than the Blue Jays comes to town. Seattle probably just knocked Toronto out of wild-card contention for good.

The Detroit Tigers are in next.


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Posted by Sydney Mariner

9:46 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Another sweep (sure it was only a 2 gamer)! What are the odds of 3 in a row?

Posted by Lucifer

9:52 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Yes, Morrow appears to have a real talent for closing, but I still hope he can develop as a starter. He has the potential to be a truly awesome pitcher. Surely he and Felix ought to be off limits in the coming trade makeover of the team.

It is nice to see the team performing so much better and more like what was expected at this season's opening. Clearly the managerial change has had an effect, but still this team needs a makeover to repair the damage of conehead Bill. Despite being out of contention, there is now at least some fun in watching the team again.

Good luck Johnny Mac in Bench Coach heaven and bon voyage Mr. BB, the M's are clearly better off without you boys.

Posted by Adam

9:52 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Uh - are you forgetting Monday's loss to the Jays?

2-0?

Halladay?

For the first time this year, I found myself rooting for Washburn - just so we can get that SOB out of Seattle.

And what are the chances that Bloomquist and Cairo are the hitting heroes on consecutive nights?

Where am I? What year is it?

Posted by Old Nick

9:58 PM, Jul 02, 2008

It is call winning a series when you take two of three games from an opposing team, a sweep requires that you win every game in the series. Still the sentiment is nice and there is such an improvement in the overall team performance these days so that one can cheer again with this consistent winning. Now for some pay back to the Tigers!

Posted by gohuskies898

10:04 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Hey if we run off 15 in a row we can get back in this!!!

..... Just kidding. Nice to see them play better but it confuses me even more lol.

Posted by Bruce

10:05 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Nice effort by the team. Riggleman is 8-4 (9-3 if he had Morrow in ATL) with the same cast of characters that went 25-47 before him. Everyone seem to have an extra bounce in their step and the whole team is involved. What a concept. Only if we hadn't waited 72 games to do something. For all the fantasy baseball fans that dream about blowing the team up and get rid of everyone except Felix, I said it before, I'll say it again. This team may not win the world series but could've given the Angles a run for their money (if handled properly). And with some changes that have been discussed a million times (1B, DH, Batista, Wash, etc.) we'll be pretty darn good.

The next 8 games against Detroit and the A's will be telling. Fools gold or the real thing...

Posted by G-Man

10:19 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Would dealing Washburn be a good idea? I'm not sure, but I wonder.

What does the market for starters look like this winter? I'd have to dump him, then sign somebody even worse for the same annual salary but over more years.

Posted by Andrew

10:26 PM, Jul 02, 2008

The Mariners are no longer alone in last place! They are now tied with the Padres. Watch out Washington and Colorado, here come the Mariners. LOL

Posted by Walla Walla Girl

10:54 PM, Jul 02, 2008

The Mariners have certainly been more interesting and fun to watch since Riggleman took the reins. The bench use is much improved. The players are playing with more energy.. It's nice to see more smiles on Mariner faces. Let's see what they can do with the Tigers and A's. Go M's!

Posted by byebyeSexson

10:59 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Reading back in the "Trade Destinations" blog I ran across this. "Amanda

12:07 PM, Jul 02, 2008

I KNEW Richie would hit a Homer last night, I just felt it... GO RICHIE!!!! Keep Proving them wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Well Amanda, get ready because Richie is on pace to knock another in about 32 days...

byebye

Posted by scrapiron

11:01 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Rigglemania!

This is the team we thought we had in spring training. Strong starting pitching, a lights out bullpen, and just enough offense to win the game, coupled with a solid defense. Such a shame they couldn't have done this in April.

They're starting to play with a confidence, and Jeremy Reed said it's fun to come to the ballpark again. I can't explain this feeling, it must be Rigglemania.

Posted by Walla Walla Girl

11:02 PM, Jul 02, 2008

That soon?

Posted by Andrew

11:17 PM, Jul 02, 2008

My bad, we're actually a half a game ahead of the Padres now. We're not the worst team in baseball anymore!!!! So when do the Rigglemania shirts start coming out?

Posted by scottM

11:44 PM, Jul 02, 2008

Just to be clear. There is getting swept and getting fleeced. When a team comes in and wins every game of the series that's getting swept. When a new owner comes in, blatantly lies and systematically poaches your team, that's getting fleeced. Note: there is also a worse term that starts with the letter 'f'. I can't begin to describe the magnitude of difference.

The Seattle SuperSonics of the
National Basketball Association
1967-2008
World Championship Appearances: 1978, 1979, 1996
World Champions 1979
Sweet Memories

Posted by Dave from the coast

12:00 AM, Jul 03, 2008

The team IS more fun to watch lately. All this "winning stuff" lately IS confusing. Can one manager really turn things around this fast? I mean, "Go M's"? Maybe there is an added bounce in the team's collective step. Or, maybe winning just makes the team look that way. Who the heck knows? Well, all that's needed now is a 30-game winning streak and we'll be back in the hunt. Seriously, the last few games have been fun to watch.

Posted by all4ms

12:15 AM, Jul 03, 2008

What a weird series. We've had Richie mash a dinger and steal a bag on the same night, Willie and Cairo come up with game winning hits.

What's next? Vidro hits an inside-the-park homer. Or Silva tosses a no-no... lol..

Posted by David

12:18 AM, Jul 03, 2008

One for the record books if the Mariners turned it around to contend for a wildcard spot.....

GO M's!!!!

Posted by Jack

12:30 AM, Jul 03, 2008

WHY ARE WE MAKING MORROW INTO A CLOSER IN A LOST SEASON. WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY. Develop the talent you f*cking morons. Don't cripple it.

Posted by Miles

12:52 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I'm with you, Jack. If Morrow ends up as the closer, it's a disaster. They just drafted a college closer. This team desperately needs starters. And yet, here we are.

Here's what I want people to think about: while a good closer is awesome, very few have careers that last more than 2-3 years. Look at Putz, who may already be showing signs of being washed up in that role. The ones that last a decade in that role are rare. Odds are that no matter how good Morrow looks, he'd last 3 years or less.

Posted by JackTheRipper

12:52 AM, Jul 03, 2008

lol at Jack, working as a closer isn't bad for Morrow at all. If anything he's getting experience working in tight late game situations and jams. Even if it is a lost season, who else is going to close? You? lol

Posted by Jack

1:00 AM, Jul 03, 2008

@JackTheRipper

"lol at Jack, working as a closer isn't bad for Morrow at all. If anything he's getting experience working in tight late game situations and jams. Even if it is a lost season, who else is going to close? You? lol"

One of the first rules of the internet is, when a guy begins AND ends his comment with "lol", you can pretty much bet your life that he's probably a huge moron.

Anyway, how about any of the guys in the bullpen can close the game. You know, the guys that never showed potential as starters? That is what the bullpen is for. Anyone in the bullpen can close. The obsession with roles is one of the major faults of this team. Brandon Morrow has the potential to be a GREAT starter, and pigeonholing him into pitching one inning per game, in save situations only, is absolutely retarded. It does nothing for his development. It does nothing for the future of this team, since we just drafted a closer with our first pick.

Brandon Morrow should be in the starting rotation, yesterday.

Posted by all4ms

1:09 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I don't have a problem with Morrow in the bullpen right now. Guys like Johan Santana and Adam Wainwright also began their major league careers in the bullpen, and made the switch to a starter with a lot of success. I see Morrow going towards the same sort of path.

Posted by Jack

1:22 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Santana still got something like 6 starts in each of his first two seasons. Morrow is being fast-tracked by this organization to be a career closer. He hasn't started a game yet. They have no interest in developing him, they are just throwing him into the first "role" that seems to fit him, so that they don't have to admit that signing Silva, Wash, and Batista to premium contracts may have been a mistake.

Posted by John

2:05 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I don't think Morrow will be closing he whole season. He's filling a much needed void. And he's doing a great job. What, were supposed to hope he sucks in that role? He's a good pitcher no matter where you put him. Putz will be back, then Morrow can go back to prepare as a starter for next year, relax. And, we already tried some of the other bull pen pitchers for closing...didn't turn out to well if I remember correctly...

Posted by Bums

2:54 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I have to give it to Washburn. At least he is trying and seems to care a bit. He is more of an "ace" than Bedard.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

6:44 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Morrow has to stay a closer, so we can trade JJ to get a decent bat. JJ's at his peak now (was, pre-injury); his trade value will never be higher. Let's actually learn from history and deal from strength for once.

Posted by Konrad in ID

6:46 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Bad stretch for the usual bloggers here. With the whipping boys performing well the best Adam can come up with is to call Washburn an SOB? Give me a break, that guy gives an honest effort and also speaks honestly about the team and his own struggles and now successes. That's about as far away from SOB status that you can get. Don't get into the blogging rut that everything has to be doom and gloom all the time.

Posted by Mr. Sabermetrics

6:58 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Mr Sabermetrics has to defend Washburn. He's the only Mariner I've ever seen who converses with fans at the parks.

I heard a lady yell good start to him, he stopped, looked at her, smiled and sincerely said thank you in a very nice way. During spring he'd hang out by the fences and fans would talk to him. He would strike up conversations.

Mr. S thinks Wash gets a bad rap as a person. As a pitcher he's still not that great though.

Posted by Mr. Sabermetrics

7:00 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Mr. Sabermetrics has two observations here:

Some need to get off the idea of hiring Chris Antonetti. Look at the Indians! While they have all this young talent, they can't seem to play up to the potential.

Mr. S wholeheartedly supports bringing in either Mr. Forst or Ms. Ng as they have helped oversee some great mixes of young and old. Antonetti may be a bit overrated.

Posted by Seattle Steve

7:15 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I want to know more about the possibilites of new ownership and upper management in Seattle. Is it true that Yamauchi could be selling out his share of the M's to Chris Larson who would bring in current Phillies GM Billick as head of baseball operations? He did recently announce his plans to retire at the end of the year. I read an interesting article that suggests that the 3 year extension of Johjima was pushed by Yamauchi in order to "take care of him before getting out". Can you back up any of these rumors for me Geoff?

Posted by sabashimon

7:45 AM, Jul 03, 2008

This may sound stupid to some of you out there, but if Washburn has indeed found his adjustment and can continue to pitch as he has over his last five starts.......what's the hurry to unload him?

Posted by BillL

7:59 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I've been told that pitching is of 70% of baseball. Now, if that's true, why should the Mariners decimate what seems to be a fairly decent corps of pitchers, Washburn included? Granted the Mariners are a sorry lot overall, but with some youth in the field positions they could be in decent shape within two years. Frankly, I'd rather see Ichiro, Ibanez, Bloomquist, Vidro, and Cairo go before the pitching staff is traded. Granted, Putz should be traded, and Bedard was a BIG mistake; but, shouldn't they hold on to Washburn and not use him as trade bait?

Posted by casetines

8:05 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Washburns last 5 starts have been tremendous. You can definitely sell that to a team needing a lefty 5th starter and get that money off the books for next year at the very least. In return the M's will probably get some guy like John Parrish, but they'll get something in return. Just act fast.

Are they playing this much better because they are playing under Riggleman? They should really be 9-3 if it werent for Miguel Batista (and no, i'll never forget that. One of the worst pitching performances I've ever seen or will ever see.)
Anyway, no, it has nothing to do with Riggleman, just a team that should have been playing like this all year long. Sexson, Ichiro, Beltre, Washburn are all playing like they should have been playing and we are getting contributions every now and then from unexpected places like Brandon Morrow as a stud closer and Miguel Cairo with clutch hitting. Jeremy Reed is providing a much better stick than Wilkerson and Balantien and Jeff Clement is showing some improvement at the plate (and so is Kenji)

It's not only too little too late though, its basically too little too late to not even finish in 3rd place and its only the start of July. You can build on this for 2009 though.

Posted by Adam

8:22 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Tony LaCava for GM Society membership passes are now for sale.

Posted by Bill

8:49 AM, Jul 03, 2008

How can you say it has nothing to do with Riggleman? If people are taking their jobs more seriously because their leader is instilling them with confidence and making them work harder, then it has everything to do with Riggleman.

Posted by Chuck

8:49 AM, Jul 03, 2008

It has more to do with McCrybaby leaving. In second place is playing weak National League teams with our National league line-up.

Posted by eastcoast

8:53 AM, Jul 03, 2008

Uhhh...because his trade value will never be higher than it is right now. This team has so many dead contracts (Silva, Batista, Wash, Sexson, Vidro, Joh), and such a poor farm system, that they need to unload what they can for prospects! And of those six (who are making a combined $60+ million this yr), only Wash has some reasonable trade value. Seriously, this is a no brainer.

As for Morrow, I'm torn on what to do with the guy. I don't believe it would take from now until the beginning of next season to develop him into a starter. That being said, he should stay as the closer for now and JJ should be traded assuming he can come back and prove he is healthy. It appears, from watching Morrow, that he is well on his way to developing his pitches. Aside from his fastball, he looks to be throwing a decent change and curve, and something else - ??slider.

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