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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 21, 2008 11:18 PM

Lester dominates; Ramirez lectured by traffic cop

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Boston fans in the crowd here, and there were thousands of them at Safeco Field tonight, erupt as Jonathan Papelbon and company jog back to the dugout after ending a wild eighth inning. Seattle loaded the bases with one out off Jon Lester, but Papelbon came in and got a double-play grounder from Raul Ibanez to end Seattle's last real chance.

Boston wins it 4-0 as Lester scatters eight hits, three of them in the eighth inning. Lester went 7 1/3 scoreless frames, striking out six. He didn't walk anybody. Though he threw 103 pitches on the night, 42 of them came in notching his final four outs. Before that, he needed only 61 pitches to breeze through six innings.

"Lester stepped up,'' said Papelbon, who retired the side in the ninth for the save. "He's stepping up for us. He's a guy right now we're kind of leaning on.''

The story of the game, from a Mariners perspective, was not Miguel Batista pitching a scoreless ninth in which he gave up a pair of singles and a walk that loaded the bases with two out. It was Jarrod Washburn going 5 2/3 frames and allowing just two earned runs on the Jason Varitek home run. Any team wanting to trade for Washburn now has seen him go roughly six innings every time out for the past couple of months. They've seen him limit opponents to two or three runs per game. Tonight, it was against a better-quality opponent.

"They're definitely in the top three or four offenses in our league,'' Washburn said after his team's third consecutive loss. "The Yankees, Detroit and Boston. Even without (David) Ortiz in that lineup, it's an awful good lineup. They've got some speed in there and they've got guys who put the ball in-play, take their walks and they've got power.''

What teams saw from Washburn tonight is what they'll likely get. He won't dominate like Lester did tonight. But he will get you through to the late-inning bullpen guys if he keeps this up.

"He really did a good job,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "Washburn has given us a chance to win the ballgame just about every time out there and he did it again tonight. When he leaves, it's 2-0, and when you've only given up a couple of runs to Boston, you've probably done a pretty good job.''

Want to hear a funny story? Here's one, a blog exclusive for all of you. Won't read about it anywhere else tomorrow.

Seems that Boston slugger Manny Ramirez was leaving the ballpark, with headphones on trying to look inconspicuous and quickly get away from the crowds still leaving the stadium. He started to cross South Royal Brougham Way, against the signals of a traffic cop who was directing pedestrians. The police officer demanded that Ramirez open his wallet and show identification. He warned him that he could face a $500 fine and possible arrest for disobeying a police officer.

It became clear to those watching that the policeman had no idea who Ramirez was. He didn't ask for an autograph or anything, but did ask Ramirez if he'd attended the game. After the brief lecture, and no argument from Ramirez, the police officer let him go with no further trouble.

Ah, maybe baseball needs a higher profile in this town? Or, maybe Ramirez has to sit around and talk to the media like everyone else on his team, so he doesn't get caught up in post-game foot traffic? I don't know, I just thought it was a funny story.

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July 21, 2008 9:38 PM

Boston Red Sox at Mariners: 07/21 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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What a night for Jon Lester, who has a 4-0 lead over the Mariners as we enter the bottom of the eighth. Lester had thrown just 61 pitches the first six innings before a 22-pitch seventh got the Mariners their shot at him. But with two on and one out, Lester fanned Miguel Cairo on a 1-2 pitch. That brought Jose Vidro in to pinch-hit for Bryan LaHair -- which the team had better do at that point if it's going to keep Vidro on the roster. Vidro worked the count to 3-1, put a good swing on the ball, but flied out hard to right field.

I knwo the blogosphere will be in an uproar over Vidro pinch-hitting there. But if you aren't going to pinch-hit for a rookie who's gone hitless in his first six major league at-bats, when are you going to do it? If the M's are going to justify keeping Vidro by saying they see value in him as a pinch-hitter, then you have to use him when the situation calls for it. That's my take.

Boston then added a pair of runs on a Jed Lowrie single off Cesar Jimenez in the eighth. Doesn't look good for the home team. Not with Lester still out there in the eighth.

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July 21, 2008 5:34 PM

LaHair, Clement in lineup

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Those of you hoping to see some youth in the lineup tonight will get your wish as Bryan LaHair, above, makes his second start at first base. Jeff Clement will catch, even though there's a lefty on the mound in Jon Lester and both aforementioned hitters are southpaws.

Erik Bedard did not throw today, at least not outdoors. Manager Jim Riggleman said Bedard threw a bit in the batting cage under the stadium yesterday and might do so again today. That was news to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, though he said throwing in the cage can be about as good as playing catch outdoors.

I spoke to Stottlemyre and bullpen coach Norm Charlton about Brandon Morrow possibly being converted to a starting role this season. Both told me that, right now, with J.J. Putz still working his way back from injury, Morrow plays too key a role in the bullpen to be moved.

Charlton told me that back in 1990, Lou Piniella converted him to a starting role out of the bullpen after he'd been throwing one and two-inning stints. Said it took him about two weeks to get up to five innings, but that it was out of necessity because of injuries to the Reds' rotation. Charlton was the kind of pitcher who routinely threw 25 pitches per frame in any event. Not like Morrow that way.

In Morrow's case, Stottlemyre thought he'd probably need a good month of rotation work down in Class AAA before he could be called up and used effectively for more than a handful of innings. And right now, he said, that's not an option being looked at.

Stottlemyre said he could envision a scenario in September where the M's could try to extend Morrow out of the bullpen. By that time, other arms would be up with the team because of expanded September rosters.

"You could probably jump him from one to three innings right away,'' he said. "But after that, it takes time.''

Are the M's even considering such a September scenario.

"To be honest with you, it hasn't even been discussed,'' Strottlemyre said with a laugh. "But you asked me if I saw a timeframe where it would be possible and I told you when I thought it could theoretically take place. But no. we're not even discussing it now.''


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July 21, 2008 9:43 AM

Morrow versus Rowland-Smith

Posted by Geoff Baker

Many of you have written in, expressing amazement that the Mariners have sent Ryan Rowland-Smith down to Class AAA to work on becoming a starter, while Brandon Morrow remains in the bullpen. I won't weigh in on the merits of Seattle's decision not to move sooner on Morrow. The team made a judgment call a couple of months ago not to go the Joba Chamberlain route with Morrow.

But I will try to explain the difference between Rowland-Smith and Morrow when it comes to this decision.

I talked about this on the radio last week, but Morrow is not going to be worked out as a starter this year. It's too late for that now. First off, J.J. Putz is going to have to be slowly worked back into the bullpen and the team needs a closer for now. Look at how much work Morrow got on the last road trip. Until Putz is ready, which may not be until mid-August, you need a competent late-innings guy out there. I know the games don't mean much, but fans would be in an uproar if this team were to keep blowing late-inning leads, especially after making them sit through the first 2 1/2 hours or so.

Besides, if you keep forcing a bunch of guys to throw the eighth and ninth when they aren't used to it, who knows how it will impact the health of the bullpen in general? The team tried this already back in April, when Putz went down the first time and Morrow was just getting fully healthy. It was an adventure.

And if you know it will take until mid-August to get Putz back to closing games again -- if that soon -- then sending Morrow down is no longer an option. There would be only two weeks left in the Class AAA season and that's not enought time to stretch out a starter. You could try, but you'd wind up with a guy capable of going four innings or so. That's not what you want with Morrow. You don't want to rush him. What you want, is a guy who can routinely go five or more innings.

Rowland-Smith is a different story. His arm is already semi-stretched to begin with. He's been going two or more innings as a reliever and got up to three or four as a spot-starter. You can send him down a couple of weeks and get those extra innings out of his arm. They will likely be needed because of a trade of Jarrod Washburn, the continued uncertainty of Erik Bedard's health and the ongoing struggles by Miguel Batista.

When Rowland-Smith first got a start a few weeks back, we specualted that he was auditioning for the rotation in the event of a Washburn or Bedard deal. That still seems to be the case.

But Morrow is a different story. He's not some end-of-year fill-in as a starter. And I don't mean that disrespectfully to Rowland-Smith, but things are what they are. Morrow is a huge part of the club's future, you've used up a No. 1 pick on him, and you have to treat him with more care.

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