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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 30, 2008 9:30 PM

Rhodes takes loss in possible swan song

Posted by Geoff Baker

Those were three debatable walks issued by Arthur Rhodes in the eighth inning. Especially the last one, to Marlon Byrd, on a pitch that appeared to go right through the strike zone. A checked-swing on the previous pitch could also have been called a strike. But it became a walk. Michael Young (who'd come in to pinch-hit for Brandon, I wasn't actually at the game, those photos took themselves) delivered a sacrifice fly and Rhodes and the M's take a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Rhodes, predictably, told umpire Paul Nauert, what he thought of his umpiring, Just as predictably, Rhodes was tossed. He had to be restrained and directed towards the dugout. His final M's moment? We'll know tomorrow afternoon.

Eddie Guardado gets the win. He could also be gone by tomorrow. When's the last time two pitchers of record in the same game were on different teams the following day?

Rhodes wasn't a happy man after the game.

"I'm not going to comment on that,'' Rhodes said of the umpire's calls. "I'm out there making good pitches and the ball's over the plate.''

Good thing he didn't comment.

Rhodes insisted he hasn't gotten caught up in all the trade talk. He'll probably wind up with the Marlins tomorrow. If not them, the Brewers. Guardado, the less-coveted of the two, will likely go to the team that doesn't land Rhodes.

Despite insisting that he's still a Mariner and plans to be here, Rhodes did take a positive view of all the interest expressed in him.

"I look at it as I'm having a great year this year,'' he said. "I had Tommy John surgery last year, but came back this year and proved I could still pitch.''

For now, Rhodes said, it's tough going on this Mariners team.

"This whole team is in a funk right now,'' he said. "And once you get in one, it's tough to get out.''

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July 30, 2008 7:27 PM

Mariners at Texas Rangers: 07/30 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Texas did indeed tie it up in the sixth when Kenji Johjima threw a ball into center field on a steal attempt. A leadoff double by David Murphy and an ensuing groundout left a runner at third with one out. Marlon Byrd then grounded out to Willie Bloomquist at shortstop, the runner holding. But Brandon Boggs walked and broke for second on the steal. The throw was high over Jose Lopez's head. No chance there. Chris Davis then flied out to deep left center to end the inning. I can't remember seeing Raul Ibanez make a catch that far over in center.

Seattle loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh. Of course, you can guess what happened next. Ibanez hit a fly ball to medium right field. Bloomquist tagged up from third and tried to score, but was nabbed at the plate by David Murphy. Adrian Beltre then took a called third strike that he did not like very much. So, a wasted opportunity Seven runners left on by the M's tonight.

Batista is now out of the game, somehow making it through six innings with only three runs -- two earned -- allowed. It was a high-wire act. Cesar Jimenez is on.

Had a nice chat pre-game in the press dining area with Andrew Percival, a local guy from the Seattle area now working for the Rangers in their front office and scouting ranks. He interned with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and now has a job in Texas. Says he's getting used to the heat. He's an avid reader of the blog, so we were able to swap some baseball theory about what's gone on in Seattle this season. Educational.

Had another chat, not in the dining room, but on the dugout steps, with J.J. Putz about his outing last night. There are two major things Putz has struggled with all season, both of them related to his rustiness in coming back off injuries. The first is the command of his four-seam fastball. The second is his ability to throw an effective splitter.

Before his latest DL stint, the big issue for Putz was the fastball command problem. He kept falling behind hitters. The splitter becomes useless if hitters know you can't get your fastball over for a strike. Nobody is going to swing at a splitter, which will almost always miss the strike zone, when you aren't spotting the fastball. They'll just let you walk them.

The second problem, the splitter, is what has hampered Putz since he returned from the DL post-All-Star Break. You saw the problems he had in Toronto last Friday. Well, the problems were back again last night. Not so much with the first two hitters who got on. One of them swung at a pitch in the dirt and got a lucky hit. The other one hit an OK pitch. But the double that Ramon Vazquez hit came on another splitter that did not split. And when that happens, the result is a big, flat fastball that gets crushed.

Putz fessed up to this. He admitted his splitter is rusty and that it will take time for it to come back. He's got the final two months of this season to get a feel for it again. Hey, many of you wanted Brandon Morrow to go to Class AAA to start working out in the rotation. You didn't care who the closer was. Well, you're getting a taste of what could happen if Putz is less than 100 percent. Come August, it may not matter. It looks like the M's will go that route in any event.

I'm not saying you were wrong. But I am saying that talking about how games don't matter and how you don't care if the M's lose 99 or 110 games is a lot easier to do than it is to see a gut-wrenching defeat like last night's actually take place. No one wants to see a game play out for eight innings, only to be decided by a closer who can't make pitches. Try doing it three times a week and you could get a sniff at what's in-store for the Mariners the next two months.

For those of you asking me about Josh Fields, please, relax. It's not unusual to wait until after the July 31 trade deadline for teams to turn their focus back towards unsigned draft picks. There are still more than two weeks left to sign Fields. Like Brandon Morrow two summers ago, Fields likely won't pitch in the minors this year so it's not urgent to get his signature down on paper right away.

The M's are all tied up on multiple trade fronts for now. Once those go away, they can turn to other things.

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July 30, 2008 2:46 PM

Rhodes, Ibanez in-play

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Let's drop the Jarrod Washburn stuff for a just a moment and focus on the two other Mariners with the best shot at getting traded by tomorrow. No, not Adrian Beltre. I'm told the San Francisco Giants want him, but are reluctant to move their best young major and minor league arms. Deal won't happen if they don't. Besides, who would play third base? The Giants would have to include a third baseman. They have 27-year-old Jose Castillo, another free-swinger but solid defender, who could be a stop-gap guy until the next big thing (Carlos Triunfel?) comes up through Seattle's system. But there would have to be a prize in any Betre deal, like one of the "untouchable'' young arms the Giants have. I'm told that Jonathan Sanchez is the one "untouchable'' who could be touchable. But let's face it. This is already getting too complicated. Sounds like a nice winter project to me.

No, I'm talking Arthur Rhodes and Raul Ibanez. Rhodes was beign pursued by the Tigers, Brewers and Marlins -- with Florida about ready to part with the mid-level prospect it would take to get him. Forget about the Tigers, they're done. Just pulled off a deal with the Yankees, sending them catcher Ivan Rodriguez for reliever Kyle Farnsworth. So, that takes care of any bid for Rhodes by Detroit. To answer one question, yes, Farnsworth is right handed, but it was just another bullpen arm (right or left) that the Tigers wanted to bolster their pen. They weren't specifically looking for a situational lefty. You'll also notice in the story that Rodriguez waived his no-trade clause to go to New York. He's got the same agent as Washburn. Like I said, the no-trade thing isn't going to hold up any Washburn deal. This stuff gets taken care of.

On to Raul Ibanez. The M's are apparently asking for two prospects in exchange for him from both the Mets and Cubs. Not surprising, since Seattle would receive two higher level compensatory picks for Ibanez should he leave as a free-agent at year's end.

But here's the catch: in order to get those picks, Seattle would have to offer arbitration to Ibanez. What if he accepts? Then, the M's would have to be prepared to go to 2009 with him as the DH, most likely. So, those draft picks are not a given. In other words, if one prospect is worthy enough, Seattle's asking price could come down from where it is now. As a negotiating position though, I'd expect to see the ask of two high prospects that's now out there. You have to have something to come back down to, especially since the deadline is a full 22 hours away.

Now is when things start to get serious. When the real negotiating begins.

Frankly, I'll be disappointed if Seattle comes away empty-handed tomorrow.

At the very least, Rhodes is the closest to a sure-thing trade you're ever going to get on a team as bad as the Mariners. They have to deal him. You have a shot at getting a young possibility back and that's better than clinging to an old one that isn't going to help this team when it matters. I'd say it's down to the Marlins and Brewers, both of which are also scouting Eddie Guardado. One will wind up with Florida, the other with Milwaukee.

If Rhodes is still here by tomorrow night, then Lee Pelekoudas will have come up short. There's holding firm in negotiations, then there's being too stubborn for your own good. I'd expect that, with 30 years in this business, he's smart enough to recognize that.

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July 30, 2008 9:15 AM

M's all talk, waiting on Yankee action

Posted by Geoff Baker

We're approaching the 24-hour window for that Jarrod Washburn-to-New York deal to get done and the standoff between the Mariners and New York Yankees continues. By "window" I mean prior to the July 31 trade deadline. The M's, of course, can still deal Washburn after that, but everyone has to pass through waivers first. By everyone, I also mean the players (if any) coming back Seattle's way. If it's a decent prospect, fat chance of that happening.

As we mentioned the other day, what you have here is a game of "chicken" or "poker" being played to see who will blink first. The New York media seems to agree on that now. At least, some writers do. Here's the take by John Harper of the New York Daily News, which actually calls it a "poker'' game.

The folks at Newsday have also been all over this deal from the beginning. They call this a "dead'' deal, but I don't share that opinion. I agree with Harper above in that the Yankee spin-meisters only want folks to think it's dead so that the M's will cave and throw Washburn out there. But as we mentioned two days ago, and which the Newsday reporters do in their piece, the M's are really under no pressure to get a cash-only deal done with the Yankees on Washburn. You can do that in August, since waivers won't be an issue in a salary dump. Well, they could be an issue for the Yankees if a team steps up to claim Washburn, either out of interest or to block a trade.

But if it's a salary-only deal anyway, the M's can just let that claiming team take Washburn and all of his salary. What do they care? At most, they'd lose that third-rate, token prospect the Yanks are offering to throw in right now. No big deal. As we discussed, as long as the Yanks stick to their current position, the M's are under no pressure to move Washburn by tomorrow. They can always call New York's bluff and then, if they really are desperate to unload his salary, just make the move on Aug. 1. New York's needs won't change in one day. They aren't going to walk away from the salary-only deal just because 24 hours have passed.

It was no coincidence that interim Seattle GM Lee Pelekoudas picked last night to hold an impromptu gathering with Seattle beat writers just before gametime. Pelekoudas wanted to fire off another salvo in public, directly at the Yankees, without actually naming them.

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