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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 31, 2008 8:55 PM

M's hang on, beat Rangers

Posted by Geoff Baker

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It looked for the longest time like the red dot had a better shot at winning tonight than the Texas Rangers. That is, until the bullpen made things interesting in the ninth. The Mariners opened up a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning and rode R.A. Dickey's arm most of the way. But the bullpen, up by six in the ninth, yielded three runs before hanging on for an 8-5 win.

Mark Lowe had some trouble in the ninth, yielding three straight hits and a run. J.J. Putz came on from there and served up a two-run double to Frank Catalanotto. After a lineout by Michael Young, Putz struck out Josh Hamilton to end the game. Some sweaty palms there.

Dickey held the Rangers scoreless through seven innings before serving up a two-run homer to Ramon Vazquez in the eighth.

It was big for Dickey on so many levels. The last time he pitched here was in his one and only start of the 2006 season. He was starting for the Rangers and tied a modern day major league record by yielding six home runs in just 3 1/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers.

"It's mainly personally satisfying,'' he said of tonight's return. "It's not like I have any type of vendetta against the Rangers for not keeping me here. But it is satisfying for me, because the last time I was on this field, things didn't go so well.''

The two pitchers he's tied with for the dubious record? Fellow knuckleballers Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough.

The team needed the innings tonight. The Arthur Rhodes trade left the bullpen short an arm. That arm will be replaced with a roster move tomorrow. Another lefty is likely needed, so Ryan Rowland-Smith can be called up. The thing is, Dickey can also neutralize lefties, which would enable the team to put him in the bullpen and try Rowland-Smith as a starter.

Tonight's Dickey outing might make folks think twice about that.

"Dickey did a great job,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "From the second night of the series, we needed somebody to go deep in the game. It was real big that Dickey gave us so much time out there.''

Yes, Miguel Batista went six innings last night. But Riggleman explained how even that isn't always enough for a bullpen.

"Any time a starter gives you more than six, you're going to have some pretty good matchups for your bullpen the rest of the way.''

In the end, he allowed the two runs over 7 2/3 innings. Jose Lopez did indeed extend his hitting streak, to 18 games, with a single in the eighth. His bat is staying strong.

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July 31, 2008 6:49 PM

Mariners at Texas Rangers: 07/31 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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We're through six innings and it's a 6-0 lead for the Mariners. R.A. Dickey has allowed just two hits so far. His knuckler seems to be working well, A terrible start by Texas lefty Matt Harrison, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings, gave up six runs -- four earned -- on five hits (three for extra bases) walked five batters and threw two wild-pitches. For once, the M's aren't the worst defensive squad on the field. The Rangers have looked awful. They've booted the ball around left and right. Jose Lopez has his 17-game hitting streak on the line. Needs to come through these next few innings.

They had the "Kiss Cam" going between innings and took a shot of the Mariners' bullpen. Carlos Silva leaned over and planted one square on the face of Roy Corcoran. I kid you not.

As to who takes the roster spot vacated by Arthur Rhodes, it will either be Ryan Rowland-Smith or Jared Wells. If Rowland-Smith comes up, he'll likely push R.A. Dickey to the bullpen. There's also a possibility the team could mix and match Dickey and Rowland-Smith with opponents depending on whether or not they have any kind of track record against them.

A few more things I asked Pelekoudas. I mentioned the obvious criticism he's going to be getting for pulling off only one trade today and what he'll say to answer that, given his team's poor standing and obvious need to improve.

"I'll just say that, right now, we took one step in a process we said was going to be a step-by-step process,'' Pelekoudas said. "And again, repeat that the deadline is an artificial deadline and it's going to be a systematic process of redoing this club. And there are more opportunities that lie ahead. In August, in the off-season, in spring training. It's not going to be an overnight deal to redo the club.''


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July 31, 2008 5:13 PM

Pelekoudas: "We came close"

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Seattle leads 2-0 in the first inning, the first run scoring on a double by Raul Ibanez, pictured above, telling Michael Young how he almost got traded.

So, interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas finally arrived at the ballpark after a long day of talking, but not much deal-making. That Arthur Rhodes deal, I'm told, pretty much came together last Sunday and the M's waited it out to see if any better offers came along. My contacts in Miami say that Seattle might have gotten the better of the Rhodes-Gaby Hernandez trade. Hernandez hung around with the Marlins right up until the end of spring training because they wanted a more in-depth look at him. The folks I talked to say he could be in Seattle's rotation by next year. As a No. 4 or No. 5 arm. He didn't start playing baseball until he was 13, when he switched over from soccer. He'll start off with Seattle's Class AA affiliate. He wasn't on the Marlins' 40-man roster.

Anyhow, I asked Pelekoudas about the Ibanez-to-Toronto scenario. In typical fashion, for the Mariners, he was very short on details.

"I'm not going to characterize what we did or didn't do with any club on a particular player,'' he said. "I'll just say that we came close to a couple of deals and weren't able to get them done.''

There you go, then. Well, hold on. There's a bit more to the whole story.

To recap, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said earlier today that he spent 2 1/2 hours working out details of the Ibanez trade and that things got "intense" and at one point, he thought a deal would get done. Until the Mariners backed out.

We don't know which players were being offered to Seattle. But privately, I'm told this wasn't exactly a case of the Mariners having a deal in-place with Toronto and getting cold feet.

"We were ready to go forward,'' Ricciardi said. "I think at the end of the day they just didn't feel as comfortable going forward to finish off the trade.''

Sure makes it sound as if the M's pulled out of a deal, doesn't it? From what I'm told, some members of Toronto's PR staff actually thought they had a deal and were ready to print out releases.

But now, I'm hearing that the two sides swapped a multitude of names. And not just over a few hours today. Over the past few days. The Blue Jays apparently kept going back to the M's and kept getting rebuffed. Then, the M's would go back to the Jays with names and get rebuffed. In the end, neither side could firmly agree.

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July 31, 2008 2:48 PM

Ricciardi: M's shot down Ibanez deal

Posted by Geoff Baker

Here are the details on that three-way deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to the Red Sox and four players (all pretty good) to the Pirates. Now, on to the teams that didn't deal, namely the M's. Except for that gimme with Arthur Rhodes that the team had in its hip pocket since last week.

Just got off the phone with some Toronto contacts. It seems the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays did indeed begin working on the parameters of a deal involving Raul Ibanez. The deal began coming together between 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Pacific time). But no, the two players offered up by Toronto, so I'm told, were not David Purcey and Brandon League. If indeed it even was two players. One contact told me there's a chance League's name was out there. But not Purcey's. Now the fun part. We don't know who the players actually were.

But we do have some on-the-record quotes from Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi on why the deal came apart.

"We had some really good talks with Seattle, they were pretty intense and pretty in-depth,'' Ricciardi said in a conference call with Toronto media. "We thought at one point there was a possibility to get something done there, but it just didn't come to fruition.

"We were ready to go forward,'' he added. "I think at the end of the day they just didn't feel as comfortable going forward to finish off the trade. It was just something that didn't come to fruition. Both parties worked hard. At the end of the day they probably weren't as comfortable with making the trade as we were. That happens.''

The version being put forth by Seattle so far is that Ibanez-to-Toronto was nothing more than rumors. Hmmm. Based on what I'm reading, I tend to believe the Toronto version of events. I'm sure the M's version will change a bit once they read these quotes. It doesn't take 2 1/2 hours to flat-out reject an implausible trade scenario. Especially not right before the deadline. Sounds like there was something concrete going on here. In defense of GM Lee Pelekoudas, he's yet to speak to the media. Will do so in roughly 90 minutes. What we've gotten so far is a few second-hand denials.

Why would Toronto do an Ibanez deal? I'd wondered that earlier. Until my buddies back east reminded me of a cardinal rule of covering the Jays that I'd forgotten about during my two years here. That optics mean as much back there as reality at times.

To realists, like most of you, and me, a snowball has a greater chance of lasting the afternoon in this Texas heat as the Jays do of making the playoffs. But in Toronto, the Jays could acquire Ibanez, then tell their fans they still have a chance and that they're going for it.

It's worked before. In that city, the team has told fans it's in contention if it begins September single digits behind the playoff leaders. Drives up the television ratings. And that's very important to Toronto baseball.

"I don't think we're in the middle ground,'' Ricciardi said. "I think we're in it. When you look up and you're under eight...within striking distance of the wild-card and there's still two months to play, I don't we ever thought about us as 'Hey we're going to be sellers.' We've taken on the thought process that if we continue to add without taking anything away from us going forward, that we would try to do that.''

So, there's your motive. Ricciardi's words are the smoking gun. And the Mariners, it appears, certainly had some kind of opportunity that came together over more than two hours.

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July 31, 2008 1:03 PM

Deadline done

Posted by Geoff Baker

*****We're hearing talk of a Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers deal. Let's wait and see.*************

No official word yet, but it looks as if the Mariners' trade of Arthur Rhodes to the Marlins will be their only deal of the day. It can take 10 or 15 minutes to get word of any last-second deals, so let's hold off on saying anything is certain. Those Raul Ibanez-to-Toronto rumors? No idea where that got started. Talked to my contacts in Toronto and they seemed mystified. It's not like the Blue Jays are actually in the wild-card race. They've taken quite a tumble the past few days.

Forget about local boy Travis Snider. The Jays are not parting with him. But they might be willing to part with pitcher Jesse Litsch, then take the draft picks when Ibanez leaves. But all that is predicated upon the Jays actually contending this year. You don't give up Litsch for two months of Ibanez and a longshot playoff bid -- draft picks or not. Unless you think those picks will pay off more than Litsch.

I don't know. I'll believe it when I see it. We'll know for certain in a few moments. Ibanez isn't going anywhere in August. He'd be claimed off waivers in a heartbeat.

Actually, this just went up, crediting Jayson Stark. Says the M's backed out of a deal for two major leaguers in exchange for Ibanez. If that's true, there might be some splainin' to do. I mean, I love Ibanez. Draft picks are nice. But David Purcey is a former No. 1 draft pick who's now pitching in the major leagues. He has control issues, but so what? You work on them. Brandon League was once touted as a closer. He's has issues with his windup and delivery -- and been messed up by coaches trying to reinvent him the past few years -- but again, so what? The native of Hawaii used to gun it up to 98 mph. Not sure where he's at now. He's obviously dropped off in stature, even when I was still in Toronto in 2006. But even if he's down to 93 mph, that's still a decent filler arm.

With draft picks, it usually takes three to five years to get to the majors. If they make it at all. I'm only going off Stark's speculation here, but if Purcey and League were the names offered back, that sounds like a decent deal. Then again, he says "something like" Purcey and League, which might be a big difference between what was actually offered.

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July 31, 2008 10:54 AM

Washburn still in-play

Posted by Geoff Baker

I know a lot of you have wondered about those rumors concerning the Yankees trying to go after Paul Byrd from the Cleveland Indians, as an alternative to Jarrod Washburn. Well, this item from the New York Post, released within the hour, shoots down that theory.

From what I'm told, the M's have not budged from their position. They want a higher level prospect from the Yankees. Like I've said, they can afford to wait this one out. We'll know more as the deadline draws closer. If you ask me, though, it's going to be difficult for the Yankees to cave on this. They've gone pretty far in shooting their mouths off in leaks and official statements that they are not prepared to go further. If they give Lee Pelekoudas what he wants now, it's going to look like a defeat. In fact, if they cave and take Washburn and he implodes, they have set themselves up for some major egg on their faces.

My hunch? This doesn't happen before the deadline. Unless both sides meet in the middle and agree on a mid-level prospect like we saw acquired for Arthur Rhodes this morning.

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July 31, 2008 8:18 AM

Rhodes gone

Posted by Geoff Baker

The Mariners will officially announce at 9 a.m. that Arthur Rhodes is on his way to the Florida Marlins for pitching prospect Gaby Hernandez. The 22-year-old Hernandez, from Miami, is a Class AA starter, who was in AAA earlier this season before being demoted on July 6. His AAA numbers saw him at 2-8 with a 7.24 ERA. But he's put up decent AA numbers.

He was 3-0 with a 4.30 ERA in four AA starts this year after going 9-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 2007.

His peripheral numbers show a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He does seem to walk quite a few guys, but he's young. Command was actually the right hander's forte when he broke in with the New York Mets organization after they made him a third-round pick in 2004 as an 18-year-old. At the time, he projected to be a frontline starter, but those reviews have cooled somewhat. He's a fastball, curveball, changeup guy. Been working on a cutter. Never hurts to have a 22-year-old starter with AAA experience. Rhodes is going to be 39 in October. He wasn't going to help the M's do anything special this year, and likely next.

Besides, if the M's need him so much, they can always try to re-sign him for next year. This was the no-brainer trade. Let's see if anything else happens.

From what I'm told, theTwins have still been calling the M's about Adrian Beltre. But Seattle's asking price has always revolved around starting pitchers Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, or outfielder Denard Span. And the Twins won't do that. As we told you a few weeks back, the Twins feel they're doing the M's a huge favor by taking on the $17 million owed Beltre through 2009 and won't give up any premium in players. That kind of money is a lot for the Twins and they want a bargain someplace. This was never going to happen.

It's the same thing with the San Francisco Giants. They'll have to give up a premium arm and are not prepared to go there. These days, it seems, teams want something for nothing -- at least on the player front. Cash isn't king right now.

OK, it's now 9 a.m., the Mariners have confirmed the deal and interim GM Lee Pelekoudas put out this statement: "We felt the opportunity to acquire a young pitcher made sense as we look towards 2009 and beyond," Pelekoudas said. "Pedro Grifol, our minor league field coordinator, has known Gaby for several years and believes he has a chance to help us in the future."

By the way, I wouldn't get too worked up about his AAA numbers just yet. Remember, the PCL is a pitcher's graveyard and a hitter's paradise. Let's see how he progresses from here. To pick up a young arm for someone like Rhodes, approaching 40 and who wasn't going to contribute to any team success here, makes a lot of sense.

No guarantees Hernandez will amount to anything. But there is a guarantee that Rhodes will be retiring fairly soon. And he's a relief pitcher. This isn't the same as trading Jamie Moyer. You can find new relief pitchers fairly easily. Just not at the trade deadline if you're a contender. But over the winter, they are plentiful. And also, Eric O'Flaherty is still very much in this team's plans despite his year-long struggles.

Also, that Ken Griffey Jr. deal to the White Sox looks to be going down. This will likely spell the end of those Griffey-to-Seattle rumors I haven't stopped hearing about since he came here with the Reds over a year ago. Can't say I'm too upset about it.



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