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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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August 7, 2008 5:16 PM

Batista to bullpen

Posted by Geoff Baker

rays0807 009.jpg

A look at Jeremy Reed, above, getting some work in at first base. With the logjam of outfielders, expect to see Reed perhaps getting some playing time at the position. We've known since yesterday -- well, since Brandon Morrow went down to AAA to be honest -- that Ryan Rowland-Smith would likely be starting this weekend. The logic being that Miguel Batista would replace Morrow in the bullpen. Batista was scratched yesterday from his coming Saturday start and manager Jim Riggleman confirmed today that Batista is off to the bullpen. Riggleman keeps leaving open the possiblity that Batista will start again this year. As for Rowland-Smith, the manager won't officially announce who will start until he absolutely has to, in case an injury or some unexpectedly heavy bullpen use scuttles the current plans beforehand. But it won't be Batista out there at the beginning. Maybe not the rest of the year.

"Any time we put him in the bullpen, it seems like there's been a need to put him in the rotation not too long afterwards,'' Riggleman said.

The manager is just being nice. If all goes according to plan, Batista is done starting in 2008.

"Without Morrow down there, we'd like to have him down there,'' Riggleman said of Batista in the bullpen.

Once a few weeks go by, it will be too late to stretch Batista back out again. And what's the point?

In fact, what we're seeing here could be a prelude to 2009.

The way J.J. Putz has looked, there will be some question marks at the closer position heading into next spring. I've been asked over and over again whether Brandon Morrow could be bullpen bound again next season. My answer is always a cautious one. Yes, he could indeed be back in the closer spot next year if Putz falters early -- sort of like Jonathan Papelbon with the Boston Red Sox in spring training of last season. Papelbon was pegged to be a starter, but after numerous pitchers failed as closers -- including Joel Pineiro -- it was back to the bullpen for him. Boston only won a World Series doing the flip-flop.

But -- and this is a huge but -- that scenario only makes sense if the Mariners plan on contending in 2009. If they don't, it makes more sense to stick with the Morrow plan and come up with an alternative. That could be Mark Lowe, though he'll have to show better command than he has this year.

It could also be Batista. Don't forget, he's been a closer before. If you need one in a pinch, there could be worse ones out there. In my ideal world, Batista next year becomes a high-priced set-up man for Putz. Let's face it, trading Batista will be rough, unless he's packaged with some real gems. I can easily see the bullpen in his immediate and distant future.

That way, the team gives No. 1 draft pick Josh Fields a chance to learn to pitch in less pressure-packed situations -- if indeed he makes the team next spring, which is still a longshot. Not everyone is going to rise through an organization as quickly as Morrow did.

Yes, Fields will sign at some point in the next eight days. Stop worrying. This is all a part of the process. He's a reliever, not a future Hall of Fame shortstop. Even if his agent is Scott Boras.


rays0807 010.jpg

Speaking of Boras clients, Jarrod Washburn spoke a few moments ago. He wasn't in the best of moods after yesterday's loss and -- for one of the rare times since he arrived in Seattle -- just wanted a day off from talking post-game. Said he wasn't going to say anything he hadn't said before. Had he been taken apart by the Twins, he would have talked.

"I'm a man,'' he said. "If I pitch that bad, I have to talk to you.''

He felt as good as he has in previous outings, except for the one pitch to Denard Span that cost him three runs.

On those seven consecutive balls he threw in the sixth inning after getting ahead 1-2 on Brendan Harris?

"I was trying to strike him out,'' he said, rather sheepishly. "I just started getting too fine with my pitches.''

The subsequent four-pitch walk to Adam Everett?

"That's a classic case of a pitcher trying to throw the ball right down the middle and not being able to do it,'' he said with a laugh. "It happens sometimes. I didn't care if he hit it. I just wanted to throw it over the plate and for the life of me, I couldn't do it.''

The two walks likely cost him another inning of work. Washburn retired the ensuing batter, Carlos Gomez, on a three-pitch strikeout.

For Washburn, last week's loss to the Baltimore Orioles is something he considers an abberation in his two-month run of success.

For some reason, the last few years, anytime i face the Baltimore Orioles, I don't do well,'' he said.

Washburn is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA against Baltimore in three starts this year. He was 0-1 with an 8.18 ERA in two starts against the O's last year and 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA against them in a 2006 outing.

Erik Bedard played catch again today, making about 40 to 50 throws. He'll keep doing this into next week, increasing distance if all goes well. No one knows when he'll be back on a mound. Mariners head trainer Rick Griffin is seen below, conferring afterwards with manager Riggleman.

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