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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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June 30, 2008 10:06 PM

Felix Hernandez goes on DL

Posted by Larry Stone

The Mariners announced after the game that Hernandez is going on the 15-day DL, and Cesar Jimenez has been recalled from Tacoma.

Don't worry too much -- there was no new damage found in his left ankle when Felix was examined today by Mariners' team doctors., But when he tried to throw, he was still having trouble with his landing, so they decided that he needed a few more days before he could pitch. The DL move is retroactive to June 24, so it made sense to bring up another pitcher rather than go short any longer.

Gotta write my stories.

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June 30, 2008 6:54 PM

Game thread, 6-30, Mariners vs. Blue Jays

Posted by Larry Stone

Pretty decent crowd here today. Must be all those Blue Jays fans coming down from Canada, eh?

Jim Riggleman handled the Mets' Jerry Manuel in the interim manager showdown in New York. Now he has a new challenge in Cito Gaston, who took over for John Gibbons the same week John McLaren was axed.

It will be interesting to see if R.A. Dickey follows his last gem with another good outing. If so, I'd guess that he'll stay in the rotation at the expense of Miguel Batista. I was surprised to see that Batista denied ever saying, after his last start, anything about other pitchers on the Mariners going on the disabled list when they felt pain. Since I was one of the writers quoting him, I took that personally. Just to be sure, I listened to the tape again. He said it.

With David Eckstein starting for Toronto and Willie Bloomquist for Seattle, I'll bet the shortstop position has never witnessed so much grit in one game.

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June 30, 2008 5:33 PM

Pre-game potpourri

Posted by Larry Stone


Larry Stone here at Safeco, jumping back on temporary blog duty.

Can you feel it, too? Yeah, the anticipation for Brad Wilkerson's long-awaited return to Safeco Field has this place just pumping with electricity.

Yuniesky Betancourt is out of commission today because of dental issues. Hey, at least he didn't hurt himself adjusting a pillow, like Brandon Inge of the Tigers. Apparently, Betancourt had some serious work done on his teeth today and is in quite a bit of discomfort. He may be available to pinch-hit. So Willie Bloomquist continues his eternal quest for his first extra-base-hit of the season while playing shortstop.

Richie Sexson is playing first base, which means that, yet again, I was dead wrong. I never thought they'd bring him back to Safeco Field to face the unruly mobs. But it's clear that the Mariners are not giving up hope that Sexson can turn it around enough to get someone to take him off their hands.

Here's what Jim Riggleman said when someone asked him about speculation that Sexson wouldn't be with the team when they came back from the road trip:

"Until you said that, I hadn't heard anything like that (Larry Stone interjecting here: Now I know he doesn't read this blog). We're just putting Richie out there, waiting for him to get it going, put some backspin on some balls and get them airborne. Do what Richie does to help the ballclub, which is hit the ball out of thet ballpark, get some doubles.''

Riggleman repeated what he said earlier, that he knows Sexson's hitting ability is still in there, just waiting to be tapped.

"We're being patient with him, and hopefully, he'll turn it on soon,'' he said.

Oh, Ryan Rowland-Smith will start tomorrow when the Mariners empty their bullpen to fill in the void left by Felix Hernandez, who is getting his ankle examined by the Mariners' doctor today. More on Felix's status could come before the night is done. For Rowland-Smith, starting is probably the least desirable spot in a situation like this. Since he's unlikely to go five, he's out of running for the victory no matter how well he pitches. It's the subsequent pitchers who have a chance to get the win on the "most effective reliever" proviso of the official scorer. Rowland-Smith benefitted from that rule in New York on the night Felix got hurt, so he owes one to Roy Corcoran, who is still looking for his first major-league win.

LINEUPS

Toronto

David Eckstein SS

Marco Scutaro 2B

Alex Rios RF

Vernon Wells CF

Matt Stairs DH

Scott Rolen 3B

Lyle Overbay 1B

Rod Barajas C

Brad Wilkerson LF

Roy Halladay P

SEATTLE

Ichiro RF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jeremy Reed CF

Richie Sexson 1B

Jeff Clement DH

Kenji Johjima C

Willie Bloomquist SS

R.A. Dickey P

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June 30, 2008 10:45 AM

McLaren deserves another shot

Posted by Geoff Baker

A beautiful Monday morning here in Seattle finds the Mariners riding a 6-3 stretch under new manager Jim Riggleman. I've been asked about the impact Riggleman has had on the club, compared to former field boss John McLaren, and have to say that, for now, it's too soon to tell. I will say that I think the club has benefitted from the lifting of tension that McLaren's firing created. The players had been walking around on eggshells in the week prior to McLaren getting canned, worrying that they would be the next ones out the door. Well, it turns out this organization, for all its tough talk, was not yet ready to make any players pay for their collective failures. End result? McLaren gets shown the door. Tension lifted. Bring on the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, two of the poorest performing clubs in all of baseball, and the recipe for a turnaround was there. Like an aging pug boxer, desperate to hang around for one more payday, the M's were served up a collection of patsy fighters with which they have padded a nice little record in the first week and a half under Riggleman.

We'll see, over the longer term, what real impact Riggleman has. And if he's brought back next year, we'll see whether Riggleman can get this club to win when it actually matters. Right now, it doesn't. But he's done an OK job so far. And why wouldn't he? He'd managed two different NL clubs throughout the 1990s. He's been in this role before.

Which brings us back to John McLaren. As I wrote in the days prior to his firing, I don't think McLaren ever had a real chance to show his true style as a manager in Seattle. And now, despite the obvious backlash I will receive from some of our more frequent trolls on this site, I'll do the unpopular thing (again) and suggest that McLaren deserves another shot to show what he can do. Someplace else, obviously. But another shot. Where will that be? Well, with the Toronto Blue Jays in town, I've run a few scenarios through my head and one wacky idea that keeps popping up is for him to ressurect his career in that city.

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June 29, 2008 8:12 PM

Sexson makes it home

Posted by Geoff Baker

Those of you taking bets that Richie Sexson wouldn't make it home from this road trip, well, you all lose. Hey, don't sweat it. I didn't think he'd make it on to the trip to begin with. So, let's review. Sexson went 4-for-18 on this road trip, with one extra base hit (a double). He didn't play the final two games, though he notched a single in Friday night's opener. You can see him standing on first base in the team's powder blue retro jersey designed in the 1978 style.

So, is this the new-and-improved Sexson? Remember, he did have all four hits in his final three games on the trip. Maybe something clicked? Maybe he lucked out?

For me, the most telling stat is: one extra base hit since May 26.

As a singles hitter, since employing his revamped, more-open style at the plate, Sexson has managed to hit .265. That would be much better than his season average to that point, which had fluctuated just over and just under the .200 mark. His on-base-percentage is a robust .373 since the switch, due largely to Sexson's good eye and ability to draw walks. He has 13 of them this month compared to 17 in the previous two months.

But the problem, as I mentioned, continues to be his lack of power. He's slugging just .279 since the change. One extra base hit. This, from a guy who just two seasons ago was an automatic 35 home runs per year.

As a result, his on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) is at .653 since the style change, which is actually worse than the .690 that is was before the switch. So, yes, despite the added hits and walks, Sexson has become a less productive hitter than before.

The question is, if he's cut loose, who does the team replace him with?

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June 29, 2008 6:36 PM

First sweep of the year

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Forget about that two-game broom job the Mariners did in Oakland more than two months ago. Real sweeps involve three games or more. This was a sweep. Pulled off in convincing fashion, with a 9-2 victory over the San Diego Padres. Yes, it was only the Padres. Yes, they are truly awful. Maybe even worse than the Mariners. But in a season like this one, a team takes what it can get. The M's finished off today's rout with a solo homer by Jeff Clement. Maybe that was the swing that gets his bat going? Who knows? All I know is, the M's pounded out 18 hits today. When you do that, you tend to win. Even when 16 of those hits are singles.

Erik Bedard wasn't ace-like. But he gave his team a chance to win, 94 pitches or not. Ichiro came through with the five singles. Two of them got important rallies going.

"I felt today, that...keeping myself in good balance was very important,'' Ichiro said. "That was something that was very key to today's game, to my performance.''

By "good balance" he meant not dwelling on past failures.

"This is more towards the mental game,'' he said. "I had no hits yesterday, 0-for-4. And I come out today with a 5-for-5. If you (media) guys ask me if I had a technical or mechanical difference in my swing, I didn't have a mechanical difference. But the important thing is to keep myself in-between, out of the two games that I had. Because it makes a big difference as a result, when you look at the numbers.

"But obviously, it's not.''

Ichiro was hitting just .234 since switching back to right field. But with the five hits, the average has soared up to .314. Overall, he's at .297, up from .286 at the start of the day.

I asked Bedard whether he was getting tired in the sixth inning, considering how he kept falling behind the hitters.

"That was pretty much it,'' he said, nodding in agreement.

Bedard added that his back wasn't bothering him any more. But manager Jim Riggleman wasn't about to take a chance at using him against right handed masher Kevin Kouzmanoff. He instead went to Sean Green and got the groundout he needed.

The win was Bedard's first since May 28.

Riggleman was pleased with the 6-3 road trip and Seattle's first three-game sweep since last September.

"We just feel like we're playing pretty good baseball,'' Riggleman said. "And just trying to win the game. Not getting ahead of ourselves, nothing like that. Just win the game. Make every pitch, every play count. And I think the guys are doing that. They're focusing, giving it a good effort.''

It's about time. Only took half a season. Maybe it took playing the Padres? Or the NL? We'll know more this week. Roy Halladay is pitching against Seattle tomorrow night, with Dustin McGowan on-tap in the series finale. Not to mention that mish-mash of Seattle relievers "starting" the middle game. Then, the Tigers are on-deck.

In other words, it gets tougher from here.

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June 29, 2008 3:31 PM

Mariners at San Diego Padres: 06/29 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

m's0630 016.jpg

Ichiro notched his fifth single of the day in the eighth inning to tie his career high. He's done it seven times, the last being on May 15 of last season. Of Seattle's 17 hits today, 16 have been singles. The lone exception was the Adrian Beltre home run.

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June 29, 2008 12:46 PM

Mariners shorthanded on mound

Posted by Geoff Baker

m's0630 003.jpg

Those of you with tickets to Tuesday night's game against Toronto will be in for a treat. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said this morning that he plans to go with one of those bullpen combinations from start to finish, given the injury status of Seattle's starting rotation. Miguel Batista, pictured above with Raul Ibanez, has yet to throw a bullpen session since complaining of a lingering back problem he hadn't told anyone about. Riggleman doesn't want him starting until he throws one and shows he can do something.

Felix Hernandez is still out. The training staff has yet to let him throw with that sore landing leg. They were thinking he might throw today, but he hasn't yet from what I've seen. Jarrod Washburn goes on Wednesday, R.A. Dickey tomorrow and Erik "Nails'' Bedard today. That leaves a big hole in Tuesday's slot. Riggleman will throw a bunch of relievers out there and hope one can stretch things out a little longer to save some relievers for the days ahead -- especially with the Detroit Tigers looming on the horizon.

"(Ryan) Rowland-Smith would be a candidate,'' Riggleman said. "(Roy) Corcoran, (Sean) Green, (Mark) Lowe. It may not really even matter which one starts. It's just going to be a combination of the guys.''

Jeff Clement is catching Bedard today. No Kenji Johjima. Guess $24 million doesn't buy much anymore. I asked Riggleman about that situation.

"When we get back in the American League, hopefully we can keep getting both of them their at-bats,'' Riggleman said. "Clement will get some at-bats at DH. Joh will catch, and then Joh DH every now and then. But Clement is not here to catch every third day or something. He's here to get some significant time and see what we've got with him.''

I then asked Riggleman the natural follow-up. Who is his No. 1 catcher right now?

"Burke,'' Riggleman deadpanned.

Then, he got serious.

"I don't even know why I would even want to answer that,'' he said. "I don't want to insult anybody by saying somebody's No. 1 or No. 2. They're both catchers and they're both going to catch a lot. It'll play out. Hopefully, time will tell us if one of them establishes himself as a clear-cut guy who the organzation is going to commit to for the future as a No. 1.''

Funny, I thought that's what the Johjima extension was supposed to be about. Guess not.

No Richie Sexson in today's lineup. Second day in a row he's out. Jose Vidro is back at first base. Life could be worse. You could be this guy, down below.

m's0630 018.jpg

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June 28, 2008 11:04 PM

Silva lining

Posted by Geoff Baker

padres0628 030.jpg

Yes, this season is lost. And yes, the Mariners spent $48 million over four years to bring in Carlos Silva. But the guy does give you seven innings when he's clicking. And tonight he was. Silva notches his first victory since April 17 in Oakland, a 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Another save for Brandon Morrow, ending the game in the photo above by striking out Khalil Greene on an 86 mph change-up. Morrow had apparently shaken off catcher Jeff Clement's previous two calls for a changeup and gone fastball. The last time, he shook off a fastball and went changeup. Think that crossed Greene up just a little bit? That he wasn't guessing fastball there? Hey, that tuition to send Morrow to UC Berkeley wasn't wasted. It's the first time he's notched saves on consecutive nights. The ninth inning wasn't without drama, as Morrow yielded a one-out single to Kevin Kouzmanoff. But Morrow escaped.

The M's needed more of these types of outings from Silva. He threw only 87 pitches over his seven innings. Got lucky at times, but recorded the outs when he needed to.

"He was more like what we saw the first two, three weeks of the season,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said.

Silva told us he didn't allow himself to become consumed by frustration during his long winless stretch. But Riggleman sensed maybe a different -- even tougher -- emotion.

"He's a pro and he's got pride,'' Riggleman said. "His pride's been hurt a little bit. I think it was important for him.''

Silva talked about what he did differently tonight. The biggest change was in his command. Remember this morning, when I mentioned the command issue in regards to Jarrod Washburn? When I said that command has less to do with walk ratios and throwing strikes and more about location? Well, listen to Silva.

"You've got to throw strikes, but you've got to make your pitches,'' he said. "Always, I throw strikes, but I don't make my pitches that way (like he did tonight). It's two different things.

"It's hard. It's not easy. It's hard because on this level, when the other team knows you're going to be around the plate, if you don't make your piutches and you don't hit your spots, you're going to get hit hard. And that's what's been happening to me. So, I have to hit my corners. When I don't hit them, I'm going to be in trouble because they know I'm going to throw strikes.''

And that, folks, is why walk rates and strike ratios are not always the best way to measure the command of certain types of pitchers. Not pitch-to-contact guys whose goal is to get the ball put into play, only not as hard as the hitters would like.

Anyhow, lesson over. The M's won a game. Two in a row. Life doesn't get any better than this. Not this season, anyhow.


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June 28, 2008 9:04 PM

Mariners at San Diego Padres: 06/28 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

padres0628 024.jpg

They had a nice, pre-game parachute display put on here by some Special Forces types. Got a loud round of applause.

9:04 p.m.: San Diego got on the board in the seventh when Tony Clark smacked a two-run single u[ the middle with two out. All of the hits given up by Silva in the inning -- and a lineout -- were to straightaway center. That's a sign of a pitcher running out of steam. I thought the m's got away with one letting Silva stay out there to face lefty Jody Gerut. But the latter helped Silva immensely by swinging at the first pitch and bouncing out to end the frame.

Seattle then got pinch-runner Miguel Cairo to third with one out after a Jose Vidro double to lead off the eighth. But Jeremy Reed failed to get down the squeeze play bunt, popping it up foul and creating a double-play that ended the inning.

Arthur Rhodes now on to pitch in the bottom of the frame.

padres0628 018.jpg

Look, above. A marketing seminar.


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June 28, 2008 11:36 AM

Ichiro in right? No thanks

Posted by Geoff Baker

sandiego0627 023.jpg

A look, above, at one of my favorite features of Petco Park. They've actually incorporated part of an historic old building into the left field foul pole. You can see the 336 foot sign actually written on to the building's bricks. How many other ballparks can say that? Uh, none.

Anyhow, the Mariners avoided a huge debacle last night by actually winning despite stranding a team record 18 men on base. I know the team was pleased to win. It should be, since wins have come at a premium this season and Seattle is now 4-3 on this trip with a chance to sew up a rare winning road expedition tonight.

All that aside, how in the heck do you strand 18 runners? Easy. Put a team on the field with no power. The Mariners had 12 hits and nine walks in the game and also reached base twice more on errors. So, how on Earth did they score only five runs? Here goes. Only one hit -- a Kenji Johjima double in the sixth -- went for extra bases. In fact, the M's were fortunate to even score the runs they did. One of Adrian Beltre's RBI singles was an infield hit while the other -- a two-run smack -- needed a half-dozen hops to make it out of the infield. No, the home crowd was not happy with the San Diego defense.

But, when you have no power, it takes a whole bunch of hits just to bring one run across. If Bill James was watching, he could come up with another snappy line, along the likes of: "Bad teams have good hitters that only hit singles." Or something cute like that.

Which brings us back to Ichiro. One of this team's prime needs moving forward will be to find some power.

Seattle has no power in the three traditional baseball power slots of RF, 1B and DH. We won't go into Jose Vidro and Richie Sexson. We all know about their power outages. Beltre's slugging percentage at third base has not been above .400 in any one month since April. Teams traditionally place their power guys in the corners of the outfield and infield, so that the quicker -- slighter of build -- speed guys can man the tougher defensive positions up the middle.

Not so with the Mariners. Not only do they lack power at the traditional spots, but they just made a move to put a singles hitter -- a really good one, but a singles hitter nonetheless -- into one of the corner slots reserved for power hitters. This won't fly.


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June 27, 2008 11:42 PM

Mariners squeeze out a win

Posted by Geoff Baker

sandiego0627 031.jpg

When I say squeezed one out, I mean it. Seattle stranded a team record 18 baserunners tonight, just two shy of the major league record. But they inched enough runs across to secure a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Brandon Morrow stranded the final three runners in the ninth, lining out to right field with the bases loaded. But Adrian Beltre had nubbed a huge run across with an infield single moments earlier. Morrow, pictured above, then did what he does best -- pitching -- to get through the ninth for the four-out save.

Why was Jarrod Washburn allowed to face Adrian Gonzalez with his pitch count at 114 in the eighth inning and a runner on third? Well, the team will never admit it. But let's face it, Washburn is one guy the club will likely try to deal at the trade deadline. Letting him go eight strong innings and face top hitters in key situations is a much better way of attracting interest than trying to say that his 2-7 record (now 3-7) is more a matter of bad luck than bad pitching.

Just my theory. I like it.

Washburn says that slight mechanical modification he admitted to last week is truly paying off. It's an adjustment to another change he'd made earlier this season. That first change he said, was preventing him from getting the most he could on his pitches.

"It's shown in the results,'' he said. "My command is a lot better. I'm hitting the spots more often.''

That he is. I spoke to an advance scout from an AL East team after the game. He says the last two Washburn outings are the strongest he's seen the lefty's arm look all year. He wanted to know where this Washburn has been all season.

He's here now. If this team is looking to deal him, Washburn is peaking at just the right time. We'll see.

If not for Adrian Beltre, who drove in three runs on two balls that barely made it out of the infield (one of them didn't), the game might still be going on.

"We had a lot of opportunities,'' Beltre said. "We probably didn’t do as well as we wanted to, but we got the job done. We got the win.''


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June 27, 2008 9:37 PM

Mariners at San Diego Padres: 06/27 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

sandiego0627 028.jpg

9:36 p.m.: Jarrod Washburn gave up a two-run homer to left by Chase Headley in the seventh, then was sent back out to start the eighth inning with his pitch count at 98. He's got a 4-2 lead.

In the more interesting left on base stats, the M's stranded one more in the eighth and have now left a season-high 15 on tonight. That's one shy of the team record, done on four other occasions -- the last being in 2004. Stay tuned.

sandiego0627 015.jpg

Yes, that's interim GM Lee Pelekoudas working the phones, trying to convince folks Richie Sexson can still do more than hit singles. And other stuff as well, I'm sure.


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June 27, 2008 6:02 PM

Batista gets heard

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A beautiful evening here in San Diego as we await the start of tonight's game. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman was pretty frank pre-game when asked about Miguel Batista and some of his comments from the other night. Batista, you may recall, said something about how he's the only guy out there trying to pitch through nagging hurts every night when others are on the DL or in the training room.

Riggleman said he wasn't aware of the extent of Batista's back stiffness problems. Neither, it appears, was the training staff.

"It kind of slipped through the cracks a little bit,'' he said.

Riggleman and Batista go way back, to the time when the pitcher was part of the Cubs organization that Riggleman managed in. The manager planned to speak to Batista after batting practice today. He was also going to have pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre talk to him. I saw the two of them (Stottlemyre and Batista) chatting later on in the outfield as Batista was shagging fly balls. You get the sesne the manager and the team aren't thrilled about Batista's public comments. Especially when they imply that a $25-million pitching investment has been taking the mound hurt since spring training.

For now, the M's plan to let him pitch. But it may not be in the rotation until he gets things sorted out.

"I don't know if we'd start him or not,'' Riggleman said.

Speaking of pitchers, the guy below doesn't have any issues with back stiffness. Too bad you can't rewind to two months ago, huh? By the way, Cha-Seung Baek (the uniformed guy in the picture below) told me the team's explanation to him the night he was designated for assignment was that he'd gone back-to-back nights and a fresh arm was needed. Kind of what we'd figured all along, but that's a tough pill to swallow. You groom a guy, see him have some success in the majors, then lose him because you need a long reliever every second night. Oh well. Baek starts tomorrow against his former team.

sandiego0627 003.jpg


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June 27, 2008 8:39 AM

The prediction game

Posted by Geoff Baker

Some fun responses to the Ichiro trade issue put up yesterday. Much more intelligent than some of the discussions we've had on here this season. I guess most of you are in the mood to talk baseball when given a chance. On that topic, let's get today's issue out of the way so that we don't have to go over this which each new debate on what to do with this team.

Yes, I predicted that the Mariners could win this division. Yes, I was wrong. Wait, let me repeat that again. I was wrong. Now, I know that most of you have moved past this issue and are on to the next thing. But for those who aren't, keep reading this paragraph.

One of you asked what my qualifications are to discuss the inner workings of this team. Well, as good as anyone else's I suppose. I've covered baseball for 10 years, in two different cities and countries, in major markets and mid-sized ones. Seen multiple firings and rebuilding jobs and their impact on players and teams, from inside the clubhouse and out. Seen what good clubhouses and bad ones have looked like. Covered seven playoffs and World Series up close, getting a firsthand look at what winners look like and the way their teams play the game. Talked to players, coaches, scouts and GMs, both on and off the record, before and after they held their jobs. Hey, no one is forcing you to agree with me. If I tell you a team has a problem in its clubhouse, you'll just have to take my word on it. Or not.

But, they gave me this blog, I'm trying to make it work, and getting tired of seeing discussions hung up on the useless theme of "I predicted this way back when..."

I predicted more division winners than any other Seattle Times writer in our 2007 baseball preview section. Round of applause, please. No? It's OK. Because guess what? It doesn't matter. Has no relevance to what the 2008 Seattle Mariners have to do next. Things change. Scenarios change. Baseball is a fluid entity. Like most professional sports. The winners are the teams that make adjustments. Not those that cling to mantras like "proven veterans are always better than rookies" or "bad teams criticize their best players" or other fun sayings like that. No saying can be applied like a blanket to each scenario. Sometimes, Bill James will be right. Other times, he will be wrong. I like Bill James. But let's stick to the 2008 Mariners.

We can all crunch numbers. Some of us better than others. But this game is about so much more than mere numbers. Yes, there were some predictions out there that were pretty close to saying the Mariners might be a last-place team. In fact, the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projections had them as a 76-win club. Once again, a round of applause, please. Unfortunately, BP also had the Indians as a 92-win squad, edging out the 90-win Tigers and winning the AL Central. They had the 96-win Yankees taking the AL East. The 93-win Mets winning the NL East. So, um, what happened there? Those predictions are only about nine wins off where the Yanks are concerned, but, so far, they are 18 wins off with the Indians, 11 with the Tigers and 13 with the Mets.

Once again, my M's prediction was way, way off. So, no gold star for me at the end of the year. But again, for the sake of moving forward and figuring out what comes next for the M's, how close have they come to actually meeting anyone's prediction or expectation?


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June 26, 2008 9:13 AM

Ichiro going? Quite possible

Posted by Geoff Baker

Hello eveyone, glad to be back. A big thanks to Larry Stone for filling in while I finally had a bit of a break during a Mariners road trip. This team logs more miles than any other in baseball and it can catch up to you quick if you aren't careful. So, I've been gone since covering the John McLaren firing press conference and see that new manager Jim Riggleman has managed to squeeze a week of .500 ball out of this bunch. Pat on the back to Riggleman for that, considering this clubhouse is not the easiest to manage. Those of you still insisting the clubhouse is not the problem, well, there's not much I can say. When the insiders are saying it, when I've been trying to tell you that it is for the past two months, and when the team underperforms like it has, I suppose you can keep insisiting you have a better vantage point from your living room, but, well, you don't. Sorry. Not going to agree just to keep the blog calm.

Now, if the individual players on this team were performing close to their career norms, or their pre-season, computer projections, I'd be a lot more inclined to agree with those of you insisting this is a "talent" thing above all else. It's not. At the very least, this should be a team hovering around .500. It's instead on pace to lose 100 games. This is not a "talent" issue. This is a team where mediocrity has become ingrained. All the talent in the world will not change that. It's a team where major changes will likely be needed and for me, there is no better place to start than with the center fielder. This article that some of you linked to yesterday got me thinking about this question.

Yes, I know Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro have to go. I am assuming they will shortly.

Yes, I am well aware of all the good Ichiro has done for this organization. I've seen him, night after night, going through his pre-game stretching routine in the clubhouse while lesser players are guffawing on the sofa as they watch "The Wedding Crashers" for the 15th time.

But hey, if you want to get some players back, maybe save a bit of that $90 million committed to Ichiro last year, he's the guy to deal. His numbers are well below career norms, but they are still acceptable and pretty good average-wise. His defense remains above average. And hopefully, that will be enough to snag a trade partner. Because with the M's, he's just about outlived his usefulness.

Continue reading this post ...


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June 25, 2008 8:28 PM

The Batista problem

Posted by Larry Stone

The Mariners have to figure out what to do with Miguel Batista, who has had ongoing command problems this season that were as bad as ever tonight. My hunch is that he'll end up on the disabled list. Batista said after the game that his back continues to bother him. Check out his pointed quote:

"This is frustrating. It's embarrassing. I'm supposed to be helping the team win, but the way I'm pitching, it's not helping. I have to make sure I get myself healthy before I go out there again, because I'm the only guy trying to pitch through it. Everybody else, every time they feel pain, they go on the DL, or they take a rest, and I haven't."

That sounds like a guy headed to the DL, doesn't it? And if not, Batista probably is headed to the bullpen, which R.A. Dickey earning a start in his spot with Tuesday's stint of seven shutout innings.

The bullpen pitched great tonight, but Batista had already dug too deep a hole.

Gotta go catch a cab back to Manhattan, so I'll bid farewell for this trip. But I'll be back here down the road, I promise. Remember, we'll always have Atlanta.

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June 25, 2008 3:49 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Mets, June 25

Posted by Larry Stone


I've got to say, this team is really in disarray -- players under-achieving up and down the lineup, a constant tension hanging over the clubhouse, non-stop threats of firings and player movement. I honestly can't believe that I picked them to contend this year -- even win their division.

You can stick a fork in the first baseman, but I'm afraid they're stuck with him, because no team in their right mind would take on his salary. The interim manager is a nice guy, and he's trying hard, but he's only keeping the seat warm until Bobby Valentine comes over from Japan.

But enough about the Mets.

The Mariners are looking for their first three-game sweep of the season tonight. Miguel Batista is looking for his first win since May 11. (Not a good sign when three of your five starters haven't won in more than a month; Washburn hasn't won since May 5; Silva hasn't won since April 17).

Yuniesky Betancourt is getting a rest because Jim Riggleman wants to keep Willie Bloomquist in the lineup. Scoff it you want, but Bloomquist has been playing well during this road trip, offensively and defensively.

Is the team responding better to Riggleman? I think it's too early to say -- they've only played five games, But if Brandon Morrow hadn't been hurt, they probably would have won four of them instead of three. I tend to think that it's a matter of it not being possible for them to stay at rock bottom forever. That said, Riggleman is a no-nonsense guy that may be laying down the law a little more firmly than McLaren. But let's wait a few weeks before we start to make judgments on Riggleman's impact.

LINEUPS

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jeremy Reed CF

Richie Sexson 1B

Jeff Clement C

Willie Bloomquist SS

Miguel Batista RHP

Mets

Jose Reyes SS

Luis Castillo 2B

David Wright 3B

Carlos Beltran CF

Carlos Delgado 1B

Fernando Tatis RF

Marlon Anderon LF

Brian Schneider C

John Maine RHP

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June 24, 2008 9:57 PM

Sexson and the (New York) City

Posted by Larry Stone

Thanks to all those who said kind words about me. To all those who don't like my blogging (especially you, Joey), don't worry, I've got only one more day at the controls. Geoff will take it back over during the next series in San Diego. He's the master.

Well, that was a rare Mariners' laugher tonight. I couldn't help but think that if Willie Randolph hadn't gotten fired last week, these first two games by the Mets would have done it.

You have to figure that the Mariners, at some point this season, are going to rise from unbelievably terrible to, say, moderately awful. Maybe that transition is in progress now.

Maybe Richie Sexson read the blog before the game and realized he had to step it up. He actually hit the ball with authority a few times, including his first extra-base-hit since May 24. He may have bought himself a little more time to show if he can maintain a hot streak. And, yes, Jim Riggleman and others did say that they could see it coming, that he's been swinging better of late and it was only a matter of time until he broke out. I'd like to see more than one successful game before I declare that Sexson is back.

Johjima also had a good game with a homer and three hits, Raul Ibanez had a homer, three hits and three RBI, and Willie Bloomquist made a great catch in center to preserve the shutout. But give some kudos to R.A. Dickey, who pitched both well (seven shutout innings) and long. The Mariners needed both of them with a depleted bullpen.

One interesting Dickey note: He said he put out a call to fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield yesterday, seeking advice on his recent troubles. Wakefield actually watched a tape of one of Dickey's recent outings and called back last night to offer some advice that Dickey said was quite helpful.

"He was coming home from his game, and gave me a shout,'' Dickey said. "He's a good friend to do that. That's pretty awesome. I called out to him first and said, 'Look, man, I'm kind of going through a scuffle period and I need a little advice.' He called me back and gave me that advice, and I was able to take it into the game.Obviously, it was helpful.''

Dickey didn't go into complete detail, but apparently it had something to do with varying the speed in his knuckleball, and having confidence in it.

Of course, if the Mariners beat out the Red Sox for the pennant, and Dickey wins the Cy Young, Wakefield's going to feel pretty silly.


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June 24, 2008 3:36 PM

Game thread, 6-24, Mariners vs. Mets

Posted by Larry Stone

Felix Hernandez was walking around in a walking boot, which was a little alarming, but it's purely precautionary. The outlook on his sprained left ankle is still promising, and the team is holding out hope he'll make his scheduled start Sunday in San Diego. Felix says he will, but my hunch is that the Mariners will err on the side of caution and hold him back for a few extra days.

The best solution would be for Erik Bedard to come back and pitch Sunday, but no one knows if that is going to happen.

With the bullpen a bit depleted, Jarrod Washburn volunteered to work out of the pen tonight on what is his normal day to throw between starts. Ryan Rowland-Smith is probably not available, so Washburn could be used. Brandon Morrow is back and will be the closer.

To those who were wondering why Rowland-Smith got the win last night instead of Corcoran, the rulebook says that when the starter doesn't go five innings, the official scorer may use his discretion to award the victory to the most effective reliever. Considering that Rowland-Smith retired all six batters he faced and struck out three, it's hard to argue with that call. Corcoran didn't give up a run or hit either, but he worked only 1 1/3 innings, and walked two.

Richie Sexson is back out there at first base. I will be shocked if he is still on the team when they open their next homestand on Monday. My belief is that the Mariners are making one last-ditch effort to convince a team that he might be a worthwhile pickup. I doubt if anyone would pay a penny of his salary, but if they could get a prospect, that would be better than an outright release. So far, he's not helping his value, going 0-for-9 with four strikeouts on this trip. I don't know how much longer they can go with a non-hitting first baseman.

LINEUPS

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Richie Sexson 1B

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Kenji Johjima C

Willie Bloomquist CF

R.A. Dickey P

METS

Jose Reyes SS

Luis Castillo 2B

Carlos Beltran CF

Carlos Delgado 1B

Trot Nixon LF

Fernando Tatis 3B

Brian Schneider C

Endy Chavez RF

Oliver Perez 1

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June 23, 2008 11:06 PM

More on Felix

Posted by Larry Stone

Here's what Felix had to say after the game:

"I'm going to pitch next time. You know I'm not going to come out if it's not too bad. But it was bad. I wanted to pitch. I wanted to stay in the game. I threw one (practice) pitch. It hurt bad. Now I'm fine.I'm going to be ready to throw my next outing."


Here's what Riggleman had to say after the game:

"You hate to see anything happen to him, but the news is pretty good. The x-rays were negative. It's a slight sprain. We hope we can get him back out there as soon as possible, and he's already saying he's not going to miss a start. Rick Griffin (the trainer) is pretty encouraged. Felix may miss a couple of days off his next start. We're not thinking DL at all. With the x-ray being negative, and an off day coming up, we have a chance to move his next start way toward the other end. The DL is not something we're thinking about right now. But sometimes, when it gets tender, in a few days you have to re-evaluate that."

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June 23, 2008 7:34 PM

Initial report on Felix promising

Posted by Larry Stone

The report on Felix Hernandez's sprained ankle is promisinng. Jim Riggleman used the word "mild" to describe the sprain. Felix himself was in a good mood, smiling, and he vowed that he would not miss his next start. It might end up being pushed back a few days, but it looks like the Mariners averted disaster on this one.

I'll be back with more later, but I wanted to get this out there,and get everyone off the ledge.

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June 23, 2008 3:56 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Mets, 6-23

Posted by Larry Stone

UPDATE 5:43: Official diagnosis on Felix: sprained left ankle. But that doesn't tell us what everyone wants to know, which is how serious it is, and whether Felix will be out of action an extended length of time. Those answers might come after the game.

UPDATE 5:17: What a stunning turn of events in the bottom of the fifth. Felix is hurt -- Carlos Beltran slid into him while Felix was covering home on a wild pitch. He was writhing in pain, The trainers worked on him, and he threw a practice pitch, but immediately buckled in pain. He pleaded for one more try, but the Mariners would have none of it, and Felix had to be helped off the field. It appears to be his left ankle or perhaps foot (I thought knee initially, but it appears not, fortunately) Updates when I get them. Needless to say, this is a potentially devastating development.


UPDATE 4;30: As Jack Buck would say, I cannot believe what I just saw. Felix crushed the first pitch he saw from Johan Santana for a, for a, for a....grand slam. It was the first home run ever hit by a Mariners pitcher. So now we know what's been wrong with the Mariners offense: Not enough Hernandez. The key to the inning was David Wright booting an easy grounder by Willie Bloomquist that would have ended the inning. Wow.

It's hard to watch the Mariners these days, but you can get up for this one: Felix vs. Santana. I hope it's a classic pitching duel. That would be a nice distraction from watching so much bad baseball of late.

Look out if the Mariners are trying to protect a one-run lead in the ninth. Brandon Morrow arrived, but he flat-out is not going to pitch. He had an extensive workout in the afternoon to check out his back. He was fine, but he's not an option for tonight's game. Miguel Batista is going to start Wednesday's game (Dickey is going tomorrow, a slight switch from what Jim Riggleman indicated yesterday), so he's out, too. Riggleman said he'll mix and match in the ninth, which means Mark Lowe, Sean Green and Arthur Rhodes could all work. As John McLaren so eloquently put it in his tirade, "Buckle up.''

Bedard has been officially scratched from Wednesday's start, and now the disabled list is an option. Just what they need now that they're believed to be shopping Bedard to other teams.

Richie Sexson is still here, and starting at first base. Adrian Beltre is back at third base. Eddie Vedder took batting practice before the game, but Riggleman resisted the temptation to put him in the lineup. Pearl Jam is performing tomorrow at Madison Square Garden, and several Mariners plan to attend after their game. Eddie looked pretty good with the stick.

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Richie Sexson 1B

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Jeff Clement C

Willie Bloomquist CF

Felix Hernandez P

Mets

Jose Reyes SS

Luis Castillo 2B

David Wright 3B

Carlos Beltran CF

Carlos Delgado 1B

Trot Nixon LF

Ramon Castro C

Endy Chavez RF

Johan Santana P

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June 22, 2008 4:36 PM

Don't mess with Teixeira

Posted by Larry Stone


I'm officially retiring my "reverse lock" theory after that game. The Mariners never had a chance. Their makeshift lineup looked anemic against old Oakland adversary Tim Hudson, who had been 0-10 with a 7.82 ERA against the American League in interleague games since joining the Braves in 2005. (Which reminds me: I defer to no one in my admiration for Billy Beane, but the Hudson trade was not one of his finest moments. The A's received pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer, and outfielder Charles Thomas, none of whom have made an impact. Cruz and Thomas are out of the A's organization, and Meyer is still at Triple-A).

Hudson must have been licking his chops to face a Mariner lineup without Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez. They were also without Richie Sexson, but it's his presence that makes pitchers lick their chops. When it came to chop-licking, Teixeira led the way today with his three-homer game. One of the Atlanta reporters asked Kelly Johnson after the game what their strategy was against Silva. "Swing,'' he replied.

Poor Jose Vidro had a swollen left cheek after that ugly incident in the third when his own foul ball bounced up and hit him flush in the face. Vidro stayed in through the sixth, but he didn't look good afterward. X-rays were negative. I'd think the Mariners have to be close to doing something with Sexson and Vidro, both of whom continue to drag down the lineup. Vidro hit cleanup today despite having just 13 extra-base-hits in 216 at-bats. We don't need to go into Sexson's problems.

The one positive today was Jeff Clement, who had a ringing double and a homer to center. The Mariners hope that will boost his confidence and allow him to relax. I focused my game story for tomorrow's Seattle Times on Clement.

Can't wait for tomorrow's game: Felix vs. Santana. Now that could be a classic. By the way, Clement will start at catcher, despite being a left-handed hitter. Turns out lefties have had better luck against Santana than righties this year.

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June 22, 2008 10:29 AM

Game thread, 6-22, Mariners vs. Braves

Posted by Larry Stone

Here's another look at that classic Mariners' lineup. Please hold your applause until the end. Come to think of it, the Braves' lineup is a little depleted also without Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur. (LATE LINEUP SWITCH: NORTON IS IN LEFT, JONES IN RIGHT).

Ichiro RF

Willie Bloomquist 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Jose Vidro 1B

Jeremy Reed CF

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Jeff Clement C

Miguel Cairo 3B

Carlos Silva 1

BRAVES

Gregor Blanco CF

Omar Infante SS

Kelly Johnson 2B

Mark Teixeira 1B

Brian McCann C

Greg Norton RF

Ruben Gotay 3B

Brandon Jones LF

Tim Hudson 1

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June 22, 2008 9:22 AM

Creative M's lineup

Posted by Larry Stone

Jim Riggleman will trot out one of the more, uh, interesting lineups of the year to face tough Tim Hudson:

Ichiro RF

Willie Bloomquist 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Jose Vidro 1B

Jeremy Reed CF

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Jeff Clement C

Miguel Cairo 3B

Carlos Silva P

****
Adrian Beltre is still bothered by his sore left index finger, even though it's improving. Jose Lopez is just getting a day off. So is Richie Sexson (hold your jokes). I think I'm going to revive my "reverse lock" theory of a couple of weeks ago and call another Mariners' victory, because this lineup shouldn't have a prayer against Hudson.

A couple other tidbits from pre-game session with Riggleman: He still doesn't know if Erik Bedard (back spasms) can make Wednesday's start against the Mets, but if he can't, Miguel Batista would probably sub. Batista might pitch Tuesday and R.A. Dickey on Wednesday. Riggleman also said that when Brandon Morrow is fully recovered, Batista is likely to go back in the rotation, with Dickey returning to the bullpen.

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June 21, 2008 9:52 PM

No longer unbeaten in Riggleman era

Posted by Larry Stone

Now that's the Mariners that we know and love. Another excruciating loss. Ho-hum.

Yes, they could really have used Brandon Morrow in the ninth, or the closer formerly known as J.J. Putz. But neither was available, so Jim Riggleman (who knows now a little more clearly why McLaren was perpetually haggard) had to go with Miguel Batista. We're still waiting for him to record his first out.

Batista, of course, made a fatal mistake when he walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, and as you saw, the inning unraveled from there. Batista thought he might have been squeezed a bit by the umpire on a couple of pitches on the walk to Kelly Johnson, but to his credit he took full blame for the loss.You know Greg Norton was feeling great about his contribution -- that was one great catch he made to rob Johjima, even though it probably didn't have to be so dramatic if Norton had judge the ball better off the bat. Then he laced the double that tied the game, and scored the winning run on Brian McCann's walk-off, sawed-off single.

"The first inning, leaving those guys on second and third with nobody out, I was glad I was able to make up for it later,'' Norton said.

Asked if he was thinking about facing his former team, Norton said, "Maybe I was, because I seemed to be swinging at every pitch over my head for two out of the first three at-bats, thinking I could hit it,and it didn't work out for me.

"It wasn't any added energy. I'm a pretty low-key guy. I was telling Chipper I didn't even know that tied the game. I thought we were still down by one. They all said I should have been on third. That's a scary thought, me getting a triple."

One funny thing that happened after Norton made his leaping catch is that the next inning, when he was warming up, someone from the Mariners' bullpen -- I don't know who -- rolled him out a ball. The pen is located in left field.

"I was looking in their bullpen, all those guys,'' he said of the Mariners' relievers, who were laughing. "They threw me a ball and wrote on it. I can't repeat what they wrote on it. I was warming up with (Gregor) Blanco and I see a ball roll by me. I threw it in the stands.

One thing positive about tonight for the Mariners was the work of starter Jarrod Washburn. He really battled, to use a cliche that's apt in this case, and allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings.

Washburn has quietly strung together three good starts in a row, even though he doesn't have a win to show for it. Will that make him of interest to teams looking to bolster their rotation for the stretch drive? It might, especially if he can keep it up as July 31 approaches. The Mariners don't have many chips to play, and Washburn could be one.

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June 21, 2008 3:46 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Braves, 6-21

Posted by Larry Stone


UPDATE 4:15: The Mariners revised their lineup at the last minute, scratching Adrian Beltre because of a bruised left index finger, with Miguel Cairo taking his place at third. See, I knew it was too early to say no injuries. The batting order was scrambled a little bit, so I'll fix it down below.


All's quiet here in Atlanta today. Too quiet. No one fired, no one released, no players called out or ripped, no lineup changes, no injuries. But it's still early.

A few injury updates: First, the back spasm twins. Brandon Morrow remains in Seattle, but he's feeling better and will rejoin the team Monday in New York. But Jim Riggleman said Morrow probably won't pitch until Tuesday, with Miguel Batista as the closer until then. Erik Bedard, pulled after three innings last night, is much improved, but it's still not known if he'll make his next start.

Riggleman also said that he doesn't expect J.J. Putz to pitch before the All-Star break.

"We don't want to rush it,'' he said. "It seems like with those elbows, a guy says, 'I'm over it,' and then he gets in the adrenalin of a game situation, and it flares up again.''

Greg Norton is playing left and batting third for the Braves, who will be without Chipper Jones (quad strain) for the remainder of the series. I talked to Greg before the game, and he says he has no hard feelings against the Mariners. He loves it here in Atlanta, but he feels bad that he's not hitting better (.182).


LINEUPS

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Miguel Cairo 3B

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul ibanez LF

Jeremy Reed CF

Richie Sexson 1B

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Kenji Johjima C

Jarrod Washburn P

Braves

Omar Infante SS

Kelly Johnson 2B

Greg Norton LF

Mark Teixeira 1B

Jeff Francoeur RF

Brian McCann C

Ruben Gotay 3B

Gregor Blanco CF

Jair Jurrjens 1

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June 20, 2008 10:28 PM

Still unbeaten in Riggleman era

Posted by Larry Stone

See, this is how they drew it up in spring training -- except for the part about Erik Bedard getting hurt. Bedard was actually quite pleasant after the game, saying that he hurt himself (back spasms) throwing to the first batter in the third inning. He finished the inning but could barely make it back to the clubhouse afterward. He needed help walking. By the time we saw him, he felt better, but wasn't sure if he would be able to make his next start.

Jim Riggleman wasn't too giddy after the game, which is both appropriate and in character. He's a very serious, no-nonsense kind of guy. He made a good point, saying, "We've lost a lot of games. I'm not going to get excited over one win. We need to string some of these together.''

To those wondering why Willie Bloomquist started instead of Jeremy Reed against a right-handed pitcher, it was because Jorge Campillo is much tougher on lefties (.174 batting average against) than righties (.274). Then Reed came through with a big hit against Campillo, a pinch-double on a hit-and-run to score Bloomquist with the go-ahead run.

As for clubhouse issues: it's hard to unravel how much of this is general disgruntlement from a miserable season, and how much is deep-seated problems tearing apart this team. I had a couple of people tell me that some of the friction involved players' resentment toward Ichiro and Johjima (as Ken Rosenthal wrote on Fox), but it obviously goes deeper than that. Most of the players I talked to, even off the record, said they honestly didn't think it was a big problem, that if the team was winning, no one would say anything. But they're losing, and I've rarely been around a losing team that didn't have some friction and jealousy. This obviously warrants more digging.

Sorry, it's late (1:45 a.m.), I've been working non-stop until noon, and I'm burned out. I don't have the stamina of a Geoff Baker.


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June 20, 2008 4:28 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Braves, June 20

Posted by Larry Stone

UPDATE 5:39 P.M.: Erik Bedard left the game after three innings because of back spasms. Yikes.

Lots going on today -- so much that I've got to get caught up with writing it for the newspaper. Lots of reaction to McLaren's firing in the clubhouse, a lot of puzzlement over John McLaren's comments about jealousy and friction. The players I talked to said, at least on the record, that they didn't think there was a major clubhouse problem. More on that later.

Jim Riggleman held his first media briefing. He said he doesn't plan any major changes in the lineup. He said he wants to change the mentality on the club and make it more positive.

"I think we've got to get ourselves feeling like we can win ballgames,'' he said. "We prepare hard and work hard, and have meetings and everything you can do before the game starts, and then the game starts. It seems like sometimes we resign ourselves, well, it's not going our way. We have to be bigger than that. We have to be better than that. That's a tough challenge.''

Richie Sexson held court today for the first time in a long time. I asked him if a change of scenery might do him good, as McLaren said in his conference call.

His answer: "It's no secret that it's kind of a tough environment for me around there. I think you got 30 to 40,000 people that just as soon see me in the electric chair than play first base. It's no secret."

Brandon Morrow didn't make the trip to Atlanta because of back spasms. The medical staff decided that a cross-country flight would be detrimental, so he won't fly out until they subside, and no one knows when that will be. So the Mariners are a man down today. Riggleman said Miguel Batista is his closer tonight.


LINEUPS

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Richie Sexson 1B

Jeff Clement C

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Willie Bloomquist CF

Erik Bedard P

ATLANTA

Gregor Blanco CF

Yunel Escobar SS

Chipper Jones 3B

Mark Teixeira 1b

Omar Infante LF

Brian McCann C

Jeff Francoeur RF

Ruben Gotay 2B

Jorge Campillo P

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June 20, 2008 11:34 AM

McLaren speaks, speaks of clubhouse tension

Posted by Larry Stone

Larry Stone here in Atlanta, filling in for Geoff on this road trip.

Just got off a fascinating half-hour conference call with John McLaren. He was classy, thanking virtually everyone in the organization,and didn't seem bitter at all; just bitterly disappointed.

However, about 10 minutes in, he began talking about clubhouse issues that he felt were undermining the team. Nothing specific, but he said he wantedtto put it out there in hopes that the team can come together and solve the problems. We can all speculate about what specifically he's referring to, but I can't say that I know for sure, yet.

Here are some of the quotes:

"I think we have a good group of guys. I think there's a little tension and friction in there, a little jealousy. That's for those guys to work out on their own. We (the coaching staff) tried to, and we weren't very successful. I think they have to do that on their own.

"Let me say this, and I want to make this crystal clear: The only reason I mentioned that is not to deter any criticism for myself, but to make this team better. If they can get in that room and work some issues out, I think they'll be better off. I care about those guys. I think they're good people. This is a team sport. They play as a team extremely well, they pull for each other, but I think there are some issues in there, if they take care of them, will get them a lot closer to where they need to go than they are now.

"There were times we weren't hitting and pitching well. At one point, I think it got a little divided,pitchers against hitters. There was tension because they tried too hard. If I could put my finger on one thing, I think some of the hitters tried too hard."

Here's what McLaren had to say about Richie Sexson, when asked if a change of scenery would do him good:

"That's a good question. I would think if he thought about it. that would be a possibilityh for him, to have a fresh start. It looks like this new stance is starting to show some possibilities. Change takes time. Richie is another one who tries so hard, and it kind of works against him.

"I like Richie a lot. It's hard to put a finger on what happened. In spring training, he worked hard. If you watch him play the game, he's playing really hard. I watch him take his position, and he's really bearing down. He needs to reach a relaxed stage. I don't know if he'll be able to do that with everyone looking at him and all the speculation. He's still strong. It makes you wonder, if he gets a fresh start someplace else, it wouldn't be better for him.''

To summarize his answer: Yes.

I've got to head for the ballpark, where a colleague who's out there already tells me that the Mariners, virtually en masse, have been working out since 2:30 at Turner Field. Sounds like Riggle-Ball has begun!

,
Talk amongst yourselves.

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June 19, 2008 2:44 PM

Many questions, few answers

Posted by Geoff Baker

Well, the John McLaren R.I.P. press conference has come and gone with plenty of questions remaining. Not so much that McLaren was fired. After all, when a team loses like the Mariners have, it's pretty much a given that the manager will be going at some point.

The big question is why the team didn't simply do this on Monday. Let McLaren and Bill Bavasi go at the same time. We asked this of Chuck Armstrong, the team's president and highest-ranking M's official at today's gathering. Armstrong said that he and CEO Howard Lincoln had actually planned on keeping McLaren around after the Bavasi firing.

But interim GM Lee Pelekoudas talked them out of it.

"Clearly, he'd been giving it a lot of thought,'' Armstrong said of Pelekoudas. "He presented his reasons to Howard Lincoln and myself and after we talked about it for a while, we agreed with him.''

But Armstrong would not reveal what Pelekoudas said to talk them into such an about-face.

"Behind closed doors meetings and as you know, we really don't talk about our personnel, our reasons for making changes,'' he said. "It just seemed like the best time to make this move now.''

So, you'll all just have to guess. If anyone wonders why the M's are becoming the laughing stock of baseball, it's because of delays and changes of mind like these. McLaren could have been fired weeks ago. Why wait until after the GM goes? I understand that Lincoln and Armstrong are allowed to have their minds changed, especially by a baseball man like Pelekoudas. Not many "baseball men" running this team. But still, that's something you might want to explain to your fans a little more clearly, no?

Anyway, Pelekoudas was just as tight-lipped.

"We hadn't shown any improvement the last couple of months,'' Pelekoudas said. "In fact, we were probably regressing at this point.''

Well, yes, they've actually been regressing since before Jeff Pentland was fired. They've had trouble scoring two runs per game since that move. By the way, Lee Elia is now the bench coach and overseeing hitting duties. New hitting coach Jose Castro reports to him. Castro was around throughout spting training, so the players know who he is.

But Elia is running that show and now will be Jim Riggleman's bench coach as well.

Pelekoudas has known McLaren since the early 1990s.

"John took it hard,'' Pelekoudas said. "He's an emotional person, I'm an emotional person.''

McLaren is expected to talk to reporters in a conference call tomorrow. Riggleman was flying to Atlanta with the team and was not at today's press conference.

Meanwhile, the players just keep on trucking.

Both Armstrong and Pelekoudas insist they are not done. But they want to give Riggleman some time to see what he can do with the team. See if he can get some hitters to produce, enabling the team to win more and perhaps pumping up their trade value in the process. We'll see. So far, as I said before, all of baseball is watching to see what it will take to get the M's to part with a veteran player or two.

"With 90 games left in the season, we thought we owed it to our fans and ourselves to win as many games as we possibly can,'' Pelekoudas said.

Well, yes, of course that's true. And both he and Armstrong don't see that keeping veteran players around will constitute blocking younger guys from coming up. Armstrong warned about the pratfalls of calling some young players up too early. How a poor showing could hurt their confidence.

But what about keeping some massively underperforming older players up too long? Both men inisisted they are not done scouring the trade market. When the subject of dumping players simply by releasing them came up, both mentioned giving Riggleman time to see what he can do with the roster.

What can I say? It's a mess. I have no doubt some player bodies will soon be getting tossed overboard. As to when, I simply can't tell you. I can't read what this organization is going to do next, or find much rhyme or reason as to why it does the things it does.

How's that? Best I can give you for now.

Oh yeah, Pelekoudas says he liked McLaren moving Ichiro to right field and it doesn't mess up any of his plans for the team. This, even though McLaren said he made the move independant of the front office -- just three days before he was to be fired. Like I said, may we live in interesting times. Any of you want to predict what's going to happen next? Feel free. The best I can tell you is, the next Mariners manager ejected by an umpire will probably be named Riggleman.


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June 19, 2008 12:10 PM

Sexson, Vidro leave on team flight

Posted by Geoff Baker

The players were down here at Safeco Field as the John McLaren firing press conference was taking place. Both Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro were on the team bus that left for the airport moments ago. Interim GM Lee Pelekoudas was asked after the press conference whether today's move sends the wrong message to players.

After all, the team has fired a hitting coach, GM and manager within 10 days of each other while no players from opening day have been moved.

"I don't think it does,'' Pelekoudas said. "Because they know the other shoe could drop any day. They should know. It's always there.''

Lee Elia, rapidly climbing the professional ladder once again, is going to be Jim Riggelman's new bench coach. Jose Castro is the new hitting coach, but Elia will remain above him and supervise the hitting program he's spent the past 10 days implementing.

Riggleman was not available, as he's off to Atlanta. McLaren, who took the news hard, is expected to be on a conference call with reporters tomorrow.

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June 19, 2008 9:59 AM

McLaren fired as manager

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Just got the word. John McLaren is out as manager of the Mariners. Bench coach Jim Riggleman has been promoted to the position. Press conference at 11:30 a.m.

"John worked extremely hard, but our team continued to under perform compared to our expectations of them,'' interim GM Lee Pelekoudas said in a release. "With 90 games left on our schedule, we owe it to ourselves and our fans to do everything we can to win as many games as possible. At the same time, as we move towards the trade deadline and decisions have to be made on the futures of the players on our ballclub, I wanted to see if a different voice could make a difference in their performance.''

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June 19, 2008 9:55 AM

Sexson watch is on

Posted by Geoff Baker

We all get a break today from having to watch the Mariners. Richie Sexson might get a permanent break from this team at any moment.

The reasons why have all been talked about. For the record, I don't think Sexson ducking the media the past few weeks is all that big a deal. He knows he's done in Seattle. Knows that whatever he says now can't help his cause. Figures it could only inflame a volatile situation. He'd been pretty up front and accountable about his play earlier on this season, when the team still had a shot and he was dragging it down. Was one of the first guys into the clubhouse after his role in igniting that brawl against the Texas Rangers.

For me, this is not the same as guys who have ducked the media before. Some continue to do so. Others have recently started. This is a team in turmoil. Sexson is merely choosing not to add to that. He's taken his beatings in public and in the media. Now, he merely wants to slink off in silence. I respect that. Remember, it's never good form to kick a guy who's already down for the count. So, keep that in mind today as we prepare to bid him adieu.

We all know the reasons why Sexson's departure is coming. Know why this team is as bad as it is. Or, on second thought, maybe we don't quite grasp the scope of it yet. The Mariners are truly a powerless bunch. No, seriously. They have no power. Dead last in the American League with a .374 slugging percentage. I mean, wow. Lou Piniella's team, the Cubs, have a .360 on-base percentage.

When just 14 points separates your slugging from someone else's on-base, it's time to consider a different type of job.

It gets even worse. In June, the M's have the worst slugging percentage in all of baseball at .348. There are six AL and two NL squads with higher on-base percentages for the month.

Aren't numbers fun? Let's continue.

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June 18, 2008 11:22 PM

Sexson, Mariners go down to defeat

Posted by Geoff Baker

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: To members of "Baghead Nation" who frequent this site, please be advised that the Mariners have announced that the July 19 home game will no longer be televisised nationally. Nor locally. No television at all. Thought you might be interested. On with the post...

In fairness to Richie Sexson, if this was indeed is final at-bat at Safeco Field -- or for the Mariners -- he did go out with a hit. In fairness to the fans who've waited nearly 1 1/2 seasons for him to find his power stroke again, the final Sexson hit, in the eighth inning, was merely a single. It wasn't enough to bring home any runs for a team needing plenty of them tonight. And that single was missing in a pair of earlier at-bats in which Sexson came up with two on and less than two out. But he did go out with a hit tonight. And his team went out...well...with barely a whimper. An 8-3 loss to the Florida Marlins. The Mariners once again out-hit their opponent. But that doesn't matter. It only matters when you get the hits with runners in position to score. Sexson couldn't. His teammates, other than Jeremy Reed, Raul Ibanez and Willie Bloomquist (once each), also couldn't when it really mattered. And the result is another home loss on a 1-5 homestand. Another series defeat in a season long since lost. If this was indeed Sexson's farewell, this is how you'll remember him from 2007 and 2008. Standing at first base at the best of times -- both on defense and offense.

Sexson remained in a back room, one that is off-limits to the media, for more than a half-hour after this game was done. He finally emerged, spotted a media member waiting, turned around and headed back through the off-limits area and out a rear exit.

I caught up with Jose Vidro, who had three singles tonight, but knows he hasn't produced enough. Vidro told me the players are all waiting for moves to happen.

"I think it's going to happen,'' Vidro said. "I think sometimes, with these things, that whatever happens, hopefully they're going to make a decision soon instead of waiting.''

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June 18, 2008 9:12 PM

Florida Marlins at Mariners: 06/18 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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9:12 p.m.: Is Richie Sexson done in Seattle? He's due up at least one more time, but you've got to wonder whether John McLaren will put him through it. Sexson came to bat with two on and one out in the sixth inning of a 7-2 game and went down swinging, as seen below. The crowd didn't like it.

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Here's another video for you. It's of some Mariners pitchers taking batting practice before tonight's game. Good for some laughs.

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June 18, 2008 5:31 PM

McLaren: Why Ichiro moved to right field

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, like many of you, the explanations I kept getting for Ichiro's sudden move to right field from center weren't really adding up. Yes, his happiness is a concern and stuff. But it was a concern late in 2006 as well, since he hadn't yet signed a $90 million contract extension to keep him here. Didn't stop the team from moving him to center back then. Hence, logic dictates it shouldn't have prevented the team from keeping him there this time.

Unless...

Maybe this whole Ichiro in center thing wasn't working from both sides of the equation? I thought I'd take another run at it during John McLaren's pre-game scrum with reporters today. Late in the session, I asked McLaren about the coincidence in timing between the firing of Bill Bavasi and the move of Ichiro. McLaren still reads the blogs...some of them, anyway. He knows what's being written and said. So, he had some things he wanted to spell out. To clear the air, so to speak.

"I had actually talked to Ichiro when we came back from New York, because I have had this idea for a while,'' McLaren said. "Again, it's not that he can't play center. But he's always been the best right fielder in baseball for me. I've always had that thought in the back of my mind. I've always had that thought, that, at some point, that's where he belongs.

"Nothing whatsoever has been dictated from up top,'' he added. "Nothing. Ever. Bill never did that. Lee hasn't done that. Howard and Chuck haven't done that. They've left me alone. I respect that and I appreciate that. But the Ichiro thing is something I've been thinking about for a long time and I just went with it. I just went with it.''

OK, that's the first part. Fair enough. But the Yankee Stadium game, if you'll remember, is where Ichiro had a fly ball to right center drop between him and right fielder Wladimir Balentien for the game's ultimate winning run in the eighth inning after Seattle had taken a 5-2 lead into that frame. How much did that play -- and some others this year where balls have dropped in to center -- impact McLaren's decision to think about a shift of Ichiro?


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June 18, 2008 10:07 AM

The next GM

Posted by Geoff Baker

The most often-asked question I've had to deal with on radio and in the streets the past few days is...why can't Erik Bedard go more than six innings? I'll leave that one to all the Bedard experts out there who insist he's simply a misunderstood ace-in-waiting, much-maligned by the media. The other big question I've had to deal with is exactly what type of GM the Mariners will bring in to replace Bill Bavasi.

Also not an easy question. If this team did the obvious thing more often than not, it might not be the worst club in all of major league baseball.

That said, I'll give it my best.

For me, there are a couple of musts that this organization will have to look for in a new GM:

1. A grasp of statistical/sabermetric concepts

2. The ability to work with a high payroll

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June 17, 2008 11:11 PM

Mariners finally win one

Posted by Geoff Baker

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An eight-game losing streak at home was ended tonight as the Mariners racked up 13 team strikeouts to defeat the Florida Marlins, 5-4. Seattle had not won a home game since May 31 against the Detroit Tigers, so this was an accomplishment.

I've already had plenty to say about what Felix Hernandez did tonight, fanning nine batters and gutting his way through to the eighth. Brandon Morrow struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 ninth inning. The M's needed this one. Not to win anything this year. To avoid a season of 110 or even 120 losses the way it was going.

Here's what Morrow, pictured above, had to say about Hernandez's outing.

"Just the way he was throwing strikes today was unbelievable,'' Morrow said. "I've never seen anything like that before.''

Morrow said Hernandez's ability to work into the eighth changed the bullpen's night for the better. It allowed Sean Green to face right handed Jorge Cantu, then Arthur Rhodes to work to lefty Mike Jacobs. Morrow was set to come on in that eighth and work to Dan Uggla. But he didn't have to because Green and Rhodes notched strikeouts to end the inning.

That freed Morrow for a textbook ninth.

"That's the way it should be,'' Morrow said. "When the average starter goes a strong seven, or 7 1/3, it makes it easier on us (relievers). We can go match-ups and do what we want to do.''

Mariners manager John McLaren hasn't had that luxury all that often this year. He was full of praise for Hernandez afterwards and would have left him in longer if the pitcher's calf hadn't started acting up. McLaren can envision the day, later this season, when he'll routinely turn Hernandez loose for 120 pitches and more the way "Roger Clemens type guys'' like to go.

But on this night, the 107 pitches was enough to set the bullpen up perfectly.

"It's huge,'' McLaren said of Hernandez getting beyond seven innings. "When you've got to spread the game out and go with the bullpen from the middle of the fifth on, a lot of things have to go right and a lot of things can go wrong.''

Hernandez told me he wasn't all that taxed, despite the 34-pitch sixth.

"They got some good hits, scored some runs,'' he said, shrugging. "But I've got to stay focused on the game.''

Hernandez tied a record in the fourth by using a minimum nine pitches to strike out the side. It's only the 13th time in AL history that's happened.

Know what else was huge tonight? Yuniesky Betancourt getting that bunt down in the fourth. It moved two runners up to second and third and both wound up scoring. Believe me, after what happened last Saturday, Betancourt was under pressure to get the bunt down. He did the job this time.

More Mariners have to follow that lead. Seattle nearly blew this game despite out-hitting the Marlins 13-6. They are still not capitalizing on all chances. With anyone but Hernandez out there tonight, they might have blown this one, too.

But he was out there.

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June 17, 2008 9:35 PM

Florida Marlins at Mariners: 06/17 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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9:35 p.m.: Quite a job by Felix Hernandez tonight, shrugging off that 34-pitch sixth inning and working into the eighth. The Marlins added a run in the seventh to make it 5-4. But Hernandez carried on through, getting up to 107 pitches before that one-out walk to Jeremy Hermida ended his night. Sean Green came on and got a huge strikeout on Jorge Cantu, while Arthur Rhodes whiffed Mike Jacobs to end the threat.

I'm going to miss Arthur Rhodes when he's traded at the deadline.

Anyhow, a fine, workhorse effort from Hernandez tonight. Especially after that rough, 34-pitch inning. We don't see many starters work into the eighth after an inning like that, do we? Do we? No, we don't. But that's what being a staff "ace'' entails. Hernandez is getting there. Showed me a lot tonight, despite the four runs against.

On to the ninth.

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June 17, 2008 5:05 PM

Bedard-Burke combo over

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Just got done speaking to Mariners manager John McLaren. Pretty routine stuff until the very end of his session with reporters when I asked him about Jeff Clement and how much playing time he's going to get behind the plate. McLaren told me he'll be playing a lot.

What does that mean, I asked him? Three games out of every five?

"That, or more,'' McLaren said.

Wow. What about Kenji Johjima, pictured above, the guy who just got a three-year, $24-million extension? Well, the M's have worked him out a bit at first base. But Johjima isn't really in favor of the idea. Can't stand it, actually. So, that plan is on the back burner. And so is Johjima, for the majority of the time coming up in NL cities at least. He'll be able to DH once the M's return home.

Oh yeah, of course, the headline of this blog post. Anyway, as a follow-up, someone asked whether the Erik Bedard-Jamie Burke battery is still intact.

"We don't have any combinations any more, OK?'' McLaren said. "Combinations are done.''

McLaren then excused himself and the gathering was over. As he was walking away, McLaren added: "We haven't had many combinations that have worked.''

By the way, Johjima is behind the plate tonight. Clement is here, but there's a lefty on the mound. And besides, this may be the last playing time Johjima gets for a bit.

Maybe this team really is serious about changes.

Oh and speaking of Bedard, McLaren, prior to leaving, had thrown a compliment in Felix Hernandez's direction.

"I think he's made great strides and I think he is a legitimate No. 1 right now,'' McLaren said, adding that the designation, in his mind, has little to do with being able to win 20 games.

"My definition of a No. 1 is to stop losing streaks,'' he added. "If you stop losing streaks, all of that other stuff happens for you.''

Wait, what's that sound? Oh, never mind. Just some skids being greased.

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June 17, 2008 12:22 AM

Bill Bavasi on players, Bedard

Posted by Geoff Baker

Don't miss this video, shot yesterday at Bill Bavasi's farewell press conference. He discusses "white line fever" and how some players simply have trouble performing once they step between the lines.

"The chemistry, in some respects is real good in there,'' Bavasi said of his players. "They're real nice guys. But it's when they cross the lines that, like I said, some of them get the fever. And some just don't know how to play. And that's bad chemistry.''

Bavasi later repeats that the players aren't bad guys, but some "just haven't figured out how to get in all together.''

Hmm, white line fever? Gives me an idea for a new Mariners jingle. They could use it to replace those existing TV commercials, now rendered outdated. Richie Sexson growing mustaches? "Pepe" Vidro swinging a hot stick? Erik Bedard getting schooled on what a Mariner Moose is? Nah, how about a promo with all of them boogeying to this tune?

"Mariners baseball...catch the fever!''

On Bedard going only five or six innings and 100 pitches of late, Bavasi says a lot of pitchers can have days where 90 pitches feel like 200. On why Bedard can't go longer, Bavasi says it's a good question, but one that has to be put to Bedard.

"He'll have a stupid answer for you, you can count on it,'' Bavasi said. "He'll have some dumbass answer.''

Bavasi concludes that Bedard is a very talented pitcher. But he adds that all five pitchers in the rotation have not done the job at one time or another.

"With Erik, sometimes the wheels come off too easy,'' he said.

By the way, John McLaren has outlasted Willie Randolph in the managerial round of Survivor. McLaren will square off against John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays in our next episode.

There's more, so enjoy the video.

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June 16, 2008 11:12 PM

M's lose again; Clement called up

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Ichiro, above, strikes out to end this game.

The Lee Pelekoudas era is looking much like the Bill Bavasi era to start off. Seattle goes down to a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Florida Marlins. That's just 17 runs scored in seven games under new hitting coach Lee Elia. Maybe one of you wants to give it a try?

The team is getting tired of waiting. Jeff Clement has been recalled from Class AAA Tacoma and will be in uniform tomorrow night. And he's not going to sit on the bench.

"We want him to play and we do want him to catch a little bit,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said after his team's fourth straight loss overall and eighth in a row at home. "We need some pop in our offense, so we're going to work him in.''

Wladimir Balentien gets the ticket back to Tacoma. McLaren compared his situation to Clement's previous demotion in mid-May. He says Balentien has some things to work on and will likely be back with the club before the season ends.

So, this center field mystery grows and grows. Jeremy Reed will likely get a shot at it, as will Willie Bloomquist -- at least part time. And Raul Ibanez looks to be staying in left foe now unless the M's make a move to acquire another outfielder.

Ichiro said the M's approached him about the switch.

"They approached me about it and they said 'Let's do this for the future','' he said. "They didn't say any specifice examples. Just kind of overall looking into the future.''

Doesn't tell you much, does it? Neither did Carlos Silva. He vanished from the clubhouse once the media entered and didn't emerge from a back room until about 40 minutes after the final pitch. Only the AP and two broadcast outlets were left. Frankly, I don't care much about what a guy winless in 11 games had to say after getting tossed for mouthing off to an umpire. Yes, umpire Bill Welke was thin-skinned and too quick-triggered for my liking. But in the end, Silva let his team down. A lot of M's have done that lately. No matter what Silva's ultimate explanation was.

Anyhow, this thing is getting uglier and uglier. The M's twice had a runner on third with less than two out tonight, when the game was still winnable, and came up empty.

The M's haven't lost that many at home since dropping eight straight at the Kingdome in 1996. Bavasi leaving won't fix this. The problems are still there. This is a team and clubhouse with a losing culture. No other way to put it. Too many guys who can't win. Who can barely score runs any more.

Pelekoudas and company have some long weeks ahead.

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June 16, 2008 9:05 PM

Florida Marlins at Mariners: 06/16 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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9:05 p.m.: It's now a 6-1 game after the Marlins scored on a Cody Ross sacrifice fly off Ryan Rowland-Smith in the sixth, then added a pair off Roy Corcoran in the seventh. Corcoran gave up two hits and committed a throwing error on the second of those to put runners at second and third with none out. He got a ground out, runners holding, then issued an intentional walk to load the bases. But Dan Uggla and Luis Gonzalez added singles for two more runs before Sean Green came on to notch a pair of strikeouts.

So, while we're waiting on that Bill Bavasi video, here's some audio from team CEO Howard Lincoln. This was done after the press conference, so you haven't heard it yet. Lincoln was holding court, saw me and motioned me over. I've been ragging on him for a lack of accountability, so this was my chance to ask a few questions I'd been wanting answers to. The first was on who engineered the Kenji Johjima contract extension. Lincoln told me that it was Allan Nero, Johjima's agent, who first approached the M's with the extension idea. After that, it was primarily the team's owner, Hiroshi Yamauchi, Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong who did the deal. Bavasi had limited involvement in it. Which begged the question of why Lincoln would sign off on the deal, given Johjima's poor hitting at the time and the fact some pitchers would rather throw to backup catcher Jamie Burke. I asked him about it towards the tail end of the clip you'll hear.

At the beginning, I ask Lincoln what incentive he's given the players to actually want to be accountable and perform. After all, he's fired a hitting coach and a GM. No players have been moved out in a long time.

Hear his answer right here on this clip.

"Pride in their profession,'' he said. "A sense of obligation for the money they are being paid. A sense of obligation to the community in which they live and in which they have an opportunity to play major league baseball. Because at the end of the day, it's not about us incentivizing them.''


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June 16, 2008 5:04 PM

"Nothing is off limits"

Posted by Geoff Baker

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That was the word from Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong at this afternoon's press conference in which he discussed the firing of GM Bill Bavasi. Armstrong said it first and Lincoln repeated that theme throughout the conference and again afterwards. Both he and Armstrong insist they will be considering a wide range of opinions from within and outside the organization when it comes to what they should do next.

That includes trading any player. Even Ichiro. By the way, Ichiro is in right field tonight with Willie Bloomquist in center. I know the team has discussed moving Ichiro back to right. The hope is that the club can acquire a center fielder or perhaps find one in-house who can play every day. Jeremy Reed is one possibility for that rile, at least for now.

"My feeling is that the time has come and gone, really, for some of these players to get going,'' Lincoln said. "And I certainly hope and expect that this move will spur them on.''

This team could very well begin a sell-off of players next month. Armstrong was asked if the team was less likely to be active at the trade deadline, given an interim GM.

"Not necessarily,'' he said. "But we might be active the other way. We may, instead of trying to acquire players, we may find some good fits where we can help ourselves.''

Armstrong said that "we're already looking ahead to the future'' and told me afterwards that he'll be keeping a closer eye that usual on all player moves made under interim GM Lee Pelekoudas. Armstrong also said he doubts a new GM will be hired right away, given the commitments some candidates have to other clubs.

"This may well go into the off-season before we make our final selection,'' he said.

On manager John McLaren, Lincoln said: "As I sit here, I'm not ready to sing the praises of anybody in that clubhouse.''

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June 16, 2008 12:05 PM

Bavasi fired

Posted by Geoff Baker

So much for all my hypothesizing this morning. The Mariners just fired GM Bill Bavasi. Lee Pelakoudis takes over as interim GM. A news conference scheduled for 2 p.m. at Safeco Field. Guess it really was just a matter of getting the draft done with and moving on from there.

"Change is in order,'' CEO Howard Lincoln said in a written statement. "We have determined new leadership is needed in the GM position. With a new leader will come a new plan and a new approach. A search will begin immediately for a permanent GM, and Lee will be a candidate for the position.''

Now, what does this mean for the future? I'd say we're more likely to see an overall house-cleaning of this team over the next few months than simply a "two or three bats" addition. Bavasi was the one who brought in pitcher Erik Bedard with an eye towards contending in 2008 or 2009. Had the team's ownership and management ranks believed that contending in 2009 was possible, it might have held on to Bavasi one more year. The only other way there is no housecleaning is if someone who specializes in putting a team over the top, like a Pat Gillick, were to come on instead. Remember, Gillick is now in what could be his final season with the Philadelphia Phillies.

But the more likely scenario is, you bring in a new GM who gets his own 3-to-5-year plan to make things work. After all, Lincoln describes "a new plan and a new approach" that would seem to negate the current plan. Those of you who wanted to blow the whole thing up will likely get their wish.

Five seasons into the Bavasi plan, it's on to the next one.

As for John McLaren, he likely stays in-place for a while longer. No use firing the manager and replacing him with somebody when a new GM is about to come in and likely make more changes. That probably won't happen until after this season is complete. Other assistant GMs will have to fill out their existing duties. You'll want a thorough search for candidates, with all the interviewing and detailing of the job that goes along with that. So, I'd say McLaren gets the rest of this season to show what he can do and make a case for himself. Only way you make a swap now is if you -- as an organization -- assume that a coaching staff cleansing will occur under a new GM who wants his own people in there. Under that scenario, you could replace McLaren with Jim Riggleman for now, assuming both would not be back next year. That's a lot of change in a short period of time. At least, for 2008.

Beyond this season? All bets are off.

By the way, I'd expect to see the team at least begin to shop Erik Bedard around starting right now. You don't have to deal him right away, but I don't see how he possibly fits into any long term plan. A contract extension would appear out of the question. He isn't exactly rushing to get one done. And the team, figuring out it's got a six-inning, 100-pitch "ace'' on its hands probably isn't in a rush to hand him the keys to the vault.


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June 16, 2008 9:06 AM

Prepare the next sacrifice

Posted by Geoff Baker

Wow, a guy takes a weekend off and look what happens. The M's decide to join him in not showing up to Safeco Field. Trouble is, they didn't bother informing anyone and the games were played in any event. Just when I thought a three-game series couldn't get much worse than last week's affair in Toronto -- as far as both teams trying desperately to hand victory to their opponent -- along come the Washington Nationals, who, tried to blow a 7-1 lead in the opener, gave the M's two on, none out and a 3-0 count on Yuniesky Betancourt in a close middle game, then commited three errors in one inning to give the Mariners some life in yesterday's finale. No matter, though. Despite Washington's best efforts at keeping the show competitive, it was still one of the more embarrassing sweeps in Mariner history. Not as bad as the games in Detroit a few weeks ago, but considering the caliber of this opponent, the fact it hails from the National League and Seattle was playing on its home turf, the organization should be as embarrassed as the fans by this result.

Jarrod Washburn looked good again, by the way. I still think he has some trade value, as I said on KJR AM 950's Mitch in the Morning Show last week. Send Washburn to an NL team and I would not be surprised to see him hit double-figures in wins again with a sub-4.00 ERA. Look at his last two starts against the Nationals and a Blue Jays squad that fields an NL-style (read: weak) lineup. Those bottom three guys in a lineup make a big difference. Could revive Washburn's career the way a league switch once did for Woody Williams, give value to an NL squad, and allow the M's to get out from under the final year of his contract. Despite what was in Jayson Stark's column last week, Washburn and Carlos Silva are not in the same category. Silva has 3 1/2 seasons to go and about $40 million owed.

Anyhow, back to today's topic. Looks like firing the hitting coach wasn't enough, huh? In six games under the teachings of Lee Elia, the M's have scored a whopping 16 runs. Less than three per game. But wait, it gets better. Take away Friday's affair, when they put up six runs, mostly after trailing 7-1, and Seattle has scored 10 runs over the other five games. Yup, two per contest. Yikes.

As we wrote last week, the Pentland firing was just the first of other sacrifices to come that this awful team will have to spread out carefully in order to actually have enough bodies left to finish the season with. Imagine if a mass purge had occurred last week. Who would be left to toss overboard now? The M's likely assumed they would win at least two of three against the Nats. They were wrong and now, they have to ready the next offering to irate fans.

Does this have to happen today? No, it does not. The team can probably afford to wait until Thursday, the next off-day after the upcoming Florida Marlins series. Why is that? Two words (well, four actually): Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva.



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June 15, 2008 6:01 PM

Repercussions?

Posted by Larry Stone

I intimated before the game that another loss would surely push the Mariners to the point where sweeping changes could be in store.

They lost another one, so will changes be coming? I honestly don't know. It's not easy predicting the mindset of CEO Howard Lincoln, and I've thought before that the axe would fall, and it didn't.

But I find it hard to believe that Lincoln is not at the breaking point after the M's were swept by a team that came in as the worst in the National League. He had to have heard the boos that filled the stadium when the last out of the M's 6-2 loss was made. This is a town that has extreme antipathy for their product. Management can't ignore that much longer.

The Mariners have hit some low points before, like losing an entire road trip to Detroit and New York, and getting swept by the Angels to end the last home stand. This is a new low point. As Jarrod Washburn said after the game, speaking with admirable frankness:

"It's been terrible. We find a different way to lose every night...we're just not good. We haven't shown any signs of turning it around. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing."

So now we'll wait and see if John McLaren survives, if Bill Bavasi survives, if Richie Sexson survives. It could get interesting.

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June 15, 2008 12:42 PM

Game thread, June 15, Mariners vs. Nationals

Posted by Larry Stone

Hello, Larry Stone here. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there. And to all those who attended the USS Mariner event yesterday, thanks for all the good questions and thoughtful discussion. It was a lot of fun.

This is the first game I've covered since the team came back from their road trip, and it appears that the losing is continuing to take a toll on John McLaren. He really looked haggard when he met with the media before the game. It's understandable, however. I would have to think that if they get swept at home by the Nationals, perhaps the worst team in the National League, there will be major repercussions. Of course, I can't count the number of times over the past three years I've felt the Mariners had reached a breaking point where heads were going to roll, and nothing happened.

McLaren's most interesting comments today were about Erik Bedard's status as pitcher who pretty much is done at 100 pitches.

"I think that's basically what he is,'' Mc"Laren said. "That's the way he was in Baltimore. Basically, he's programmed to go 100 pitches.

"There's not an easy way to put it. I'd love to see him go further, but if he's not capable, he's not capable....There's no use dwelling on it. It is what it is. He's a 100-pitch pitcher."

Here at the lineups, which has McLaren pulling out all the stops: Bloomquist at shortstop and Cairo at first. No, Betancourt was not benched for his decision to bunt on his own with two strikes last night, McLaren said.

WASHINGTON

Cristian Guzman SS

Elijah Dukes RF

Lastings Milledge CF

Dmitri Young DH

Jesus Flores C

Ronnie Belliard 3B

Aaron Boone 1B

Felipe Lopez 2B

Wily Mo Pena LF

Tim Redding P

MARINERS

Ichiro CF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jose Vidro DH

Kenji Johjima C

Jeremy Reed RF

Miguel Cairo 1B

Willie Bloomquist SS

Jarrod Washburn P

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June 14, 2008 10:30 PM

Erik Bedard: "After six that was it."

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Erik Bedard told pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre he was tired after six innings, which prompted his replacement by Miguel Batista, who gave up a two-run homer in the seventh.

"He said he was running on empty," McLaren said. "He told Mel. He's usually a 100-pitch pitcher. That's usually what he throws."

Bedard left after throwing 99 pitches in Boston and Sean Green came on to relieve him, giving up the game-deciding home run in a 2-1 game.

Bedard allowed a base runner in every inning he pitched on Saturday and he said that eventually caught up to him in terms of his effort.

"Every inning somebody was on," Bedard said. "So it's a harder inning every time I was going out there. After six that was it."

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June 14, 2008 10:28 PM

Betancourt bunting on his own

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Manager John McLaren said shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's attempt at a two-strike bunt was not signalled for. Betancourt did that on his own in an effort to get the bunt down.

"He wanted just to show that he could do it," McLaren said. "I don't know what to say. I appreciate him wanting to get the bunt down and everything, but we didn't want him bunting then, 3-2. We wanted him swinging the bat."

Betancourt fouled the pitch off on the bunt, and it was caught by the catcher. There were two runners aboard with no one out at that point.

"He's got such heart and everything he does, he means it to do well," McLaren said. "There's nobody that feels worse than him. He was doing this from a team standpoint. This was not selfish at all."

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June 14, 2008 8:01 PM

Game commentary

Posted by Danny O'Neil

8th inning: Ryan Langerhans is credited with a stolen base, but somehow that just doesn't quite capture what happened on the base paths. Arthur Rhodes had him picked off for what should have been the final out of the inning. Rhodes threw to first as Langerhans ran toward second, but Richie Sexson double-clutched getting the ball out of his glove and Langerhans slid safely into second by the time Sexson's throw arrived. Now Sean Green is on the mound, replacing Rhodes.

7th inning: A bunting strikeout. That's particularly ignominious, and that's what happened to Yuniesky Betancourt in the bottom of the seventh with two aboard and nobody out. But hey, he didn't ground into a double play this time. Ichiro did that.

4th inning: Jose Vidro hit a solo home run for Seattle's first run of the game. It was his second home run in five games, which qualifies as a power surge given his history. Vidro homered three times this season in the first 49 games he played.

Adrian Beltre hit a solo home run with two outs to tie the score 2-2.

4th inning: Erik Bedard has struck out six batters in the first four innings. Trouble is he's given up eight hits in that same amount of time. Bedard has yet to retire Washington in order.

3rd inning: Jamie Burke led off the bottom of the third with a single, and then up came Yuniesky Betancourt who's free-swinging approach saw him ground into a double play up the middle. It's not swinging at the first pitch that's the problem. It's which pitch you pick to swing on. Betancourt picked a change-up he grounded directly to the shortstop. Probably not an at-bat that would be described as "effective."

Top of the 3rd: Umpire Jerry Crawford -- the crew chief -- is experiencing back spasms, causing a delay to start the inning. Second-base umpire Paul Nauert left the field to change into the behind-the-plate gear. Crawford returned to the field, gritted his way through the top of the third, and was replaced by Nauert in the bottom of the inning. The rest of the game will be umpired by a three-man crew.

1st inning: What's that cardinal rule about making outs at third base? Never the first or the third, right. Well Ichiro was thrown out at third base when Elijah Dukes throw from right field was relayed by second baseman Felipe Lopez onto third base and Ichiro was out.

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June 14, 2008 7:06 PM

Jeremy Reed practices at first base

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Jeremy Reed worked out at first base on Saturday afternoon before batting practice, something manager John McLaren said was done with an eye toward inter-league play in a National League park when the Mariners will be without a designated hitter.

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June 14, 2008 5:21 PM

McLaren on Putz: "He needs to be 100 percent when he comes back."

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Manager John McLaren was asked about the positives and negatives of going with a closer by committee, and his answer eventually wound up talking about the importance of getting closer J.J. Putz healthy.

Putz talked on Friday like someone who wouldn't be spending much longer than 15 days on the disabled list. McLaren on Saturday made it clear that the most pressing issue isn't getting Putz back on the mound, but getting him back on the mound without any caveats about his health.

"We want to make sure that J.J. is 100 percent when he comes back," McLaren said. "If that means having to go out for rehab a couple times, that's fine. I don't want him coming back being 90 percent, 96 percent, 95 percent. He needs to be 100 percent when he comes back. No question in his mind. No apprehension in the way he throws the ball. Just let it rip."

This has been a difficult year for Putz. First, missing 18 games with an injury to the cartilage that attaches to his ribs back in April and then with a torn fingernail that impacted his ability to grip the ball on his split-fingered baseball. The closer that was so consistent last year has struggled this season.

McLaren emphasized Saturday why he feels it's so important for Putz to come back in form to finish the season strongly.

"It has been a rough year for him," McLaren said. "It's worked on him mentally, I don't care how strong you are, when you're so automatic the way he was last year and some of the things that have happened to him this year, I think it's really, really important for us just to get him being J.J. and finish strong."

McLaren was asked if he wished the team had waited longer to bring him off the disabled list back in April. McLaren said there was no indication Putz wasn't ready to come back healthy and said he remembered Putz's fastball being clocked at 96 mph when he returned.

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June 13, 2008 11:17 PM

R.A. Dickey to make another start

Posted by Danny O'Neil

That's what manager John McLaren said after Friday's game when Dickey allowed seven runs in the 1 2/3 innings he pitched.

Dickey talked about the performance afterward, saying that he had a "bad" knuckleball. Just what does that mean? Well, his knuckleball didn't have the late movement it usually does, instead hanging up in the strike zone as it approached the plate.

"I was able to throw a bad knuckleball for strikes and that's a bad combo."
     -- R.A. Dickey

If you want to listen to 3 minutes of audio from Dickey's post-game interview, here's a link to the mp3 file with his answers.

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June 13, 2008 7:19 PM

Mariners vs. Washington, game commentary

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Late comebacks more like never: I was just busy looking up all the comeback factoids for Seattle in the mimdst of that scoring threat in the bottom of the eighth. Seattle is 1-33 when trailing after seven innings this season.

Missed-opportunity department: Seattle had 10 hits in the first four innings -- two more than Washington -- but only one of the Mariners base hits went for extra bases and that was Ichiro's lead-off double in the first, Seattle left seven runners on base and grounded into two double plays in those first four innings.

Shortest starts of the season: This is a pretty telling stat because R.A. Dickey's 1 2/3 innings on Friday night wasn't the shortest Mariners start of the season or even the second-shortest. It ranked No. 3. Here's a list of the five shortest Mariner starts of the year:

PitcherDateOpponentIPHitsER
Carlos SilvaMay 30Detroit2/377
Miguel BatistaApril 25Oakland123
R.A. DickeyJune 13Washington1 2/387
Erik BedardMay 12at Texas276
Jarrod WashburnMay 21at Detroit2 1/3129

 

Second-inning update: Dickey is gone after retiring five of the 15 batters he faced in the game. He gave up eight hits, walked two and allowed seven runs. Aaron Ryan Rowland-Smith came out of the bullpen in the second to relieve Dickey.

R.A. Dickey needed five pitches to get the first two outs of the first inning, but 18 more pitches to get the final out of the inning. That didn't happen until Washington had three base hits and one run.

The Mariners tied it in the bottom of the first. Ichiro doubled to start Seattle's at-bat and Jose Lopez walked. Both runners advanced on Jose Vidro's ground out and Ichiro scored when Raul Ibanez grounded out.

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June 13, 2008 5:34 PM

Putz relieved it was only a hyperextension

Posted by Danny O'Neil

"I went into it thinking the worst," J.J. Putz said, describing the Thursday he spent waiting for the results of a magnetic-resonance image (MRI) of his right elbow.

Putz said his fingers went numb after a pitch he threw Wednesday night in the ninth inning and he felt a shooting pain. Well those are the exact two things that he's heard used to describe ligament injuries that have required Tommy John surgery.

"They said the first they felt was the numbness in their fingers and that shooting pain," Putz said. "So when I had that, yesterday was miserable until we got the results."

A hyperextension was mild by comparison. Putz was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He said he felt pain in his elbow Friday, but characterized it as more a throbbing than a sharp pain. He won't throw at all this weekend, and will be evaluated again on Monday.

He was asked if he might begin throwing that day.

"If it's still sore than there's no way," Putz said. "But we’ll just have to play it by ear."

Putz had never been on the DL with the Mariners until this season. He missed 18 games in April with a rib injury, and now he will be out for at least a couple more weeks, but that was much better than alternative scenarios that were running through Putz's mind until he got the test results and diagnosis.

"I'm very relieved that it was nothing structural," Putz said. "Just take a few days off and start throwing again."

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June 13, 2008 5:27 PM

Brandon Morrow part of closer committee

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Manager John McLaren said Brandon Morrow will be used as a closer while J.J. Putz is recovering from a sore elbow. However, Morrow won't be the only pitcher the Mariners use in that role.

"Mix and match," McLaren said.

The rotation will include Miguel Batista, who is being moved to the Mariners bullpen "for a couple starts at least," McLaren said.

McLaren said Batista is a pitcher who could also fit into the closer's role.

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June 13, 2008 11:56 AM

Putz on DL

Posted by Geoff Baker

The Mariners just placed J.J. Putz on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to two days ago. That means he'll be out until 13 days from now at a minimum. Roy Corcoran has been recalled from Class AAA Tacoma and will be in uniform tonight.

No, they weren't going to use this move to call up Jeff Clement. The team is still worried about wins and losses for this year. At least, avoiding 100 losses. This move is meant to solidify a bullpen that's down one late-inning reliever, since it's still not clear how long Miguel Batista will be in the bullpen, or whether R.A. Dickey stays in the rotation beyond this one start tonight.

As I wrote on the blog this week, and in the paper today, the Jeff Pentland firing bought this team some time until the next "sacrifice'' will have to be made in the name of appeasing irate fans about a season gone bad. I think the next jettisoning of someone will be a player, rather than a coach, manager or GM. I think that when that move happens is when you'll see Clement. Could be next week, or next month. Depends on how long it takes the next losing streak to come about.

If you're bored, here's our latest video, taken in Toronto. You'll see a brief taxi ride through the streets downtown, where you'll see a Toronto streetcar pass by. They still use them all over the downtown. We'll also show you the CN Tower, which, at more than 1,500 feet high, is still the world's largest freestanding structure. Not a building. A freestanding structure. It's a communications tower. There is a restaurant up near the top, as well as observation areas for tourists. The tour of the Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome) itself will be a little shorter. It was a great place in 1989 when it opened, but was outdated in a couple of years. Not too many interesting features beyond the retractable roof and the hotel in behind the outfield fence (famous for strippers and other people performing lewd acts in front of millions over the years). After that, I'll head downstairs post-game to the television studios where they do the Off The Record show and you'll see footage of John Rocker and others, with myself and the host, backstage before that show we taped the other day. Then, you'll see the intro to the show as it's being filmed. Enjoy.

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June 13, 2008 9:22 AM

Doing TV with John Rocker

Posted by Geoff Baker

I'll have to admit, my curiosity was peaked (maybe piqued, as well) when I was asked to go on TSN's Off The Record Show in Canada two days ago and was told one of the guests would be John Rocker. The network is the Canadian equivalent of ESPN and the show has been around forever and features four "celebrity'' panelists who sit and argue about a bunch of sports topics.

Over the years, I've met a bunch of famous, interesting folks on the show. There have been tons of athletes from the NFL, NHL and MLB, but also people like former Los Angeles Kings owner and convicted fraudster Bruce McNall, the lead singer from Platinum Blonde, the guy who plays one of the killers from the opening scenes of A History of Violence and others. Folks you wouldn't ordinarily run into. But I've got to admit, getting to meet Rocker really intrigued me. I wanted a glimpse of what he was like off the set. They have a type of "Green Room" where everyone meets before the taping, eats sandwiches and goes over how the show will play out.

Now, let's get this out of the way. I thought Rocker would be dumb. A hick, so to speak. Yes, I know he's been writing a political book. Big deal. Lots of dumb people write books. Plenty of athletes shoot their mouths off in public, like to think they sound intelligent when talking to reporters in a post-game question-answer format, but get them in a debate outside the stadium (taking away their security blanket and ring of protection from teammates and club officials) and they wilt. So, I wanted to see what Rocker would really be like, ask him if he'd ridden the Toronto subway that afternoon or something else that would be clever.

After meeting him, I can tell you one thing: John Rocker may be controversial, but he is no dummy.

Much as some of you may hate me saying this, I came away very impressed by the man. He's got a wicked sense of humor (usually the first sign of intelligent life). The guy is just plain funny. He's sharp, quick and...very important...self deprecating without forcing it. He comes across as humble and confident at the same time. I'm trying to put this into words to make you understand, but the best I can do is to say, he isn't walking around beating himself up every day about the things he said about gays and minorities back in that Sports Illustrated article from January 2000. That said, he isn't repeating those things, either. At least, not verbatim. He rides the New York subway when he gets back to the Big Apple, which is often.

After all he's been through, much of it of his own doing, he seems very comfortable with who he is. And that's rare. I'm sure it's taken him a long time to reach this point.

Look, I don't want to portray him as a saint. He isn't one.


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June 12, 2008 6:09 PM

Putz update: hyperextended elbow

Posted by Geoff Baker

That's the initial word we've received from the Mariners after J.J. Putz underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on his right elbow today under the supervision of team medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan. A hyperextended elbow. It caused what the team is calling "triceps tendon inflammation" and an "irritated ulnar nerve'' but no ligament damage. No damage to the flexor bundle in the elbow either.

Putz will not throw this weekend. He is to be re-evaluated on Monday. That means, for the Washington series at least, Brandon Morrow is the closer.

For those of you writing in taking exception to me saying Carlos Silva has pitched well of late, he's allowed five runs over his last 14 innings. That's pretty good. He threw a seven-inning "quality start" yesterday and went eight innings the start before that. Yes, I'm aware he had a rough first inning last week and fell behind 3-0. But he wouldn't have lasted eight innings -- giving his team a chance to get back in the game -- had he not been pitching well.

I didn't say Silva was Cy Young and better than Felix Hernandez. The point being made (I'll spell it out) was that he was throwing better than Miguel Batista and unlikely to be skipped. When's the last time Batista went eight innings this season? Try never. Erik Bedard? Once. Silva has pitched well of late. Meaning lately. Last week and now. Batista, not so much.

To answer another question, Ryan Rowland-Smith becomes the long guy this weekend. If Putz has to go on the DL -- and we'll know more by Monday -- you can always call up Ryan Feierabend from Class AAA (or Jake Woods, since Feierabend is, as one of you pointed out, hurt) for long relief or a spot start.

On the Derek Zumsteg thing, give the guy a break. A bit of an overreaction, maybe, but Rick Sutcliffe has gotten in trouble on-air before for rambling types of, shall we say, less-than-sharp commentary and it sounded like much of the same to me this time. Not just in words, but the tone of voice. A little too slow and casual. As someone who goes on the airwaves a lot, I can tell you that you can't just flap your gums. You have to have your wits about you and use your brain because one wrong word can haunt you for years.

Trust me, I spent yesterday afternoon meeting John Rocker. It doesn't take many words to hurt a reputation.

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June 12, 2008 7:34 AM

Dickey starts tomorrow

Posted by Geoff Baker

Back again, fresh off the plane from Toronto to Detroit. Waiting for my connecting flight to Seattle. I've just been informed that R.A. Dickey will start for the Mariners tomorrow night against the Washington Nationals. Erik Bedard goes on Saturday, followed by Jarrod Washburn.

After that, we'll see.

But I don't see Carlos Silva or Felix Hernandez getting skipped, given how well they've pitched of late. So, it will likely be both of them going on Monday and Tuesday -- in either order, depending on how much rest Hernandez wants to throw on -- followed by...who knows? A lot of that will depend on how Dickey throws tomorrow. And whether Miguel Batista has worked through some of his control issues. Batista needs to get his command and overall game back on-track.

So, unless Dickey implodes, or the team gets a series of abbreviated starts that requires a real long man over the next week, I'd expect to see the knuckler back out there next Wednesday in the finale of the Marlins series. As for Batista, he gets an extended bullpen break. We'll see how long that lasts in coming weeks.

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June 12, 2008 5:17 AM

Scoring runners

Posted by Geoff Baker

Good morning all. Getting set to take off from Toronto and head back to Seattle. Just thought I'd touch on a subject that was mentioned briefly during yesterday's game blog. For some reason, likely linked to the terrible internet hookup at the Rogers Centre (run by a communications company, no less), the few lines I did devote to it yesterday inadvertently got erased from the post as the game wore on.

We're talking, of course, about Adrian Beltre's numbers with runners in scoring position. This is not meant to pick on Beltre, as he's one of several culprits on the team in this category. We'll look at the team stats in a bit. It's been suggested a few times on this blog's comment threads, mostly by reader Brian L., that Beltre is the victim of "bad luck" in this regard. This is because Beltre has managed to maintain a high line drive percentage while his batting average on balls in play remains very low.

As I mentioned yesterday, I do believe Brian L. is partly right about the luck thing. I do think Beltre was having a run of bad luck early in the season. And I believe it -- and the M's offensive struggles -- caused him, and many others, to press when they stepped to the plate with runners in scoring position and a chance to do something big.

The overall numbers show a rapid decline in Beltre's hitting -- for average and power -- as the season progressed. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) dropped from .928 in April, to .624 in May, down to .379 in June. So, his hitting has declined overall. But there is still a big discrepancy between his .721 OPS overall and his .578 number with RISP. As a batting average, it's .222 versus .143.

That's a big discrepancy. Part of it, as I mentioned, can be attributed to luck. But those of us who keep watching Beltre's at-bats on a regular basis have noticed he tends to look much tighter with RISP. He seems to swing at more balls out of the zone. Even when he makes contact, the pitches don't seem as hittable and result in outs more often than not.

I decided to look at Beltre's strikeout rate (per at-bat) with RISP and found he whiffs 28.6 percent of the time in such situations. With nobody on, he fans 15 percent of the time. Now, admittedly, the sample sizes are small. But I'm not going to dismiss the discussion based merely on that. This team has fallen off a cliff and there is a reason for it. If the sample sizes are big enough to conclude "bad luck" is one factor hurting Beltre, then they are big enough to look at other factors.

And the samples aren't that small. We're approaching the halfway point of the season.

For me, a strikeout rate that doubles with RISP is an indicator that Beltre is pressing in such situations. Throw in that, and some bad luck with his line drives -- not all of which have been scorchers, mind you -- and you've got the recipe for disaster in the heart of the order. Yes, he's hit a lot of home runs. It's the other times he comes up that I'm worried about.

Now, about the team....


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June 11, 2008 1:04 PM

Morrow to the rescue; Putz has sore elbow

Posted by Geoff Baker

J.J. Putz walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, then got to 1-2 in the count on Vernon Wells before the training staff jogged out to the mound. Putz appeared to slightly favor his elbow (he does, see update below). Brandon Morrow came on from the bullpen, the count ran full on Wells and then the reliever blew him away with 97 mph heat.

Caught Matt Stairs looking at a 96 mph fastball for out No. 2.

Lyle Overbay then drove one to the warning track in left, but Raul Ibanez hauled it in. Tight-collar time there, but the M's and Morrow hold on for a 2-1 win. Great outing by Felix Hernandez.

OK, I'm now back from downstairs in the clubhouse and can tell you it was indeed elbow soreness that drove Putz from the game. Putz himself didn't have much to add, saying he'll wait until Friday -- after the elbow is examined by doctors on the team's off-day tomorrow.

Mariners manager John McLaren also wasn't going to speculate much about the immediate future.

"We're just going to have to play it day-by-day,'' he said. "It's his elbow.

"I saw him a couple of times grabbing his elbow and going like this,'' McLaren said, shaking his arm for emphasis. "It just sent a red flag up.''

McLaren pulled Felix Hernandez from the game because he'd told pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre after the seventh inning that his calf muscle was acting up again. Hernandez pitched one more frame in the eighth and then was done.

"I didn't finish the game becaise of my leg,'' Hernandez said. "The seventh inning was long and my leg was getting tighter and tighter.''

So was Morrow's chest in the ninth as that opposite field fly ball by Overbay headed towards the fence.

"I thought that was gone for 98 percent of the flight of the ball,'' Morrow said. "I thought Raul (Ibanez) was just going to watch it go over the fence.''

Instead, Morrow had his first career save. Could get a few more before the month is done. Putz hasn't looked right for a while. His command has been off and was off again today when he walked the leadoff batter. His elbow was "barking" and he came out. He doesn't know if this is similar to what plagued him in spring training of 2007. Like I said, he'll wait and see.

For those of you wondering why Willie Bloomquist was batting second today, it's becasue the team wanted Jose Lopez to hit fifth. He's been their most productive guy for a while now and Adrian Beltre was supposed to get a full day off to rest. So, it wasn't because Bloomquist is a great No. 2 hitter. It's because the team needed a No. 5 guy and their options were limited. Hope that helps.


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June 11, 2008 11:56 AM

Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays: 06/11 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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11:54 p.m.: Raul Ibanez comes up huge in the ninth, lining a ball into right field off southpaw closer B.J. Ryan to put Seattle ahead 2-1. J.J. Putz is on the mound in the ninth. I would have let Felix Hernandez finish this game. He's at only 97 pitches. Unless he begged off.%2

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June 10, 2008 6:55 PM

M's lose efficiently

Posted by Geoff Baker

Say what you want about the Mariners. They went down in quick, efficient style tonight, losing 3-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays in just two hours, two minutes. Dustin McGowan threw 125 pitches, allowed only five hits and went the distance. Carlos Silva threw seven strong innings, but it wasn't enough.

Jose Lopez had a chance to tie the game in the sixth with one out, Raul Ibanez at third and the Mariners down by a run. But McGowan struck him out on an 0-2 slider.

"His slider looks like a fastball coming in a t 91, 92,'' Lopez said. "When he's throwing a slider at 92, it's looking like a fastball and then it starts to break.''

Richie Sexson flied out to right field to end the threat and Seattle failed to register a hit the rest of the way. Brandon Morrow needed only seven pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth, his first game action since waking up with a sore shoulder last Thursday.

Silva said he was more relaxed tonight after throwing a longer pre-game bullpen to loosen up. He finished strongly against the Angels last week and was tough on the Blue Jays from the get-go tonight. The big difference was a pair of solo homers, by Vernon Wells in the second and Brad Wilkerson in the fifth.

"Carlos made just a couple of mistakes on Wells and Wilkerson,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said.

As for his own hitters, McLaren mostly tipped his cap to McGowan, who was throwing high-90s heat his final inning. But once again, the inability of Seattle to get a runner home from third with less than two out proved the team's undoing.

"We've had a tough time in this series with runners in scoring position,'' McLaren said. "It's been a tough go for us. We know we need to do a better job.''

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June 10, 2008 5:41 PM

Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays: 06/10 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Hey everyone, treekiller in the comments thread is having a Richie Sexson Appreciation Night at his place this weekend. No alcohol, please. Nor Canadian flags. For reservations, just log on to www.wetakelifetooseriously.com.

5:41 p.m.: Wow, we're already in the seventh inning stretch. Toronto added a run in the sixth to make it 3-1 as a line drive by Matt Stairs sailed over Jeremy Reed's head. An ensuing grounder to the right side by Scott Rolen bounced past the glove of a diving Jose Lopez (I'd like to see him start coming up with some of those once in a while) for a single and an RBI. Carlos Silva got out of the inning with a double-play ball, preventing a fourth run from scoring. But Seattle is running out of time to get the bats going once again.

By the way, we spoke to Brandon Morrow earlier today and he's ready to pitch again. He woke up with a sore biceps tendon in his throwing arm on the off-day last Thursday. Since then, he'd been told by M's trainer Rick Griffin to sleep on his back with his hands by his side.

"I've been sleeping on my back like a pencil,'' Morrow said.

Morrow did say he doesn't think the soreness is entirely related to his sleep habits. Instead, he feels that being used in higher leverage situations, in which he's thrown as hard as ever, might be causing some of the soreness that gets amplified by sleeping on it.

"That's probably it,'' he said. "It's probably not that I slept on my shoulder. I've been trying to come in and amp it up a little bit.''

We asked John McLaren about it. But McLaren said he'd been told it was all a result of how Morrow was sleeping and that he isn't concerned. The bottom line? Neither Morrow nor his manager are all that worried, The time to worry will be if it happens again. Or if his pencil-like sleeping leads to any back issues.


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June 10, 2008 10:58 AM

Timing is everything

Posted by Geoff Baker

As with any firing of a major league coach, the dismissal of Mariners hitting instructor Jeff Pentland yesterday raised some eyebrows. The first question that comes to mind is the timing of the whole thing. Why now? What has happened in the past week or so that made it imperative to switch hitting coaches?

The answer, of course, is nothing.

If the team wanted to fire Pentland, it could have done so at the end of April in Cleveland when it instead sent Brad Wilkerson and Greg Norton packing. A hitting coach can be one of the most expendable parts of a staff, given how, as Lee Elia put it yesterday, you're not going to teach old dogs new tricks about hitting. A hitter is what he is. You can refine them over time. Get them to accentuate their natural skills. But you aren't going to change a free-swinger into a Moneyball, walk-drawing machine overnight.

And so, if you know that, long-term, a certain hitting coach is not in your team's plans, you can effectively fire them at any point in a particular season and not have it cost the team anything major. Pentland was left over from Mike Hargrove's staff. He wasn't handpicked by John McLaren. Others on the staff were brought in with McLaren's input. So, when it came to who would be the first to go, Pentland was the obvious choice. It was only a matter of when.

So, let's now look at the timing.

In hindsight, it became obvious Pentland should have been dusting off his resume last Wednesday. That's when team president Chuck Armstrong offered a friendly "good morning" to the coaching staff by ripping into them pre-game. Prior to that, Armstrong had steadfastly supported the coaches in public. Said they were doing a terrific job. Hard to justify firing a coach after he'd been hearing that on radio. Better to "serve notice" with a verbal barrage first.

So, that was the first clue.

Given the public outcry that followed a sweep at the hands of the Angels after the Armstrong tongue-lashing, it was clear that somebody had to be sacrificed. The problem for the M's this season is that they fell apart so stunningly fast that the normal timeframe for jettisoning bodies came about much quicker than usual.


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June 9, 2008 9:31 PM

M's win...barely

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Toronto Blue Jays loaded the bases with none out on J.J. Putz, but he gets out of it. Putz notched a 3-2-3 double-play grounder on Lyle Overbay to move a huge step closer to the escape. He then reloaded the bases by walking Marco Scutaro on four pitches, bringing David Eckstein to the plate. Eckstein then pops a 2-2 pitch to center field for the final out in the photo above. That's what you call getting a teammate off the hook. Right fielder Wladimir Balentien had muffed a line drive for an error to get the inning started. But Putz bails him out.

Putz could not seem to throw a first-pitch strike. But the M's hang on to win 3-2. They did not have a hit after the sixth inning, but five walks in the ninth and 10th, not to mention the suicide squeeze by Miguel Cairo, pushes the one run they needed across.

For those of you asking about Brandon Morrow, he's had a sore shoulder the past few days. Yes, that was my reaction as well. But we're told he's been throwing and that he should be available tomorrow. In other words, nothing serious. Sean Green was also taxed from yesterday's game in Boston, so that's why Miguel Batista came in.

By the way, that "hit'' awarded to Vernon Wells was later, rightfully, changed to a throwing error on Yuniesky Betancourt. So, Batista did not get charged with allowing an inherited runner to score. And Mark Lowe gets to earned run against.

Speaking of mistakes, Jeremy Reed was indeed pulled out of the game by manager John McLaren for getting picked off base in the sixth. It took McLaren until the bottom of the seventh to make the move, but he left little doubt why he did it.

"I pulled him out,'' McLaren said. "We talked about it before the game and stuff. I'm not trying to embarrass anybody but we've got to wake up and play the game the way it's supposed to be played.''

McLaren added: "He was picked off by a pretty good ways.''

McLaren held a pre-game meeting with his players to discuss the Jeff Pentland firing and the rest of the season.

"I just emphasized to them that we've got to get back to a situation where we can feel good about ourselves,'' he said.

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June 9, 2008 7:08 PM

Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays: 06/09 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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7:08 p.m.: Seattle has a chance to pull this one out, leading 3-2 after scoring on a suicide squeeze in the top of the tenth. Miguel Cairo got the bunt down in front of home plate to the left of catcher Rod Barajas and pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist raced home from third. Gutsy call by John McLaren. The way this game was going, though, it looked like nobody was ever going to score again. The key to the inning was erratic-looking Toronto reliever Jason Frasor walking Wladimir Balentien to load the bases with one out.

By the way Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th homer came off Wazzu's own Mark Hendrickson. A great guy, by the way. Hendrickson, that is. Got to meet him back in his Blue Jays days. Now, he's part of history. Along with getting jumped over by Michael Jordan for a slam dunk.

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June 9, 2008 2:00 PM

Elia, Bavasi speak

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Lee Elia doesn't mince words about the approach he'll be taking with Seattle's hitters now that he's replaced Jeff Pentland as hitting coach. Sort of the "new sherriff in town" approach. That's a given. Elia has dropped more "F bombs" over the years than the M's fielders have dropped balls.

"I'm probably more spontaneous,'' said Elia, known for his combustion. "If we're talking about beating a (pitching) guy in a certain way and we don't accomplish it, then maybe for that moment I might say something.

"There's two scenarios,'' he added. "If you love your children, there's going to be times you're going to say things to your kids that might be a little aggressive, but it's only because you love them.

"And the other one is, there's nobody in the world that I love more than my wife, and probabaly four or five days out of every month I really can't stand her. So, I mean, those are the kinds of things they might have to understand at times about me.''

Elia had talked before the season about not wanting to be in baseball full-time anymore. He says the M's approached him last night about replacing Pentland and that he didn't say yes right away.

"I discussed it with my wife and daughters,'' he said. "It's not like I'm going away for 100 years. I'll be up here for a little while.''

So, as I told you earlier, this is not a permanent fix by any means.

"In everything in life, sometimes change is better,'' he said. "Sometimes you make an omelette in a baggie and put it in boiling water and it comes out just as juicy and even better than if you fry it.''

OK, then. Remind me to cancel tomorrow's breakfast date with Elia.

Just got done talking with GM Bill Bavasi as wellHe said today's firing was done to give the players "a different voice" to hear in the batting cages. Bavasi added that Elia will bring his own nuances to the hitting approach taken by the players. But make no mistake, it's all about the voice.

"It's all about results,'' Bavasi said. "And that's probably the biggest thing. We felt that this crew had underperformed for a long period of time. So, this is nothing new.''

Bavasi went on to add:

"We hope to hit is the bottom line. And beyond the bottom line, specifically, we're hoping that a lot of the work that Jeff did can be done by Lee, but just by using a different vpoice, a different approach. I think that a lot of their swing theories, and angle theories and plane theories are similar and the same. But Lee might have more emphasis on some different things that might have different keys for this group of hitters.''


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June 9, 2008 10:05 AM

Pentland fired

Posted by Geoff Baker

Sorry for the late post. It's hot and humid in Toronto this morning and I needed some extra rest. As you may have heard, Jeff Pentland has been fired as hitting coach of the Mariners. To me, this is akin to firing the first officer aboard the Titanic for not spotting the iceberg before the captain plowed into it. Or, perhaps the ship's cook for giving the first officer a touch of food poisoning that led him to go for a glass of water before not spotting the iceberg that was rammed.

Whatever.

Pentland was a holdover from the previous Mike Hargrove era. He was the easy target to spot as to who would be the first to go amongst coaches when the team needed a sacrificial lamb. From a practical standpoint, this accomplishes nothing. It tells the players: keep on tanking and we'll keep on playing you.

Pitchers, hitters, defenders...all have underachieved. It's not the hitting coach's fault that all his middle of the order guys are hitting well below their regular averages with runners in scoring position. Pentland couldn't stand in the batter's box and get the runner home from third with less than two out. But hitting coaches are traditionally the first ones to bite it when a general manager is looking to buy himself some time.

Not to mention a team president and team CEO.

"Jeff has an excellent and proven track record, and those of us who have worked with him are well aware he knows hitting,'' Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said in a release. "Unfortunately, we have consistently, and for an extended period, underperformed at the plate and we are hopeful that a different voice might help the situation.''

Very astute observation. Some might say a different first baseman, DH and right fielder might help the situation. But that bullet is apparently going to be saved for later. That's what these types of firings are for, as I just mentioned. To buy time. The notion that anything will be fixed by naming Lee Elia as hitting coach is a little laughable. Elia told me before the season that he was not interested in getting back into baseball full-time. That his wife would never allow it. He said this half humorously, of course. But there is always some truth in every bit of humor.

Elia is not the solution. He's 70 years old and isn't going to be in this for the long haul, even if the team does luck out and finds Elia can "help the situation". He is a band-aid on a shrapnel wound.

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June 8, 2008 1:24 PM

More offensive offense

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Another day, another defeat for the Mariners. This one was only a 2-1 game, but it felt like 19-1 the way the team looked like it had zero chance of scoring off the Boston Red Sox. Only run of the day by Seattle came when Yuniesky Betancourt nearly hit into a double play in the first inning, beating the relay throw to first base by a step. After that, a whole lot of nothing. Just one hit by Seattle after the second inning.

The Mariners are 2-23 this year when scoring fewer than four runs. They are 20-18 when scoring four or more. So, there you have it.

For those keeping score at home, that's 15 losses in the last 17 road games played by Seattle. Seven losses in the last eight games away from home. But hey, on the bright side...oh yeah, they at least held a lead today. That's the 16th time they've done that during their 40 losses.

Just FYI, for Sounders, in the comments thread, don't know if you happened to see this blog item from last Wednesday, written a day before the Art Thiel column. If you missed it, that's OK, but here are some of the pertinent lines: "I can guarantee you these thoughts are running through the minds of those people now running this team. They have to be. If not, then Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong should resign.

They had better be interested in figuring out whether this culture of losing can be eradicated.

After all, they helped create it through their own inaction and lack of accountability. They are not alone in this organization, believe me. But it's the guys at the top who set the tone for an organization. In my brief time here, the Seattle Mariners have seemed to operate like an organization that does not feel it has to answer to anybody. We won't get into how they play in a taxpayer subsidized ballpark. That's for another day. But I've never been shy in pointing out that the Mariners, as an organization, love their secrets.

Want to know why Kenji Johjima was given a three-year contract extension when the team has a No. 1 draft pick at catcher on the verge of being ready for the major leagues? Too bad. Who do you think you are? Trust the Mariners. They know what they're doing.

Feel good about that answer? Me neither. Don't worry though, we're not alone. I sit and talk to people around the game on every road trip and the Johjima question is one of the first I'm asked after the one about when Richie Sexson will be released.

But the Mariners don't really give the appearance of caring whether or not you understand things like the Johjima deal. At least, not beyond the few lines they'll offer up at a press conference. Doesn't matter to them whether or not you think it makes sense.

But why pick on Johjima? What about Rafael Soriano? What was the big hurry in getting rid of him before last season? Armstrong suggested in an AP report last fall that there were issues with Soriano. But he would not elaborate. Why would he? Why go to that kind of trouble when he can just drop some innuendo? After all, who's going to call him on it?

So, I hope that helps. There's more, but you can just read it in the post I've linked. We have been on top of the situation on this end. Got the ball rolling, so to speak.

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June 8, 2008 1:06 PM

Mariners at Boston Red Sox: 06/08 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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1:06 p.m.: Mariners went 1-2-3 in the eighth and now have just one hit -- a single by Willie Bloomquist -- since the second inning. We've all been sititng around here for the past hour figuring the M's were not going to score another run all day. They'll have to do it off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth if they are to overcome this insurmountable 2-1 deficit.

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Don't forget to grab a look at our latest ballpark video tour. The cab ride over was a fun sequence as well, if you're interested.

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June 7, 2008 5:39 PM

M's wilt in the heat

Posted by Geoff Baker

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ADDITIONAL NOTE (7:00 p.m.): From reading your comments today, it's apparent to me that some are misconstruing Jarrod Washburn as having rebelled against Bill Bavasi's no-towel/no-food/stand by your locker edict. Washburn has been amongst the most accountable of any M's players this year when it comes to standing up in front of the media. For him to "rebel" against such an edict makes no sense. The whole purpose of the no-towel thing wasn't addressed in a clubhouse meeting beforehand or anything. It was an instantaneous thing and several players, not sure what was happening, intitially headed off to the showers. Bavasi did spot Washburn toweling off with a t-shirt and ordered then that towels be distributed. But this was hardly defiance on Washburn's part. It was his getting dry in a confusing situation. Washburn has been accountable to the media since his arrival here. He is not part of that problem. I wrote the towel anectdote in an attempt at some humor. Hope this clears things up a bit. Sorry if I wrote it in a way that misled any of you.

5:39 p.m.: Like a flower starved from a lack of honeybee pollen, the Mariners turned a dark shade of brown over the final five innings and wound up crushed, 11-3, by the Boston Red Sox.

Boston piled on five runs in the eighth inning against Mark Lowe and Ryan Rowland-Smith, but the truth is, even when it was a four-run game before that, Seattle looked done. The M's had just two hits and no runs between the third and ninth innings and that won't get it done. The "real'' Red Sox -- meaning the ones with either Manny Ramirez or David Oritz or both in the lineup -- showed up today and the results were predictable.

Miguel Batista did his rollover act at Fenway Park, getting bounced just 4 1/3 innings in. Batista looked like a knuckleballer today, since his pitches were all over the place. He walked six. One was intentional, though it might have been another Ramirez homer had Batista actually tried to pitch to him again.

"That was the big problem with the game,'' said Batista, winless in his last five starts against Boston dating back to 2004. "I struggled with my command.''

Highlight of the day? Seeing knucklers Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey go at it. Wakefield was obviously the victor. Dickey threw the ball well enough aside from the home run crushed off him by J.D. Drew -- ending his streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings.

"The three or four cruddy ones I threw, one of them happened to be that pitch,'' Dickey said of knuckler Drew hit out.

But his other pitches were good enough that the debate will likely flare up amongst the team's coaching staff about whether Dickey should be in the rotation. Batista said he's feeling healthier, but still has some serious command issues going on.

We asked manager John McLaren about Dickey starting. "I'm not going there,'' he said, adding that Dickey "threw well today''.

Here you go, down below. Enjoy another video, this one a tour of Fenway Park and a trip atop the Green Monster. I fly into the city from Montreal, hop a cab to my hotel, then head off to the park and inside. Enjoy. Footage was taken yesterday, when it was a lot less sunny.

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June 7, 2008 2:43 PM

Mariners at Boston Red Sox: 06/07 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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2:43 p.m.: R.A. Dickey just had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 14 as J.D. Drew smashed a solo homer to center with two out in the sixth to make it a 6-2 game. The M's have gone into hibernation since tying things up in the third. Eleven in a row have been retired by Tim Wakefield as we begin the seventh.

As for what I wrote earlier, I'm sorry some of you object to strong feedback once or twice a week. I will, however, continue to allow all of you to have your say seven days per week, no matter how right or wrong some of you may be. As far as whining goes, here's what sounds like a whine to me. When readers can dish it out in all directions every day, with nothing to fear from anyone, but are reduced to complaining when it's pointed out that their facts don't always jive with their perceptions. Try listening to that for a day or two sometimes. If it seems like my once or twice weekly feedback amounts to a "daily defense" imagine how some of the nonsense I read at times feels to me. My skin is plenty thick. I'm just pointing out that some of you are talking smack without the juice to back it up. If that hurts, well, you can always go hide in a corner.

For the rest of you, you too, Ben, who enjoy coming here, thank you. The others, those who are always complaining, you can keep coming too. No one dislikes you. Just pointing out that what you say will sometimes have zero merit and you'll be called out on it. But hey, at least I won't censor your posts if I don't like what you say. Learn to cherish small victories, they're good for you.


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June 6, 2008 8:47 PM

What do we have here?

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A lot of shock taking place at Fenway Park tonight. The Boston Red Sox had a 13-game winning streak at home before the Mariners waxed them 8-0 behind the pitching of Felix Hernandez -- who tossed six scoreless and has not allowed a career run in 15 frames at Fenway Park.

And behind the hitting of Richie Sexson. Three singles for Sexson. Two RBI. Like I said, a whole lot of shock happening here. Want another? Sexson actually spoke after the game. First time in a while. Talked about getting used to his new open stance. Also about the team and tonight's win, only the second on the road for Seattle since...April 29 in Cleveland. That's right. Only the second road win for Wladimir Balentien in his 2008 stint with the team. The M's had been 1-13 in their last 14 road games, winning only that 12-inning affair in Texas.

"Obviously, it feels good,'' Sexson said. "We needed a win. We've had a lot of negative things surrounding this team the last month.''

Sexson was by no means saying those things were over. He even joked about the one win making everything OK. He knows it isn't. Knows it will take more than beating up on Boston's Class AAA lineup and a tired-looking Bartolo Colon.

I asked Sexson how the team reacted to what was said by John McLaren and Bill Bavasi two days ago.

"I don't know about that,'' he said, rather uncomfortably. "It is what it is. Obviously, there's frustration here. It just came out.''

Sexson then continued: "We just came out and played a good game. I don't think anybody was thinking about two days ago when we came out and won the game today.''

And how does he deal with the personal negativity surrounding his play?

"Go out and get a few hits,'' he said. "It's the only thing you can do.''

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June 6, 2008 5:31 PM

Mariners at Boston Red Sox: 06/06 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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6:05 p.m.: Another RBI single for Richie Sexson in the seventh inning, making it an 8-0 lead for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez is now out of the game after tossing six shutout innings. That's 15 career scoreless innings in two starts at Fenway Park for him.

By the way, many of you heard about the Manny Ramirez-Kevin Youkillis dugout tiff last night. ESPN says it has a source on the matter and that it all stems from Youkillis throwing bats, batting helmets and other stuff after bad at-bats. Why should any of you care? Well, it plays into the whole clubhouse chemistry thing and the issue of players policing themselves.

"It all happened because Manny complained about Youkilis' habit of throwing bats, helmets and other objects in the dugout when he has a bad at-bat, something that has become a constant practice,'' the source said.

''Other players have told Youkilis in the past about the situation, which makes him look selfish and that he is more worried about each at-bat than about the team. If Boston is winning easily, there's no reason to throw objects all over the dugout because of a bad at-bat.

"There was a meeting where the team let Youkilis know that many of his teammates were tired of his explosive reactions for each bad plate appearance. It became very bothersome...more so when the team is winning and it's in first place. There's not much room for individualistic attitudes.''

Interesting clubhouse those Red Sox run. No individuals? Who do they think they are, World Series champs? Next thing you know, one of them will get pinch-hit for in the ninth, after making an error that nearly costs his team the game, and not be allowed to get away with slamming his bat in the dugout in full view of TV cameras. Geez, I mean, the poor guy might not even be allowed to cry (tears and all) about it at his locker stall later on (after a walk-off win by his team) without some Boston teammate getting in his face and telling him it's kind of selfish. What kind of team are these Red Sox running? The humanity.

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June 6, 2008 3:35 PM

No lineup changes

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Today's view comes to you from atop the Green Monster in left field at Fenway Park. Down on the field, the Mariners are putting out roughly the same lineup they always do. All of your favorites are in there. Reprecussions from two days ago? Nope. Here's a fun little tidbit for you. Apparently, the no-towel edict from after the team's last game was eventually halted after GM Bill Bavasi spied Jarrod Washburn drying himself with a t-shirt. At that point, Bavasi ordered that towels be brought in.

Anyhow, with the lineup the Red Sox are fielding tonight, even the regular Seattle nine could win this game. Coco Crisp just got suspended seven games, but has appealed and will be in the lineup tonight. Crisp was part of that brawl last night with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox need him because regular center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is hurt. Manny Ramirez has a sore hamstring. David Ortiz is out with a wrist injury. Like I said, if the M'c can't win tonight with Felix Hernandez on the mound, well...they'll have to start R.A. Dickey at some point and just pray.

By the way, speaking of starters, Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard have flip-flopped starts. Bedard will now pitch here on Sunday and Washburn goes in Toronto on Monday. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre swears the only reason this is happening is so Bedard can pitch on his regular four days' rest.

Lots of big brass here. Team president Chuck Armstrong was down on the field pre-game. He's got a daughter and grandaughter in the area, but when I asked him if he was here to keep an eye on things, he said he was. Bill Bavasi and assistant John Bowles are here as well.


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June 6, 2008 5:23 AM

Off-day away from Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

Sometimes, when a season is going down the tubes, it's great to escape from everything with a trip back home. I spent the off-day at my childhood home, visiting my mother, in Laval, Quebec outside of Montreal. I haven't actually lived in the home since 1990. Left the city entirely 10 years ago this week to end my news career and begin covering baseball in Toronto. I now identify more with Seattle as "home" but sometimes it's just nice to get back to where it all began. Don't get back nearly as often as I'd like because of geography, travel and work commitments. Easier to bring family over to Washington for visits.

To get there, had to fly on my regular travel leg from Seattle to Minneapolis to Boston and then bought myself an extra round trip ticket to Montreal. First flight was at 7 a.m. arriving in Montreal at 10:30 p.m. local time. A warning. This video is mostly a baseball-free zone. Sometimes, we need those during a season like this. Enjoy the video. I'm off to the airport now to make the return flight to Boston to cover the Red Sox series starting tonight. We'll have more video from Boston and Fenway Park later this weekend. We'll see what the mood of the team is tonight. Should be interesting.

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June 5, 2008 6:09 PM

Bob Fontaine, draft pick Fields speak

Posted by Geoff Baker

Mariners vice-president (scouting) Bob Fontaine held a conference call with reporters not too long ago to discuss the team using its 20th overall pick today on Josh Fields, a reliever from the University of Georgia. My first reaction when I heard about this pick, as it was for most of you I'm sure, was that the team wants a bullpen replacement for when Brandon Morrow goes into the rotation.

Hey, the M's got away with it once, with Morrow, why not a second time? I'm sure the idea is for Mark Lowe to become the eighth inning guy, with the team hoping Fields can somehow crack the bullpen next year and become a more prominent force after that. I don't know, though. Using a No. 1 pick on a guy expected to be nothing more than a reliever is a little different from the Morrow case. In that case, they were picking a starting pitcher and transforming him to relief work for short term purposes. In this case, what you see is what you get. I think this organization has more pressing needs than a sixth or seventh inning reliever in 2009. I know they see him as an eighth-inning guy, but I doubt he'll be stellar in that role right away. Even Morrow needed a year to get his feet under him.

That's my first impression. But you don't want to hear me babble on. Let's listen to how Fontaine answered some questions. As well as the team's Major League/East Coast Co-ordinator, John McMichem:

Question: How close is he to the Majors?

Fontaine: You'd like to say close but you don't want to say a month, a year or two years, but when you have that kind of stuff in a relief situation, you obviously feel it is closer than if it were a starter depending on when he gets started.

Question: Is command something you will be working on with him?

Fontaine: We saw better command this year. The one thing with a relief pitcher, your command is a little bit different than a starter because you go out later in a game and hitters have a tendency to be a little more anxious to swing at pitches. This kid's command improved, but the breaking ball that this kid has sets up everything and that can expand the strike zone in a hurry.

McMichem: I've seen Josh since he was in High School. Our area scout then was named Craig Bell and he liked him a lot but it was pretty well known that Josh was going to go to college at the University of Georgia. The scout that has been scouting him this past year is named Chuck Carlson and between Craig and Chuck, we feel we have an extensive history with Josh. What I've seen of Josh this year, I've seen him twice, once was an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves. We got to see him pitch the third inning of the game, he was 93-97, his breaking ball was a power curveball which was up to 85 miles per hour, he gave up one hit and then retired the next three that he saw. He looked like he fit in in that setting and it wasn't hard to imagine him being in that setting in the future in a Mariners uniform. He's not the kind of guy you want to face; you're not going to feel comfortable in the box against him. He's a very good athlete. He's very strong.

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June 4, 2008 11:10 PM

No one immune

Posted by Geoff Baker

Liked that manager John McLaren stated the obvious today, that none of his players are immune from criticism for this year's utter collpase. That was before his profanity-laden tirade after yet another defeat, but for me, the pre-game stuff was more important. Sorry I wasn't around earlier today. But I had four hours sleep after last night's game, then flew all day today to Montreal so I could spend tomorrow's off-day with my mother before flying back to Boston. Got an inlking of what was taking place today during breaks between my three different flights. But only now am I catching up with all of it. I was going to post this blog tomorrow morning, having written much of it on my final flight leg. But since all the spit is hitting the proverbial fan tonight, might as well give you something to chew on a little early.

The scary part of what McLaren said is that he was bang-on. Yes, scary. Not scary for me. Nor for the players, really, since they have yet to suffer any serious reprecussions for what's gone on other than losing some refreshments and towels post-game.

No, when I say scary, I'm talking about all of you. You should be very afraid for your team. And not just for this year. We're talking next season as well. I touched on this theme a few weeks back. About how management needed to gauge this club to see what the biggest problem was. A few weeks ago, I was convinced this was just a one-year happening. A convergence of events -- a Perfect Storm if you will -- that had contributed to send this $117 million luxury cruise liner to the bottom of the ocean. Add a few good hitters, I figured, and you could clean the mess up by next season and take another shot at contending.

Now, I'm not so sure. And judging by the actions -- or lack of action other than yelling and screaming -- by the team's ownership and management, I don't think they are too sure either. The Mariners seem to be an organization paralyzed by indecision. I feel for them. Because right now, if it was my finger on the button, I honestly could not say whether it's best to do that "two or three big bats" move or blow the whole thing up.

Those of you poised to make some flippant jokes about that last line, please don't. It's never easy for any organization to "blow it up''. The only folks who find that an easy route are fans looking for an outlet through which to vent anger. I understand that. But it's no way to run a baseball team. Blowing up the Mariners means, at minimum, waiting another three years before contending again. Hoping for something quicker is akin to fooling yourselves. Billy Beane isn't taking over this team tomorrow. Whoever is running the show in 2009 will be hard-pressed to contend before 2012 if he or she "blows it up". Get it straight. Get it right. Do not delude yourselves, please.

But here I am, starting to think that "blowing it up" might be the best idea. Remember when we talked about a "culture of losing" in this team's clubhouse? You're seeing it on the field night after night. Don't give me any more lines about players "working hard" and "trying'' behind the scenes. Not good enough. They are being paid seven figures on average to produce results. They are not doing it. Haven't done so for over a month. The only teams they have beaten since May began are the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers (once) and a Red Sox team that can't win on the road. Those three other clubs I mentioned are stiffs. All of them. This team has done nothing for over a month.

The Mariners have gotten used to losing. Young and old. Hefty and skinny. Short and tall. They are all used to an environment where losing has become acceptable. How do I know this? Because they've been losing non-stop since May 1 and the only Opening Day player to lose a job was Cha Seung-Baek. And he only lost it because his arm was gassed and the team needed a knuckleballer to pitch every other day in relief of starters not getting the job done.

So, that's how I know this team is getting used to losing. Why wouldn't it? I've been trying for over a month now to point out examples in print of how this team just might be infested with a losing culture. I was afraid this was what I was seeing, going back beyond that May series in Texas. Now, I'm convinced it has taken hold. How do you get rid of it? Well, it's a little like a termite problem. You can cut out a couple of floor boards and hope to rid the rest of the house of any problem.

Or, sometimes you have to blow the house up.


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June 4, 2008 5:32 PM

McLaren's post-game statement (censored)

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

This is all John McLaren had to say today:

"We're playing our (bleep) off every day and got nothing to show for it. I'm tired of (bleeping) losing, I'm tired of getting my (bleep) beat, and so have those guys. We gotta change this (bleeping bleep) around and get after it. And only we can do it. The fans are (bleeped) off, and I'm (bleeped) off, and the players are (bleeped) off. And that's the way it is. There's no (bleeping) easy way out of this, can't feel sorry for ourself, we gotta (bleeping) buckle it up and get after it. I'm tired of (bleep) losing this, (bleeping) every night we bust our (bleep). It's gotta be a total team (bleeping) effort to turn this thing around, and that's it."

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June 4, 2008 1:07 PM

McLaren: "This is not the way it's supposed to be."

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

A clearly worn-down John McLaren again put an onus on his players to improve play before this season goes from disastrous to catastrophic. Before today's series finale against Los Angeles, McLaren said players should start fearing their jobs:

"We might be a little complacent. Definitely the way we've been going about things, it hasn't been working. Addition by subtraction has worked, and I'm not saying we're at that point, but I'm sure ownsership's not happy putting $120 million dollars on the board and 17 games under .500. There should be some people knowing that we can't go on like this."

After yesterday's defensive lapses, McLaren had this to say:

"We are a better fielding club than this. We thought coming out of spring training we would be one of better fielding clubs in the american league, and it's actually worked out just the opposite. We're one of the worst.

"When you're trying to emphasize pitching and you're supposed to have good pitching and you're giving four outs an inning, it's not going to work."

He said there isn't a player in the clubhouse exempt from criticism right now, and he added, "I think we all need to take responsibility. Every one of us needs to revaluate where we are, where we need to go and how we get there, and we need to do it now. There is an urgency. This is not the way it's supposed to be."

Angels

1. Reggie Willits RF
2. Maicer Izturis SS
3. Howie Kendrick 2B
4. Garrett Anderson LF
5. Torii Hunter DH
6. Casey Kotchman 1B
7. Gary Matthews, Jr. CF
8. Mike Napoli C
9. Brandon Wood 3B

Jered Weaver RHP

Mariners

1. Ichiro CF
2. Jose Lopez 2B
3. Raul Ibanez LF
4. Jose Vidro DH
5. Adrian Beltre 3B
6. Jeremy Reed RF
7. Richie Sexson 1B
8. Kenji Johjima C
9. Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Carlos Silva RHP

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June 3, 2008 10:45 PM

At least it was close

Posted by Geoff Baker

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But no cigar. Maybe a cigarette ahead of the blindfold, ahead of the firing squad? Maybe. So far, nothing that serious has befallen the M's players, front office or coaching ranks. The losses keep piling up for a team now 17 games under .500. That's a season high. The mistakes in the field hurt tonight. They hurt both teams, but the M's paid the bigger price in a 5-4 loss capped by Yuniesky Betancourt's strikeout in the ninth, pictured above. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side. The final four M's hitters went down on strikes.

Jose Lopez got the comeback from 5-0 down started with a solo homer, yes. But his failure earlier on to at least knock down a ground ball that rolled under him cost his team a run. If he stops the ball and makes an out, well, that's two runs saved. In a one-run game, one or two runs is huge.

As it is, the M's managed only one earned run of their own off Joe Saunders. Three more runs credited to Seattle came courtesy of gifts from the Los Angeles infield. When the Angels quit booting the ball around, the M's were never heard from again. Saunders retired six of the next seven and the bullpen mowed down six in a row after that.

How about the work by R.A. Dickey? He went 5 2/3 scoreless innings tonight after taking over from Bedard. That's 11 scoreless by Dickey since last Friday's relief effort against Detroit. I asked John McLaren afterwards about whether he's considering adding Dickey to the rotation and he said he was thinking about it.

"I don't know, it's a thought there,'' he said. "We've had that on the back burner.''

It may have to be moved up. This rotation can't keep getting outings of barely five innings. Erik Bedard didn't get hit all that hard tonight. He was frustrated at the sight of so many balls getting through the infield and finding outfield holes. But when I asked him if he was surprised to see McLaren coming out to get him in the fourth inning -- only 75 pitches into his stint -- he told me he wasn't.

"He didn't want it to get out of hand, so he came and got me,'' Bedard said.

That McLaren had more faith in long reliever Dickey, a salvation project fresh off the baseball scrap heap, than he did in the team's No. 1 starter is telling of just how this season has gone.

But he was right. Bedard didn't have great stuff. He walked the No. 9 hitter, twice. Gave up the hits after his fielders had failed to make plays. This team needs more. This team isn't getting it. The song remains the same.


"


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June 3, 2008 8:50 PM

Los Angeles Angels at Mariners: 06/03 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

angellls054.jpg

8:50 p.m.: We've got ourselves a game again, now 5-4 heading to the sixth, Angels still ahead. Los Angeles handed the Mariners three unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth. Joe Saunders got two quick outs, then surrendered a double to Yuniesky Betancourt and a single to Ichiro. With runners at the corners, Jose Lopez hit a ball to second baseman Howie Kendrick that the latter allowed to literally eat him up, bringing one run home on the error. A single by Jose Vidro cashed in another marker and then third baseman Robb Quinlan threw wild to first base on another grounder to score the third M's run of the inning. Quinlan looked to have an easier force play at second, but Kendrick wasn't at the bag in time.

It wasn't pretty, but the M's have new life.


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June 3, 2008 5:17 PM

Fontaine: Morrow pick was fine

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A look at the Mariners this afternoon, taking early pitchers fielding practice at 3:30 p.m. They do this once in a while. No better time than the present. This team could stand to gain from defensive improvement at all positions. Two more errors last night.

By the way, Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees made his first start an hour ago. Lasted only 62 pitches, 37 of them coming in the first inning. He was on a pitch count and got yanked in the third inning. Not exaclty what the Yankees had in mind. Much debate sure to follow. Especially here, where some folks feel the Mariners should go the Chamberlain route with Brandon Morrow.

Here's what M's draft guru Bob Fontaine, in town preparing for Thursday's draft, had to say this afternoon about whether Morrow has to eventually start in order to justify the first round pick used on him two years ago.

"Let me tell you something,'' he said. "I don't look at having to be justified. I've done this so long, if I have to feel everything we do is under a crystal ball and has to be justified -- and I'm going to worry about it -- I'm going to make a lot of mistakes.

"If Brandon Morrow is helping us, that's what counts. Can he start? Of course he can start. I believe he's a starter. Our scouts believe he's a starter. We scouted him as a starter. When the time comes if he's a starter here, I believe he's going to be an outstanding starter. But in the meantime, he's going to be and is an outstanding reliever. If that's what's best for this club...that's one of the things we liked about Brandon, that he could do both things, and fill a need for you when you needed it.''

Wladimir Balentien is back in right field tonight against the lefty, Joe Saunders. Jeremy Reed, a lefty bat, gets a seat after three straight starts and an error last night. I guess Balentien got all the stuff he needed to worked out with hitting coach Jeff Pentland. Either that, or lefty-righty matchups take precedence.

Mariners manager John McLaren is growing weary of these pre and post-game sessions with the media. The problem is, he's said all there is to say. But his team keeps losing. McLaren surprised me today by actually agreeing to field a question about how the Angels, who've had adversity, injuries and a struggling offense to deal with so far, manage to keep on winning.

"They find a way,'' McLaren said.

Which his team does not.

By the way, the M's have caught a break ahead of this weekend's series at Fenway Park. They won't have to face David Ortiz. For Fish in the comments thread, the M's pick 20th in tomorrow's draft.


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June 3, 2008 10:05 AM

M's to start the 100/100 club?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Another night, another defeat for the Mariners. As I wrote, the 4-2 loss last night was quick and all-too-efficient for my taste. Seemed a little pro forma. Yeah, the score looked good. Good enough to lose. Lose enough games like that and 100 defeats is well in-reach. In fact, with the 21-37 pace the team is now on, it will lose 103 games.

And that, my friends, will place the Mariners in a category all by themselves in regards to baseball's all-time biggest flops.

Seattle will be the charter member of the 100/100 club. First team to ever spend $100 million and lose 100 times in a season.

Think about it. If nothing else, a payroll of $100 million or more is supposed to insulate you from this type of season. It buys depth. Buys pitching. Buys the kinds of hitters that are supposed to frighten opponents. Or not. Apparently, the M's aren't frightening too many opponents of late.

Please, do not bring up the Baltimore Orioles. Not even close.

The Orioles spent $93.5 million last season and lost 93 games. Nice try. Especially in the dollar-per-loss category. But this is the 100/100 club. Limited membership. Only high-rollers welcome. Sort of like the Hall of Fame, only backwards. The M's have a $117 million payroll this year and are on-pace to drop 103. Let's see the O's top that.

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June 3, 2008 8:18 AM

Radio segment today

Posted by Geoff Baker

My regular Talkin' Baseball segment on KJR AM 950 on the Mitch in the Morning Show will be this morning at roughly 8:25 a.m. instead of tomorrow. I had a scheduling conflict, so we're doing it 24 hours earlier than usual. Should be plenty to talk about.

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June 2, 2008 10:43 PM

Santana strings em up

Posted by Geoff Baker

sexson0602 028.jpg

Even Bucky Jacobsen, pictured above, can no longer bear to watch the Mariners go down to another defeat as he leaves in the top of the ninth inning. They could have used some of his power tonight.

No chance for the Mariners against Ervin Santana and the Los Angeles Angels. Santana went 7 2/3 innings and gave up only a Richie Sexson single after the third until Jose Lopez hit a solo homer to end his night. Santana left with a 4-2 lead that wound up being the final score.

A big reason the Mariners stayed so close to the Angels for most of last season was Santana going just 1-10 with an 8.38 ERA on the road. He's now 5-1 away from home with a 3.59 ERA. Overall, he's 8-2 with a 3.02 ERA. Not in the cards for Seattle this year.

Mariners manager John McLaren said afterwards he was pleased with two strong plate appearances for Sexson, who had a single and a walk. But he also grounded into a double play that ended the second inning with two on and the game still scoreless.

Seattle didn't do much against Santana from then on.

"He throws so hard and he's got some secondary pitches to come at you with,'' McLaren said of Santana, now 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in two starts spanning 15 2/3 innings against Seattle this season. "He gets you to chase pitches and when you chase pitches it's going to be a long day.''

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June 2, 2008 9:27 PM

Los Angeles Angels vs. Mariners: 06/02 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

sexson0602.jpg

9:27 p.m.: Seattle waits until a Jose Lopez home run with two out in the eighth to generate any more offense off Ervin Santana since the third inning. Oh yeah, there was that Richie Sexson single past the first base bag in the fifth. That's it folks. A 4-2 game heading to the bottom of the ninth. By the way, there's a great Stanley Cup playoff game going on in Detroit, now into its third OT period. You might want to switch channels.

By the way, what's this we have down below? Is this some last minute lineup change?

sexson0602 015.jpg

Don't worry. Kenji Johjima is indeed catching for Washburn tonight. That's a Japanese comedian in the stands behind home plate, in full catcher's gear I might add. His first name is Johjiman and his shtick apparently goes over real big in Japan. Yuk, yuk.

sexson0602 027.jpg


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June 2, 2008 5:04 PM

Guess who's back in the lineup?

Posted by Geoff Baker

sexson0602 009.jpg

There should be smiles galore out in blogland today. That's because Richie Sexson is back in the Mariners lineup, batting seventh. Not only that, he's apparently going to be there for a while. Mariners manager John McLaren said it was the plan all along to sit Sexson for several days while he worked on his swing in the batting cage beneath the stands. Sexson and hitting coach Jeff Pentland have apparently made some major corrections and the M's feel he's now ready to play.

Spoke to Pentland moments ago and he told me the changes involve getting Sexson to open his stance so he can see the ball better. He'd had a more open stance when the season began, but had been closing it more and more as his numbers went south. The change will see the stance even more open that it was to start the year. When you make a change like that, you have to do it over several days, which is why he hasn't been playing. Will this work? Who knows? A little late in the game, if you ask me.

Yes, yes, I can hear the squealing already. Yes, I understood the thrust of the argument some of you were making in regards to Sexson being a better hitter than Miguel Cairo. A better home run hitter, too. In a normal world under normal circumstances, I'd agree. But not when a guy has been sitting for almost a week and hadn't really hit a lick in the weeks leading up to that benching.

Sorry, you just can't ignore something like that. You can't have a guy like Sexson struggle all season, to the point where the fan base is howling for his release, sit his bat for five days, then throw him in there against a major league closer throwing 90-plus mph. That's the argument. It doesn't matter if one guy's OPS is slightly higher than the other's for the entire season. We're not talking a .900 OPS versus a .516. We're talking about Sexson's .690 versus Cairo's .516. By the way, in May, Cairo's OPS was .559 versus .567 for Sexson. So, almost no difference.

Except one guy had hits in his last five consecutive games while the other guy had been swinging in a cage since May 26 because his "home run" bat missed more balls than it connected on for five weeks straight. If you still want to argue, go ahead. I'm done. For me, we should be arguing about why the M's bench is so thin that McLaren's choice was between Cairo, Sexson and Wladimir Balentien (another guy who can't hit right now). That's a lose-lose-lose situation all around. By the way, Balentien will now be the next guy out for a while so that Pentland can work on the obvious holes in his bat.

Anyhow, Sexson is back in there. Now, some of you may ask -- and quite reasonably, I might add -- why Sexson is good enough to hit tonight, but wasn't to pinch-hit last night. Excellent question, so thank you in advance. This was put to McLaren today. Here's his answer:

"What I was thinking was, I wanted him with a fresh start,'' McLaren said. "He cleared his mind, he worked hard and tonight he's going to get that start. I understand, some people have told me there's been a lot of talk about why we didn't use him yesterday. I'm kind of glad. Maybe we're rallying around this guy a little bit. He needs that. And we need him.''

So, there you go. Congratulations. Apparently, the fan voice has been heard loud and clear. Um, maybe.

On a more serious note, congrats are in order for those of you continuing to read the blog, not to mention participate in the comments thread. We easily set another monthly record in May, despite a number of off-days and the team's collapse. The types of spirited discussions here may not be for some of you, but the rest of you are continuing to log in here. We are now 300 percent higher in terms of page views than we were last May -- making us the paper's most read blog. Those of you writing in on email telling me you read, but don't post, believe me, I know. I get the numbers daily. But thank you anyway.

Anyone out there who wants to stop posting, nobody is forcing you to stay. There are dozens of others who can take your place on a daily basis. I'd like all of you to stay, of course. But if you want to dish it out, you have to be able to take it. Otherwise, there's the cyber door.

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June 2, 2008 8:32 AM

The Sexson quandary

Posted by Geoff Baker

Good to be back after a nice weekend off. Took in the Canada-Brazil soccer match on Saturday night, going crazy for a little while thinking the impossible might happen for us Canucks, then simply enjoying the show. Everything was going fine yesterday as well until I flipped on the television set to watch Los Marineros and, well, then...you all know what happened next.

First off, the Richie Sexson at-bat would not even have been an issue if the Seattle closer had not imploded in a seven-batter top of the ninth inning. Something isn't right with J.J. Putz. His command, obviously. After Putz made a triumphant return off the DL against Baltimore in April, he had six strikeouts and one walk for the season. Since that point, he has 10 strikeouts and nine walks. Not a good ratio for any pitcher, let alone a closer.

Brandon Morrow's strikeouts-to-walks totals are 22 to 7 for the season. The last four games he's appeared in, with his team tied or leading, see him with seven strikeouts versus one walk. A closer needs to keep men off base and have that strikeout ability to prevent runners from moving along further. No one is saying Putz deserves to lose his job. But let's face it, his team is going nowhere. Until he gets some issues sorted out, it would behoove the M's to consider either sticking with Morrow longer in games, or making him the temporary closer until the real one gets back to normal.

I'm not at all in favor of flipping roles for good. In fact, I think Morrow is benefitting from working in the eighth inning (rather than the ninth) and getting to face hitters who've been seeing pitches from a tiring starter or a middle reliever. Going from a fastball in the 89 mph range to one in the 98 mph range is very tough on a hitter. Morrow would not have that advantage in starting off the ninth, where the hitters would usually be transitioning from a setup man before him -- a pitcher obviously throwing much harder.

The Morrow-Putz combo has the makings of a playoff duo when everyone is healthy. Think Mariano Rivera-John Wetteland circa 1996, or Francisco Rodriguez-Troy Percival in 2002. There have been ample cases throughout this game's more modern history where folks thought -- that's thought, not proved -- the setup man was better than the closer.

Anyway, it's all moot. Without Putz, this team's going nowhere now or in 2009. Remember, Morrow is supposed to be a starter next year, right? It's what most of you want, if I'm not mistaken. So then, you all have to hope Putz gets back on-track. But temporarily, I see nothing wrong with letting Morrow take the ninth and giving Putz some earlier innings to start dominating hitters in once again.

Now, on to Richie Sexson. For me, this is a more important issue for now. As for whether or not Sexson should have been pinch-hitting in yesterday's ninth inning, let's make sure we're all on the same page. We're talking about the same guy, right? The same Sexson? The one with a .277 on-base percentage for the season? A .197 OBP since May 1? With a .485 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at Safeco Field? Hitting .167 with runners on base?

OK, so that's the guy. He hasn't swung a bat in a game since May 26, mainly because he had 17 strikeouts in his previous 36 at-bats. And yet, all of a sudden, he's going to come in cold off the bench and hit the other team's closer? Uh, no. Bringing Sexson in for that at-bat would have amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.



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June 1, 2008 4:54 PM

McLaren's rationale for sticking with Cairo in the ninth

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Manager John McLaren was asked if he considered pinch-hitting Richie Sexson for Miguel Cairo in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"I just think that Cairo has been swinging the bat pretty good and so forth and so on," McLaren said. "So I would have stuck with Cairo."

Sexson has five hits in his 11 career at-bats against Detroit closer Todd Jones, and three of those five hits were home runs. Cairo was 1-for-4 in Sunday's game, and he lined out to center for the final out of a 7-5 loss.

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June 1, 2008 3:41 PM

Closer gets closed

Posted by Danny O'Neil

J.J. Putz pitched to seven hitters in the ninth inning, allowed four hits and four runs and is on the hook for what would be his third loss of the season. He lost only two games the previous two years combined.

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June 1, 2008 2:50 PM

Running game thread

Posted by Danny O'Neil

No, this isn't an ongoing description of the game, it's a thread about the running game. Something manager John McLaren said he likes to put in motion.

"I like guys running, putting pressure on the defense," McLaren said before the game. "And I like power, too."

That's kind of like Sunday's game. Adrian Beltre provided the power. His solo home run tied the game in the bottom of the second. McLaren got the wheels in motion in the third. After Ichiro singled, he was running on a 3-1 pitch to Jose Lopez. Lopez singled, advancing Ichiro to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Vidro.

Miguel Cairo was running in the fourth when Yuniesky Betancourt hit a two-out single, moving Cairo to third, but Ichiro struck out to end the inning.

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June 1, 2008 12:40 PM

Sexson sits again Sunday

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Richie Sexson is out of the lineup for the fifth consecutive game, replaced by Miguel Cairo, who's batting eighth in the order.

Manager John McLaren addressed the situation at first base when he met with reporters before the game and said the recent shift in playing time at the position has more to do with Cairo's performance than Sexson's lack thereof. You can listen to McLaren's explanation in an mp3 file linked right here. Or you can read on for a summary of the most pertinent quotes.

"We've put Cairo out there and to be honest, he's energized us," McLaren said. "He's given us great defense. He's given us a different look, gives us some speed, contact hitter and we've played pretty good. So in the situation we're in, I'm not going to change it. We're starting to play good. Again, it's about Miguel, it's not about Richie."

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