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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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March 20, 2009 10:24 AM

Carp, LaHair cut

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Don't forget Geoff Baker Live! at a new 12:15 p.m. time today.

Some news out of camp this morning with three more players sent to the minors. The biggest of the names are first basemen Mike Carp and Bryan LaHair. The third was pitcher Gaby Hernandez.

None of the three rates as a surprise, to anyone paying attention. Of the three, Carp made the biggest impression on the coaching staff but was simply a victim of depth at his position. In other words, the guy on the left in the photo above, Russell Branyan (no doubt giving base-stealing tips to catcher Jamie Burke) is a left-handed hitter and plays first base.

Branyan is the primary first baseman and Carp has never played Class AAA ball. So, giving him a taste of life there and allowing him to develop some of his first base defense can't hurt the club. There's no need to rush Carp to the big leagues just yet. He's under full club control, while Branyan is on a one-year deal.

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Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said Carp made an impression on him.

"I think the biggest thing is his approach at the plate,'' Wakamatsu said. "I really like his approach.''

Carp went 7-for-23 (.305) at the plate with a .385 on-base percentage and a .585 slugging percentage. All excellent numbers. The OBP came as a result of his hitting and ability to take walks (he drew three). His slugging included a home run, a double and a triple. Right now, it's just a matter of getting him more at-bats and that wasn't going to happen with Mike Sweeney and Chris Shelton battling to see who will make the team as the right handed complement to Branyan.

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So, don't go reading anything into the fact that he's gone while some others, like Mike Wilson, are still here. This was a developmental thing. Wilson isn't going to make the team just because he popped a few homers the past two nights. There is a lot more that goes into the decision-making process than that.
The M's had played Carp a bit in left field but Wakamatsu said that isn't really in the plans for now.

"We got a glimpse of him in left field but I think we view him as a first baseman,'' Wakamatsu said.

As for LaHair, he made some strides at camp, but was going to have to set the world on fire to stick, given the depth issues I've mentioned. That he did not do. He hit .179, with only five hits in 28 at-bats. LaHair did manage a homer, triple and double amongst those three hits, but Wakamatsu mentioned issues with his decision-making process at the plate. The other day, he added, LaHair swung at three pitches out of the strike zone with a runner on third and fewer than two out.

He's got to become more consistent. And frankly, with all of the power bats being assembled by this team at the 1B/DH positions, LaHair has work to do if he's ever going to be considered for this team -- this year or down the road. He got much stronger physically over the winter -- Wakamatsu says he improved more than anyone on the team in that area -- but now he has to put it all together in Class AAA and show the big league club why it can't afford to look past him. Right now, the club has many reasons to, starting with Branyan, Sweeney, Shelton and Carp. Not to mention catcher Jeff Clement, another potential lefty 1B/DH type. LaHair has to put himself on the map.

Hernandez, the guy acquired last July in the Arthur Rhodes deal with the Marlins, was never going to make this team. But he impressed some of the coaches and has been told to work on being more aggressive in the minors. He's got a four-pitch repetoire, but has to learn how to use it and not nibble so much.

By the way, Tyler Johnson won't throw live BP today as previously scheduled. He's pushed that back a day to rest his arm. The team isn't calling it a "setback'' for now, but we'll see how the arm responds. Roy Corcoran will pitch in a real game tomorrow while Tyler Walker throws a bullpen session today.

Today's full lineups:

Milwaukee Brewers (10-8-2)

23 Rickie Weeks 2B
30 Craig Counsell 3B
7 J.J. Hardy SS
52 Casey McGehee 1B
25 Mike Cameron CF
11 Mike Rivera C
27 Brad Nelson RF
61 Jason Bourgeois LF
24 Mat Gamel DH
-----------------------------
73 Seth McClung RHP


Seattle Mariners (10-10-1)

3 Ronny Cedeno SS
27 Matt Tuiasosopo 3B
24 Ken Griffey Jr. DH
25 Wladimir Balentien CF
30 Russell Branyan 1B
32 Rob Johnson C
61 Mike Wilson LF
96 Tyson Gillies RF
6 Chris Woodward 2B
-----------------------------
38 Jason Vargas LHP

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