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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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April 1, 2009 4:29 PM

Ryan Rowland-Smith fifth starter

Posted by Geoff Baker

game0401 013.jpg

A wild one here today, with the Mariners and Cleveland Indians playing to a 14-14 tie. But the big news is the team's starting rotation. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu confirmed that Felix Hernandez will indeed be the number one starter on Monday in Minneapolis. Wakamatsu put off naming the rest of the rotation until tomorrow, saying he had one other pitcher to talk to.

But then, later on in questioning, Wakamatsu revealed that he will not open the season with a lefthander in the bullpen. We know that Ryan Rowland-Smith isn't going to Class AAA. We know he's a lefty and that Wakamatsu says there won't be any of those in the bullpen. And that means -- bingo -- Rowland-Smith becomes the fifth guy in the rotation.

Listen to the pertinent Wakamatsu clip right here.

You can't actually hear him answer my question about no lefties in the pen because he merely shakes his head to indicate that there wouldn't be any. But then he goes on to talk about that scenario after a follow-up question.

Here's my guess as to how the rotation will go:

Hernandez
Erik Bedard
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn
RRS

Not much else to tell you from today's contest. It got ugly pretty quick, with tough sun and wind conditions impairing both teams. You saw the ugly pitching lines here today and at that minor league game in Phoenix. Not a fluke, these were tough playing conditions. A sandstorm kicked up in the top of the ninth. Then, in the bottom of the inning, Jose Lopez sent a bat flying into the stands when he fouled off a pitch. Lopez graciously autographed the bat for the fan who was clipped by it, seen in the photo above. No one was seriously hurt.

So, no lefty in the team's bullpen. But Wakamatsu says he isn't worried because the team has southpaws in the system who can be called up fairly soon. Those would be Tyler Johnson and Cesar Jimenez. I'd expect to see at least one with the team before this month ends. Things are shaping up. What does this mean for Chris Jakubauskas? Not sure yet. He could still be the long guy in the bullpen. My guess is, the team uses Miguel Batista to close games out until Brandon Morrow is ready. Batista would then revert to a longer role. But with 12 pitchers heading north -- seven in the bullpen -- both Batista and Jakubauskas could be kept as long men for now, with Batista handling a dual role.

David Aardsma had command issues today, blowing a save in the ninth by giving up two runs on two hits and walking a pair.

Roy Corcoran was up in the zone a little too often as well, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk over just 2/3 of an inning.

Neither of those guys is ready to close out games in the majors right now. Mark Lowe has given up a lot of baserunners. As mediocre as Batista has looked at times, I'd say he's still the club's best option to hold the fort down until Morrow gets more innings under his belt. We'll see. As I said, he's viewed as a long and short relief option right now.

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