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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 5, 2009 2:36 PM

Your opening-day lineup

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Don't forget Geoff Baker Live! coming up at 5 p.m.

Here it is, hot off the presses:

LF Endy Chavez
CF Franklin Gutierrez
DH Mike Sweeney
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Ken Griffery Jr.
2B Jose Lopez
1B Russell Branyan
C Kenji Johjima
SS Yuniesky Betancourt

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The choice of Endy Chavez, above, to bat leadoff is no surprise. He handled that role for the Montreal Expos, starting in 2003, his first full season in the majors.

I was more intrigued by Don Wakamatsu's choice of Franklin Gutierrez in the No. 2 spot. I like it. I thought that, based on merit, he'd earned that job in spring training. Wakamatsu told us earlier in the spring that he felt Gutierrez needed some more maturity and consistency as a hitter to be able to handle the job, but he must have seen something he liked since then.

"The one thing that stood out for me is the bunts,'' Wakamatsu said when I asked him about it moments ago. "Whether it's a drag [bunt], or a push.''

Yes, Gutierrez did quite well in that department. Now, he gets a shot. It may not be for all that long.

"We'll probably have 120, 130 different lineups,'' Wakamatsu said.

I like Gutierrez hitting second, though, because it enables the team to stick Jose Lopez further back in an RBI position. I think he's best suited to hit fifth, or, more realistically, sixth, since you want a real home-run type at your No. 5 spot. Right now, Lopez is hitting sixth.

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Russell Branyan gets pushed further back in the order because there will be a lefty on the mound. That means Mike Sweeney's righthanded bat gets in there right away. No, this lineup isn't optimal. But Ichiro isn't here, so you have to improvise. Ichiro's jersey, by the way, will hang in the dugout tomorrow as a gesture of respect. The plan is for him to join the team in Oakland later this week and start working out in the batting cage if he's ready.

So, Brandon Morrow is the closer to start things off. But Wakamatsu said today there's no way he'll be used three or four consecutive nights. Not with the spring he just had. When asked who would replace Morrow if a closer was needed multiple games in a row, the first names out of Wakamatsu's mouth were -- as expected -- Miguel Batista, David Aardsma and Mark Lowe... in that order. Will the order mean something as to who gets the first call? It often does, when managers have certain people in mind. We'll see.


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