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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 16, 2009 4:46 PM

Rob Johnson to be every-day catcher and other pre-game notes

Posted by Larry Stone

Tonight's Mariners' lineup

Ichiro RF
Endy Chavez CF
Mike Sweeney DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Russ Branyan 1B
Wladimir Balentien LF
Rob Johnson C
Yuniesky Betancourdt SS

Chris Jakubauskas P

Angels

Chone Figgins 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu LF
Torii Hunter CF
Kendry Morales 1B
Mike Napoli C
Gary Matthews Jr. RF
Juan Rivera DH
Maicer Izturis SS

Joe Saunders LHP

  • Manager Don Wakamatsu confirmed that Rob Johnson now becomes the Mariners' regular catcher with Kenji Johjima going on the DL.

    "One of our biggest decisions coming out of spring training was the fact that if that happened, we would feel comfortable with Rob filling in,'' Wakamatsu said. "So far, he's done a tremendous job both offensively and defensively. He's done a great job and that's what earned him a spot on the team.''

    What has stood out so far?

    "His toughness and his ability to handle a pitching staff early. Those are things we demanded from all the catchers in camp and he stood out right away. This is something that he was not going to let pass by. He earned the spot and had a great relationship with the pitchers and also swung the bat well.

  • On the lineup today, Wakamatsu said Franklin Gutierrez is getting a day off "just because he's been going so hard. We're just making sure that guys are playing." So Wladimir Balentien and Mike Sweeney are in.

    Ken Griffey sits because the Angels are starting a lefty (Joe Saunders), not because of any issues with his back, which had been bothering him earlier in the week.

    "It's fine,'' Wakamatsu said. "This really doesn't have anything to do with his back as much as what we talked about before. Just being cautious and giving him the day off against a lefty."

  • Wakamatsu said Sean White's strong showing in spring training influenced their decision to call him up to fill Jakubauskas's bullpen spot.

    "Hopefully, what we're talking about is a short stint until Rowland-Smith is able to get back. For us, he's the right guy to full that spot in the bullpen."

  • Here's what White had to say about being called up: "I really spent a lot of work in the offseason getting prepared, wanting to get back here and prove that I can help this ballclub out.

    "I felt like there would be a chance this year if I kept going on how I was going in spring. Throughout the spring, I felt confident, I felt good with what I was doing and understanding where I want to be and the process of going about that. "

  • Johjima becomes the third major-leaguer from Japan's championship World Baseball Classic squad to go on the DL, following Ichiro (bleeding ulcer) and Dice-K Matsuzaka (fatigued shoulder).

    "It's a coincidence,'' Johjima said. "Unfortunately, it's a coincidence.''

    Johjima said that a handful of WBC players in Japan have landed on the DL as well, (including two pitchers, I'm told)

    "That's a coincidence as well,'' Johjima said.

    That's debatable, of course. I poised the question to Wakamatsu of a possible link to the WBC. He deflected it skillfully..

    "I don't want to go there,'' he said. "I have no idea. I think the cold weather had something to do with it. I think he tweaked it a little bit on backing up (a play at first base) before he went there. He was fine in Minnesota and fine in Oakland."

  • Johjima on his hamstring injury, which landed him on the DL for the first time with the Mariners (he was on the DL twice in Japan, he said, with a broken shin and a broken collar bone):

    "I felt like a pinch down on my hamstring. I've never felt anything like that in the past in my career. They say that a lot of the fast runners get this type of injury and I've never been a fast runner so I don't know why I'm getting this. I guess it's part of the game.

    "The doctors that I have a first degree strain on my hamstring, and just to play it safe since this is the first time I've done it, we want to take the time and not do something right now because we're still early in the season.

    "It hurts, to be honest with you. If I didn't feel the pain I would be playing today."

  • Burke, who has been in the majors the past two seasons, said he never considered quitting or trying to hook on with another team when the Mariners sent him down at the end of spring training. He is 37.

    "No. Not at all. I still want to play this game. I know I can play at this level. Just because I have to go down a level doesn't mean much. I'll go down and work just as hard as I would anywhere else.

    "I was going to accept anything they wanted to do. When I signed back here, I thought I was in a good situation. When I was sent down, I thought I was still in a good situation. I don't have any regrets. That didn't even come through my mind at all, because I know if there's another team that wanted me in the big leagues, they'd let me know and probably want me in the big leagues."

  • Jeff Clement has started Tacoma's season in a 1-for-19 funk, which is why Burke is here and not him. But Burke says it's not quite as bad as it sounds.Clement is catching every day and taking grounders at first base before games.

    "He swung the bat well yesterday,'' Burke said. "He's hit some balls good. Obviously, it's early in the season. A lot of guys put a lot of pressure on themselves. I'm not saying he is. He's still swinging the bat good. He's still getting into some balls good. He's hitting them right at people. He's fine. He's walking, getting good at-bats. He's not too worried about it. He looks fine to me.''

  • In case you were wondering, Mike Sweeney and Matt Tuiasosopo were the emergency catchers on Wednesday after Johjima left the game in the fourth inning.

    "Tui and Sweeney were catching off the machine -- but I told Sweeney they don't allow you to take the bucket out there,'' Wakamatsu said. "Sweeney said they were even. Tui's in Tacoma now, and they're still even, to me.''

  • Jarrod Washburn, who pitched six innings Wednesday despite having a bad case of the flu, was told to stay home today. I asked Wakamatsu if he considered scratching Washburn from his start yestereday.

    "He sounded that bad,'' he said. "That's why I gave him so much credit yesterday for being able to do that. But he said, 'No, I'm going to battle through it.' He's been wonderful.

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