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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 16, 2009 at 7:10 AM

Some All-Star leftovers (an Ichiro-free zone*)


*almost Ichiro-free.

That “Awwwww” picture of Felix Hernandez and his bambino during the Home Run Derby was taken by Mariners’ marketing whiz Gregg Greene, who can focus a camera better than I can. The piccture can be found at the Mariners Twitter account @TheRealMariners.

I have a few stray items in my notebook that I couldn’t squeeze into an article or blog post, so I decided to unload them all in one place.

  • You might have seen this story I wrote for today’s paper on Don Wakamatsu’s thoughts about the second-half of the season from an interview I did in the AL clubhouse prior to the All-Star Game.

    Here are some quotes from Wakamatsu I didn’t get into the story:

    On staying focused now that the team has the added pressure of being in contention: “We have to play the same game. That’s important, whether it’s a player having a good year trying to maintain it. As soon as they think about maintaining it…There’s several guys like that on our team, having career years. Our job as a staff is to remind them that’s the mental state they want to continue.

    “The rest is, can we stay healkthy. We’re thin at shortstop, obviously. We’re running a few guys out there at third base that we’ve had success with Woodward stepping in, Langerhans stepping in, it’s whether they continue to help out that’s going to be a key for us, and the pitching. We’ve had a phenomenal first half pitching wise. Everyone, knock on wood, is pretty healthy.

    On Brandon Morrow’s future: “The whole plan we talked about, we hafve three guys to choose from down there. Rowland-Smith is starting to throw the ball well; Vargas is down there throwing, and Morro’s down there. As we go forward, we’ll look at the matchup, and how the person is pitching at that time, and make the decision. With all those guys, what we told them was, go down tthere and continue to pitch. This gives them an opportunity to work on some things, or get a rest in Vargas’s case a little bit.

    On Erik Bedard: I think if he’s healthy, he can help us a lot. So far, we’ve been able to get his pitch count up. He’s back to normal now. Last game, he didn’t have a feel for his curve ball. As we go forward, I keep talking about the belief system – when you run Felix out there, when you run Washburn out there, Bedard out there, it gives everyone a chance to feel like we have chance to win ball games.”

    On fixing the dysfunctional clubhouse he inherited: “What I’m proud of, I’m proud we’ve been able to build that camaraderie in the clubhouse. And It’s not just one-dimensioinal. You talk about the United Nations in there. That’s even more difficult. And it’s even more difficult when certain players are losing playing time or don’t start as much. Yet we’ve been able to educate those guys on how important it is, if we want to win this thing, that they don’t pout. Everyone on this team has had an opportunity to play. No one’s really sat.

    On Ken Griffey’s role: :Grif is such an integral part of that. Just the effect he’s had on such a powerful player as ichiro. Just to watch the dynamic of those two guys during the course of a day brings a smile to everyone’s face. If you loosen up ichiro, he’s enjoying himself, it gives everyone else a chance to smile. Same thing, Mike Sweeney has had such a huge impact on Russ Branyan. He’s been such a great support system, especially for a guy that came in as a quasi-first baseman. He’s been so supportive of Russ.

    “I think if you judge success on whetther players want to play here and be a part of what wer’e doing, if you took a poll, a lot of guys would be saying that.”

  • I got a few quotes from All-Stars about Felix Hernandez that I was never able to use.

    From Orlando Hudson: “King Felix? King Felix, he’s dominant. He’s a guy that has a couple of Cy Youngs in his future. Definitely. Defintely. You can go ahead and mark that down. I enjoy facing him. I enjoy talking to him. He’s one of the dominant young pitchers in the game.

    “Everything stands out. Great fastball, good movement, good curveball. His composure on the mound. You’ve got the first group of pitchers with Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy. The older group. Then you have a younger group like Lincecum, Greinke, King Felix, the younger core. It’s like Pedro, Maddux and those guys when they started winning. Those guys were young then — same kind of thing.”

    From Adrian Gonzalez: “He’s always been a guy that has great stuff. He has the great fastball, great curveball, good changeup, good slider. I think this year, when we faced him, he wasn’t just trying to throw the ball by you. He was pitching a little. Using his sinker a little more, not just trying to throw the ball by you up in the zone. His sinkers were good, he was mixing it up. He’s growing as a pitcher. Everyone learns.

    “I think he’s a guy that can be one of the top pitchers in the league every year. I don’t know where his work ethic and that other stuff is, because I don’t play with him, but when we face him and he’s at the top of his game, he’s as good as anyone.”

    From Ryan Franklin: “The first time I saw him throw, I knew. I remember the first time in spring training he threw for us, and his hat fell off, and I hated it. Remember that? He had a big afro, and his hat fell off all the time. We got all over him for that. That didn’t mean anything. He was still nasty. Still to this day, I think he’s one of the top pitchers, top two or three, or one, in the game. He has thebest fastball, and that curve ball, it’s dirty. He’s good. Really good. I’ve never seen him throw anything straight. His ball is moving in, out. And he has a sick changeup.”

    From Francisco Rodriguez: When he broke in, he was, what,19, 20? You could see he had great stuff, electric stuff. Right now, he’s in the process of developing himself and becoming the ace of the staff. He has all the tools. It doesn’t surprise me at all because he showed that potential early in his career that he could be one of he best pitchers in the American League.”

  • Turns out that Justin Morneau is steamed that all MLB could come up with for the All-Star Game was a taped instrumental version of the Canadian National Anthem. I’ve got to admit, I thought the exact same thing when I heard it. It was pretty weak. Sheryl Crow did a nice version of the Star Spangled Banner. I’ll bet she would have sang “O Canada” too. Or, better yet, I’m sure any number of Canadian singers would have been delighted to do the honors.

  • Do you see those cool shoes Ichiro was wearing? (I said almost Ichiro-free). They were designed especially for him by the shoe company Asics. When someone asked him about his silver shoes, he corrected them.

    “Not silver. Platinum.”

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