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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

February 23, 2007 at 8:39 AM

Icing on Mariners’ cake?

It’s cool and a little rainy here today, so the Mariners are reversing their schedule and going straight into pitchers’ practice. After that, if you can contain your excitement, they will be working on catching infield pop-ups. But don’t expect any clowning around by the players. Stuff like this is being taken extra seriously by the Mariners this spring. We’ve already seen them placing heavy emphasis on positioning during rundowns, setting up by catchers and a whole lot of other finer stuff that goes on in a game. The emphasis being, this team cannot afford to give away victories and these little things must be taken seriously.
Manager Mike Hargrove confirmed as much for us this morning. Despite all of the denials that anything is different heading into his “Hot Seat” season, Hargrove clearly is placing greater urgency on the coming campaign. He says this team is ready to make a run at the AL West title, pundits be damned, and that the coaching staff is stressing increased focus by players this spring. He is being less tolerant of small mistakes. Less willing to forgive mental lapses as the price of youth. Hargrove compared the team to a cake that has been baking the past few years.
“If you’re baking a cake, it’s going to take the time it takes to bake,” he said. “I think we’ve reached the point here now where we’re at the end of that process.”
In other words, it’s time to see the final product. If the Mariners stumble out of the gate and towards another last place finish, Hargrove is well aware that cake won’t be the only thing getting burned.
OK, enough of that for now. Let’s give you a Mark Lowe update. The team is keeping mum about Lowe’s preliminary test results for now, but the pitcher told me just before heading out on the field that the only thing that’s been found in his elbow so far is a small amount of scar tissue.
No loose bodies, or bone fragments. That’s a good thing. The reason the team is keeping everything so secretive is that the preliminary MRI results are being cross-referenced with the opinion of a second specialist just to be sure nothing further is wrong. As for the scar tissue itself, it’s a fact of post-surgical life, but that can be problematic in terms of allowing a pitcher to recover. In Lowe’s case, the scar tissue is keeping him from fully extending his elbow. He will have to learn to deal with the pain, since it will ultimately keep breaking and forming as he pitches. There are things that can be done to reduce scar tissue, like more arthroscopic surgery, but that call has yet to be made.
A few of you have written to ask whether I’m burned out after a week of spring training. Seems some of you didn’t appreciate that I thought Ichiro’s comments constituted “real news” as opposed to the everyday baseball goings-on down here. Rest assured, nothing could be futher from the truth. It’s great to be down at spring training, my ninth one as a baseball writer. Thing is, I’m just trying to tell you what’s what down here without getting overly heavy on the stuff that means nothing.
You can’t tell how Felix Hernandez is going to pitch in the first month of the season based on his first week of bullpen sessions here. Sure, it’s great news that he looks sharp. Better than having his elbow implode or something. But that’s about all you can read into it. This time of year, the name of the game is making sure everybody is in shape, nobody is hurt, and trying to drill some fundamental messages into their heads. That’s it, that’s all.
So, that’s what I meant by “real news” in reference to Ichiro. For me, real news is also our story today about Juan Sandoval — attempting a pro baseball comeback with only one eye. Now, I’ve heard of guys taking a liner off the face and trying to come back with only partial vision in an eye. But Sandoval was shot. He is completely blind in his right eye and out there on the field everyday to the point where no one here can tell him apart from anyone else.
That is the stuff that inspires any writer to be at spring training. It’s the kind of tale that keeps me pumped, that enabled me to run four miles the other night with seemingly no effort as I plotted out his story in my head. That is “real news” and there is plenty of it down here. Over the course of the next five weeks, we’ll try to bring you more. It’s all about perspective, folks. That’s all I was trying to say earlier. Have fun chewing on Hargrove’s latest comments like I know you all did yesterday (judging from my email count). I’m off to watch the pitchers work on hitting the catcher’s gloves.



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