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March 17, 2007 at 9:06 AM

Putz gets “good” news

All the information isn’t out yet, but an MRI taken on Mariners closer J.J. Putz revealed no structural damage. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said this morning that: “The news on J.J. is better than we’d hoped, so that’s good.”
Hargrove declined to elaborate further, pending the release of a statement by the team expected at some time before 10 a.m. Team medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan reviewed the MRI today and phoned the Mariners with the news. Putz still won’t be throwing for at least another day or two, given that red dye injected in the elbow — to make it more readable for the MRI — has to dissipate.
Putz won’t have much time to prepare for the season after that. But Hargrove was sounding very much like a man who expects his closer to be ready for opening day, especially when it came to discussing his so-called “Plan B” — in the past tense, as if it now won’t happen.
“We had options,” Hargrove said. “They weren’t as attractive as the main one, but they were options that we felt we could put to use.”
Are the Mariners out of the woods? Not until Putz gets out on a mound and throws without pain. Or, at least, little enough pain that he won’t be worried about continuing to go back out game after game after game. He isn’t there yet. But the news expected to be released by the team momentarily is still, as Hargrove put it, better than scenarios being imagined 24 hours ago. We’ll keep you updated.
It’s been obvious just watching the games down here that the Mariners wanted Jose Vidro to bat in the No. 3 spot. He’s hit in that position virtually all spring long — posting a .353 batting average and .412 on-base percentage in the process. That’s been a strong enough showing for Hargrove, who finally came out and said today that: “There’s a pretty good bet he’ll hit third” once the season begins.
No, Vidro is not displaying the power normally found in a No. 3 hitter. His .412 slugging percentage only got above .400 this spring because Royals left fielder Emil Brown lost his fly ball in the sun yesterday, resulting in a Vidro double. But this is more about making Adrian Beltre as comfortable as possible. For whatever reason, Beltre has found his comfort zone in the No. 2 spot — which would seem the natural place for a singles and doubles hitter like Vidro. And with Beltre now hitting .308 with a .357 OBP and .500 slugging percentage out of the two-hole, the M’s aren’t about to mess with it. Even if it means they go with a lineup that’s slightly non-traditional, to say the least.
So, here’s the lineup you’ll see on opening day, barring any injuries or prolonged slumps the final two weeks of camp.
Adrian Beltre
Jose Vidro
Raul Ibanez
Richie Sexson
Jose Guillen
Kenji Johjima
Jose Lopez
Yuniesky Betancourt
Obviously, not the lineup we envisioned a couple of weeks ago. Back then, we figured it would be:
In fact, Hargrove at the time had shrugged off suggestions Vidro or Guillen would be hitting high up. He told a Washington Post reporter at the time that both would be among the top six or seven hitters. What’s happened since? Simple. Vidro showed he hadn’t forgotten how to hit. Was there ever a doubt? Of course. That’s why the M’s had to make sure. So far, at least, he’s handled the bat well.
“He’s a professional hitter,” Hargrove said. “He’s a good, solid hitter.”
Argue away with the reasoning if you like, but that’s what has gone into the decision. We’ll see how it looks in April.



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