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March 25, 2007 at 8:53 AM

Weaver pleads the “fifth”

If Jeff Weaver has any problems with being named the team’s No. 5 starter yesterday, he’s keeping them to himself.
“It doesn’t matter to me, not at all,” he told me this morning.
Weaver is scheduled to pitch six innings in a minor-league game today, and one thing he’ll be working on is throwing change-ups to left-handed hitters. That was something he began doing late last season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Lefties hit .340 with a .609 slugging percentage off Weaver last season, while righties hit only .267 with a .438 slugging percentage.
“I really would like to incorporate it into my pitching style,” Weaver said. “I never really did incorporate it into my style until the end of last season. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it’s going to be against left-handers this season. So, I want to keep that sharp.”
Landing first-pitch strikes will also be a key for Weaver, who is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA and four homers allowed in four outings this spring. His struggles down here are part of the reason he will open the season as the rotation’s No. 5 guy. Manager Mike Hargrove had been leaning toward using Horacio Ramirez in the fifth spot, but the struggles by Weaver gave him the excuse he needed to split up the rotation’s right handers by putting Ramirez at No. 4 and Weaver last.
Talked to Sean White this morning, and he’s really getting anxious awaiting word on what’s going to happen with him. White has pitched well enough to contend for a bullpen job, but his Rule 5 status will likely work against him. That means he could be headed back to the Atlanta Braves by week’s end.
A more likely scenario in the bullpen is that top pick Brandon Morrow will beat out Jon Huber for a mid- to late-innings setup job. Huber has struggled this spring, while Morrow has yet to give up a run over 7 1/3 innings. And unlike White, the Mariners could take a chance on Morrow in the early going and — if he falters — could ship him back to the minors and not have to use up a major-league roster spot on him all season as they would in White’s case. Sounds like a no-brainer.
Another young candidate for a bullpen job is Eric O’Flaherty, the left-hander who tossed another scoreless inning Saturday. He remains a viable option should the brief ressurgence of George Sherrill on Saturday not last beyond his next outing. Sherrill still has plenty to work on, since the Royals missed a few of the fastballs he left up in the strike zone in Saturday’s seventh inning. They were, after all, the Royals. It’s a safe bet guys like Vlad Guerrero, Mike Young and Mike Piazza won’t miss those pitches quite as often during the 19 games their respective teams will face Seattle.

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