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March 27, 2007 at 4:38 PM

Giants 9, Mariners 8, final score

This one ended far better than it began for the Mariners fans among the 8,011 at Peoria Stadium. Seattle trailed 9-2 in the eighth before scoring a run that frame and then five more in the ninth. They had the bases loaded with two out before Adam Jones smoked a ball right into the third baseman’s glove. The game was going to end either way on that play, but the glove was there and the Mariners wound up losing instead of winning.
Anyhow, when the game mattered, with the regulars still playing, they got positively jackhammered. I’m a bit amazed at the extent of all the hand-wringing taking place in cyberland over the whole Brandon Morrow deal. My private inbox is getting flooded with queries about why the Mariners would consider taking him north with just one game of Class A experience. The comments are also lively with chatter as are other websites I regularly check. There are all kinds of theories floating around for why Seattle would fast-track a promising young starter into a relief role so quickly. For me, the most obvious reason can be found in what transpired for the Mariners today, on a day when Morrow didn’t even pitch.
Let’s see:
J.J. Putz threw to minor-league hitters, the first live batters he’s faced in over three weeks. He gave up a run. A chintzy run, but a run.
George Sherrill gave up a leadoff single, but got out of the inning on a double-play ball. That’s two straight games with no runs allowed for Sherrill.
Chris Reitsma walked two more batters and gave up two runs. That’s the second straight outing he’s been scored on. The coaching staff thought at one point he might be favoring his elbow, but decided he wasn’t after a mound visit.
Eric O’Flaherty looked like a Jack O’ Lantern on Monday night the way the Rangers lit him up.
Jon Huber has a 10.00 ERA.
Julio Mateo has looked good this spring, but what is it about this bullpen that has so many of you brimming with confidence? What about this pen has you convinced the Mariners should not bring a 97-mph flamethrower north for a couple of weeks?
Morrow has been getting hitters out. He brings heat. That’s what you need in your bullpen in the late innings. The Mariners can’t say for certain that they’ll have that element, to the point where it works effectively, in the early part of the schedule. They can try, but they’d be lying. Do you think anyone wants J.J. Putz out there protecting a one-run lead in the ninth next Tuesday? Or that the management of this team feels confident that Reitsma and Sherrill could carry a couple of innings for Felix Hernandez if he leaves with a 2-1 or 3-1 lead after six? You do? Well then, you really haven’t been paying attention.
Only reason Morrow heads north now is because this team needs him. He is the only reliever, besides Mateo and Arthur Rhodes, to have gotten hitters out consistently all spring. Morrow brings better late-game heat than Reitsma and with Putz still on-the-mend, the closer’s velocity isn’t what it will be a little later.
The way I see it, the Mariners can’t afford to get buried in April. Let too many late games slip away now, against division foes, and there might not be any catching up later. Yes, there are jobs at stake in the front office and the dugout. Yes, there are folks who need to win now and not next year. But I’m not one of those who thinks a couple of weeks in the bullpen is going to set Morrow back years.
As I mentioned last week, in the case of Kelvim Escobar, he was called up as a closer, then groomed to be a starter after that. The Toronto team I covered, more recently, did the same thing with Dustin McGowan, only later in the season. No, the cases aren’t entirely the same. But I just don’t see what’s going to stop Morrow from making the rotation next spring if he’s kept up in the big leagues for a few weeks of short relief. This isn’t some “reward” to make him feel good. This team needs Morrow’s arm or it will lose games. Morrow is a piece on the farm, and right now the owner of that farm needs the piece. It isn’t all that complicated. He’s not a breakable China doll. And this isn’t Little League. It’s professional baseball. Yes, there is a duty to coddle the future. But that isn’t always compatible with the present-day need to win. And in pro sports, winning always matters. It isn’t easy to cast that aside. You can’t simply write off an entire season because of theories about needing to coddle arms. The Mariners need late-inning help. If Morrow gives it to them while the bullpen rights itself, I’m sure they will be willing to live with the consequences and the minute chance something truly awful will befall Morrow. What’s the alternative? Do you really want Ben Broussard dealt for Armando Benitez? Me neither.
We’ll talk about the Soriano trade another day.
This is for “Kyle” in the comments thread below. Kyle, no one is being sarcastic. As I said, it truly isn’t easy to do what Sexson has done: notch eight RBI with just eight hits when only one is for extra bases. You made the point for me through your own research. You say that Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon have combined for 26 hits and only seven RBI between them. That’s one fewer RBI than Sexson with 18 more hits. I rest my case.
Look, if I can’t be a little humorous about Sexson, a guy being paid $14 million a season to hit home runs and doubles, having just one extra-base hit all spring, when can I be? Do you realize there is only one Cactus League game left down here where the regulars will all be playing? Jeter and Damon? I’ll count their World Series rings and take my chances.
As for Morrow, you don’t have to agree with my conclusions. Argue away. Nobody’s saying all the reservists should make the team because of spring numbers. Only that the team’s braintrust would feel a lot more secure if it didn’t have to rely on so many guys to “flip a switch” come April 2. Yes, Sherrill has done this in previous springs and rebounded. That’s why he still has a job (we think) and Jon Huber likely won’t in a few days. That doesn’t mean Bill Bavasi and Mike Hargrove are sleeping comfortably.
This is for “Surprised” in the comments thread. Yes, you got me. No argument that White has had a fantastic spring. I wrote as much right here last Thursday. I guess my point remains the same, that the guys the Mariners can afford to bring north are the ones I’ve mentioned and that only Mateo, Rhodes and Morrow are getting the job done consistently. I’ve spoken plenty with White down here and would love to see him head north. I just don’t think it’s going to happen because of the Rule 5 issue. But you’re right, he deserves to be up there in the names of top bullpen performers. My mistake in omitting him.



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