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May 7, 2007 at 4:08 PM

Big lineup change

The other shoe finally dropped with this quirky batting order the Mariners have been using. Manager Mike Hargrove is obviously a little distressed with the lack of on-base percentage generated by the top of the order. You can’t bench Ichiro. I know some of you want that, but you just can’t. He hasn’t been terrible, just very un-Ichiro-like and it’s hurting the team. There really isn’t anything better you can install at the top of the order right now, so Hargrove is making the one move begging to be done. He has dropped ineffective Adrian Beltre from the No. 2 spot and put his best contact hitter in that role — Jose Vidro.
Beltre gets bumped all the way back to No. 7 in the order and RBI man Kenji Johjima moves up to No. 3. The logic is simple: get guys on-base for Johjima or Raul Ibanez to drive in. All of Vidro’s base-hits have gone for naught so far because they aren’t getting anyone home. Move him up to the No. 2 spot and at least his .363 on-base percentage gets him aboard for someone to knock him in. Beltre’s OBP is .310, mirroring that of the team. It simply is not enough for somebody batting that high in the order.
“I don’t know that I’ve lost patience with anybody,” Hargrove said. “It just so happened that I wanted to move Johjima to the three-spot to see if we couldn’t generate something.”
Johjima told me he saw no difference between hitting high in the order and lower down. He says he’s a fastball hitter who sits on that pitch — a must, given how he crowds the plate — and is competent at hitting the curve. Throw him a high curveball, he said, and he’ll hit that as well, even as he sits on the fastball. It’s not like he’s a raw tookie. He handled this role in Japan. We’ll see how it works. Not much could have gone worse than what Hargrove saw out of his team yesterday. You can blame Saturday’s debacle on a very good Yankees pitcher. But Sunday? I don’t think so. As I mentioned earlier, the upcoming games for this club will be very telling. The team seems to know that as well. It held a closed-door meeting here the moment the late bus arrived at the ballpark this afternoon. The time for messing around is apparently over.
Both teams scored first inning runs. The Mariners saw Ichiro lead off with a double — very good news for them — and Vidro moved him over to third with a groundout to the right side. Yes, that’s what the team needed in that situation. Johjima failed to come through in his first RBI chance at No. 3, popping out to shallow right, but Ibanez did get the RBI with a single to left.
Unfortunately, Miguel Batista gave the lead right back by allowing consecutive singles to start the inning, then failing to turn a double-play on a comebacker to him and allowing the runner from third to score. I don’t like this pitcher-hitter matchup for the Mariners. Batista throws a lot of early pitches and the Yanks are a patient club. If he pitches-to-contact and misses his targets, this opponent will hit the ball a long way. We’ll see what happens. The lineups:
CF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Jason Giambi
LF Hideki Matsui
C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano
1B Doug Mienkiewicz
RHP Matt DiSalvo
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
C Kenji Johjima
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
RF Jose Guillen
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
RHP Miguel Batista



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