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July 3, 2007 at 3:06 PM

Mariners vs. Royals, Game 2

Not a good week so far for ex-Cleveland Indians or natives of Cleveland in the Mariners entourage. Let’s see, there was Mike Hargrove’s resignation, Richie Sexson getting hurt, Ryan Feierabend giving up 10 runs in just 1 1/3 innings here tonight before getting pulled. Jason Davis (another ex-Indian) just yielded a double over Ichiro’s head to the first batter he faced, Jason LaRue. Then, he balks LaRue to third base. I’ll tell you what, Ben Broussard had better stay as far away from the field as he can.
So, it’s a 10-1 game after two innings. Maybe Ervin Santana is losing again on the road for the Angels? Anyone want to check? I’ll get serious in a bit. Hard to take this game very seriously.
EARLY WORD ON JOHJIMA: Contusion of the first metacarpal on his right hand. That’s a bruise on the lower finger knuckle, for those of you who are interested. He’s day-to-day, but don’t expect him back tomorrow.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, Ryan Feierabend hits three things with one pitch here in the second. The opposing hitter and Kenji Johjima’s wrist and facemask. The wrist part was the worst and Johjima is now off for X-rays, I’m certain, while Jamie Burke is in the game. It’s a 6-1 game as the M’s did get a run in the top of the second. But gee, the post-Mike Hargrove era is off to a rocky start. Jason Davis now warming in the bullpen, mainly because Feierabend can’t get anyone out tonight. Only pitch working for him seems to be his pickoff move. He’ll have plenty of chances to practice that the way he’s going.
Hmm, just walked Emil Brown to load the bases. Rafael Chaves is heading out to the mound. Maybe he’s telling him he’s not supposed to be walking Brown tonight. Or maybe they’re telling Feierabend not to try to get Alex Gordon to chase. Maybe they’re telling him Cha Seung Baek isn’t really hurt. Or maybe it’s a group prayer on the mound. Any of the above couldn’t hurt.
The good news is, the Mariners will have eight innings of offense to try to make up this 6-0 deficit after the first. Not sure what else to say. Remember all those fly balls off Ryan Feierabend that died in the Safeco Field sky last week? Well, they aren’t dying here. Maybe it’s the humid air (we talked about that at spring training and I’ve now got it right. Humidity carries baseballs). It’s darned humid here, was very dry at Safeco last week. Goodbye baseball. Make that baseballs. First back-to-back blasts by the Royals since last September. Doesn’t that make you all feel better. Remember when we talked about how the M’s had to bounce back tonight? Not happening yet. Impossible to do it when a starter is getting rocked like Feierabend did in the first inning. Two of the outs were on decent fly balls as well. 10 batters to the plate, six hits, two homers. Yeesh!
Well, at least a Seattle pitcher finally got the message to walk Emil Brown. Too bad it was Feierabend with the bases loaded in this game, not Brandon Morrow with first base open in last night’s 11th. Sorry, I just write off the top of my head. A little dark humor for what’s been a very dark game for the M’s so far.
Trainer Rick Griffin seems to be working on Feierabend in the dugout. Going for his legs, so we know it’s not whiplash. OK, OK, I’ll stop.
We get our first glimpse at the John McLaren era in tonight’s lineup as Jose Vidro moves to first base in the wake of Richie Sexson’s thumb injury. There’s a lefty on the mound for the Royals, so Ben Broussard takes a seat and Vidro — yes Vidro — goes to first. He played the position for three weeks with Washington last year and took ground balls at that spot before the recent spate of interleague games.
Nobody approached Vidro with the idea beforehand. He said they don’t have to. It’s his job to be ready.
“The toughest thing will be getting used to the way those (infielder) guys throw,” Vidro said.
Raul Ibanez will be the DH. Willie Bloomquist plays in left field. Should be an interesting night.
So, a few of you asked me whether Ichiro will participate in the All-Star home run derby. I went and asked him that very question this afternoon and was told no. He says left (oops, I meant right) field in San Francisco is too tough a place for a lefty to hit home runs. Doesn’t seem to bother Barry Bonds, but hey, it’s Ichiro’s decision. Ichiro further says, through interpreter Anthony Suzuki, that the only place he’d participate in the derby is in Seattle. He wants to respect the home run hitters in the game and doesn’t feel he qualifies as one. Hear his entire response on this audio file with Suzuki doing the translating.
I asked pitching coach Rafael Chaves about last night’s miscommunication in the 11th inning. Chaves agreed that not a good enough job was done of communicating McLaren’s intended strategy to catcher Kenji Johjima and pitcher Brandon Morrow. Since the M’s had already made a mound visit to Morrow, they couldn’t make a second one to tell the pitcher directly not to give Emil Brown anything to hit.
“The situation last night was a little bit complicated because we had already made one trip,” Chaves said. “We had no choice but to do what we could from the dugout.”
The strategy was relayed to Johjima via a bench signal that essentially told him to play it smart (a pointing gesture to the head) and to walk the batter if needed (a pointing gesture to first base). Obviously, the catcher failed to grasp the importance of the strategy when he allowed Morrow to shake him off and throw a fastball instead of a splitter to Brown. Instead of giving him unhittable pitches to chase, Morrow saw the fastball driven to center for a game-winning sacrifice fly.
Chaves said the team has to improve its communication so a similar situation doesn’t arise. He and McLaren chatted with Johjima in the coaches’ room a half-hour ago. Here’s the full Chaves interview on audio.
Just got back upstairs from our pre-game chat with McLaren and he confirmed what Chaves said. McLaren added some more interesting detail about a post-game chat he had with Morrow. It turns out that Morrow did see the dugout signals and the finger-point sign to first base. But Morrow thought McLaren was merely pointing over to tell him Willie Bloomquist was the new first baseman.
Morrow told McLaren he’d never pitched around a hitter in his life and didn’t know that’s what he was being told to do.
“There’s no fault to Brandon Morrow whatsoever,” McLaren said. “So, I’ll take this one.”
My take? If a strategy is that critical, it’s probably best not to use it if you don’t have the means of getting the message across. Better to walk Brown, load the bases and take your chances with the lefty pitcher facing lefty hitter Alex Gordon.
The lineups:
CF David DeJesus
2B Esteban German
RF Mark Teahen
LF Emil Brown
3B Alex Gordon
DH Billy Butler
C Jason LaRue
1B Ross Gload
SS Tony Pena
LHP Jorge De La Rosa
CF Ichiro
1B Jose Vidro
DH Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
C Kenji Johjima
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
LF Willie Bloomquist
LHP Ryan Feierabend
HP Chris Guccione
1B Tim Timmons
2B Chuck Meriweather
3B Alfonso Marquez



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