A look above at pre-game batting practice for the Mariners, quickly becoming a feature attraction here given all the hitting woes of late. Yes, that is George Sherrill taking notes in the black sweat top. Not that he needs many. Some quick news for you: Erik Bedard threw his second bullpen session this afternoon. Mariners manager John McLaren told me moments ago that Bedard is all clear to start on Saturday. Carlos Silva is feeling better as well. “Nothing’s going to put me out of my next start,” he said. “Nothing.”
Talked to Raul Ibanez about my theory that pitchers of late have been targetting the strike zone aggressively on Seattle’s hitters because they know the M’s are trying to draw walks — and that they won’t do all that much damage when they do swing. Ibanez says the team needs a strategy of “patience through aggression.”
In other words, no point sitting around waiting for the pitcher to throw strike one.
“I think, at some point, if it’s a good pitch, you’ve got to put a good swing on it,” he said. “I think sometimes, when you hit the ball hard early in the count, it forces them (pitchers) to be more fine.”
So far, not much swinging taking place. A lot of 0-1 counts that quickly become 0-2. You can bring in a big new power hitter if you’d like (really, really, you can), but unless the lineup in general gets going and makes pitchers pay for landing those early strikes, this stuff we’ve seen will continue. One guy isn’t going to make two thirds of a lineup better on his own. Sure, in a perfect world, it would be nice for every team to land a No. 1 and No. 3 starter and a 30-homer, .900 OPS guy all at the same time over the same winter. Doesn’t always work out that way. This team passed on a big bopper free agent and went for the bigger name pitchers. It cast its lot with what you see hitting-wise. You can call up some guys from Class AAA, but that only improves two out of the six trouble spots we’ve pinpointed. And by how much, for how long?
It’s almost as if this team got so good at drawing walks those first two weeks that it forgot about making contact on the hittable pitches. Now, the cycle has swung and is coming back to bite the M’s. As Ibanez said, it’s time to make some adjustments and — more importantly — solid contact on the hittable pitches.
McLaren figures much the same thing.
“The one pitch you might get might be the first pitch,” McLaren said. “If you take that pitch and fall beind 0-1 it might be the best pitch you get.”
Sounds so simple to fix, doesn’t it? Not quite that easy when a guy has good stuff and is throwing that first pitch. But better to swing at a 95 mph fastball sometimes than a change-up that’s 20 mph slower and is what’s coming at you on pitch No. 2.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Ichiro Bobblehead night goes tomorrow and none too soon with attendance on this cold homestand sinking like a Mariners batting average. They’ll give them away to the first 25,000 fans at tomorrow’s game. In the photo above, you can see this year’s entire bobblehead lineup, some of which might be inserted in the team’s real lineup in-place of breathing humans if things don’t improve. You can read the names on the bases, so I won’t repeat them here. Each Mariners “icon” has a backdrop with two Seattle icons — clever marketing gimmick there. Ichiro’s dual icons are the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center arches.
Anyhow, here are tonight’s lineups. Brad Wilkerson ran in the pool today but is still out and listed as day-to-day with that tight hamstring.
1 Brian Roberts 2B
6 Melvin Mora 3B
21 Nick Markakis RF
15 Kevin Millar 1B
17 Aubrey Huff DH
16 Jay Payton LF
55 Ramon Hernandez C
10 Adam Jones CF
12 Brandon Fahey SS
29 Adam Loewen LHP
51 Ichiro CF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
3 Jose Vidro DH
44 Richie Sexson 1B
2 Kenji Johjima C
16 Willie Bloomquist RF
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
56 Jarrod Washburn LHP