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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

February 21, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Situational hitting

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That phrase is more like a four-letter word in this organization rather than two words totalling 18 letters. At least, it has been. The Mariners say they want to change that, to make their players better at moving runners over and doing the little things right when it matters. We talked yesterday about how manager Don Wakamatsu wants to introudce new drills designed to better simulate game situations. Well, we saw some of that this morning.
Using a pitching machine, which can gun balls in there a lot faster than batting practice pitchers, the M’s sent hitters up to the plate one-by-one, gave them a situation, and let them do what they were supposed to. In some situations, there was a runner on first that had to be moved over. Or two on, with nobody out. Players only got one pitch to get things right. If they failed, some were asked to do it over again. Some players got bunts down. Some hit the ball to the right side to move a pair of runners into scoring position. Some hit the sac fly with a runner on third.
And some just plain swung away and missed. Have a look at our video down below. Keep an eye out towards the end for veteran first baseman Mike Sweeney (#5). See how he interacts with his teammates — even speaking in Spanish to some.

By the way, for those wondering who would be taken off the 40-man roster to make room for Ken Griffey Jr., the odd man out is outfielder Michael Wilson, who was put on release waivers this morning. Teams can put in a claim on Wilson for 72 hours. If he goes unclaimed, he’s a minor league free-agent and could re-sign with the M’s or any other team. The reason he had to be released and not outrighted is because he was added to the 40-man roster after Aug. 15. When that happens, you have to release the player upon taking him off. Players put on before this deadline can simply be outrighted to the minors and are still owned by the team if unclaimed off waivers.
Some more news: Russell Branyan is taking another day off with that stiff back. Relief pitcher Tyler Walker, one of the candidates for the closer spot, has been shut down for one day, having what manager Wakamatsu described as “a little pull in his quad” earlier today.
Yuniesky Betancourt, nursing a sore hamstring, took batting practice moments ago inside Peoria Stadium, where FanFest is underway.
Lefties Tyler Johnson and Cesar Jimenez are getting closer to throwing bullpen sessions, but are still just playing catch for now as they battle back from arm soreness.
And then there’s the Wladimir Balentien saga. Wakamatsu said the team is hoping he’ll be up here by Tuesday or Wednesday. He apparently has a meeting with the U.S. consulate next week to resolve what Wakamatsu described as “a minor issue” that has prevented him from being allowed into the country. No idea what it is yet. We’ll try to find out.
The Griffey countdown is on, with the press conference due to begin at 12:30 p.m.



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