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March 1, 2009 at 8:57 AM

Fish out of water arrives — so does Balentien

Well, as Geoff Baker wrote last night, he’s taking a few days off, leaving the Mariner beat in my fairly unsteady hands. I’ve been covering primarily UW football and basketball since August, so if I misuse the phrase “dribbler” or something, you’ll have to excuse me.
Though it’s not as if I’ve never done this. I actually covered spring training for the old Bellevue Journal-American in 1996 in the heady aftermath of the great run of the previous fall — a fun time to be here. Not that I recognize a whole lot. This place has grown since then about as much as my 401K has shrunk.
So I’ll do the best I can to fill in for a few days until other reinforcements arrive, though I won’t be quite the multi-media presence of Baker — not sure Oprah has as much reach.
Anyway, also arriving this morning was outfielder Wladimir Balentien, who finally got past problems with his visa in making his way from his current home in Venezuela— as former Dodger Mickey Hatcher always said, why didn’t he just try an Ameriican Express?
I missed Balentien’s explanation this morning trying to find my way into this place so I’m not sure exactly what he said.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said he didn’t know what had kept Balentien away all that time, either, saying the two had yet to talk.
Wakamatsu said Balentien will workout today, doing some of the regular conditioning stuff the others did two weeks ago, and likely won’t see action for four or five days.
As for how the delay will impact Balentien’s progress, Wakamatsu said “I don’t think we will know until the end how he plays, what kind of shape he comes in. It’s too early to tell.”
— Wakamatsu said Mike Morse is back after missing a few days with the flu — losing nine pounds in the process — but also won’t play until at least tomorrow.
— As widely reported earlier, four players departed today for the World Baseball Classic — Carlos Silva, Jose Lopez, Endy Chavez and Greg Halman. But staying around for two more days is Felix Hernandez, whose wife gave birth two days ago and didn’t want to leave just yet. Wakamatsu said he will likely pitch an inning tomorrow against the White Sox.
— Wakamatsu said the loss of the players could allow the Mariners to get a longer look at the likes of Ronny Cedeno and Reegie Corona in the infield.
— Asked if he will be able to keep in contact much with the WBC players, Wakamatsu sid Ichiro has texted him a few times. Asked what’s in the texts, the manager noted that Ichiro called him “Wilbur,” which is his real first name. “I said only my close friends call me Wilbur, you must be close,” Wakamatsu said.
Ken Griffey Jr., remains on pace to see his first action Wednesday in a game against Australia.
Mike Sweeney is progressing as hoped and could be ready to see his first action by the end of the week, Wakamatsu said.
— Here’s the starting lineup for today’s noon game against the Rangers:
Franklin Gutirrez, CF
Cedeno, SS
Russell Branyan, DH
Chris Shelton, 1B
Bryan LaHair, LF
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B
Jamie Burke, C
Prentice Redman, RF
Chris Woodward, 2B
Brandon Morrrow, P

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