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March 8, 2009 at 10:28 AM

WBC, Brandon Morrow, and more!

Don Wakamatsu is trying as best he can to monitor his far-flung players in the World Baseball Classic. He said that he watched a DVD of Japan’s games provided by the Mariners’ video wizard, Karl Hamilton, playing particular attention to Kenji Johjima’s catching. When Johjima made his brief appearance in Peoria before Mariners’ camp opening, Wakamatsu had critiqued his receiving, offering observations on mechanical issues.
Wakamatsu was obviously pleased with the pitching of Carlos Silva and Felix Hernandez, who each worked four shutout innings in Venezuela’s 7-0 win over Italy. Hernandez was particularly sharp, allowing just one hit and striking out four in relief of Silva.
Here’s some post-game quotes from Felix, helpfully provided by Mariners’ P.R. man Jeff Evans via MLB’s transcripts:
Q. Felix, during the game you were
mixing up the pitches, a lot of sinkers, split
fingers, fastballs. Let’s talk about your whole
mix of pitching. Which one did you feel the
most at ease? Which one do you think was key
to dominate the way that you did?
FELIX HERNANDEZ: Today was one of
the days where you say, Wow, everything’s under
control. That was one. Today was one of those
days where the sinker was good. I think that the
change-ups, I think I was in the zone at that time.
And I thought that all the pitches were quite good.
Q. How do you compare throwing for
Venezuela with the major leagues?
FELIX HERNANDEZ: It’s very different.
The major leagues, it’s very different. But there’s
good things. But throwing with Venezuela is really
a special feeling. Today was a very difficult
experience coming out of the bullpen, but it’s
process, and since we’re professionals here, I
managed to make the adjustment.
Q. Felix, it’s responsibility that usually
you don’t have in the major leagues. You’re
usually the opening pitcher, and this time you
are relief. But in the whole format of this World
Baseball Classic, it’s very different, this format.
So you assume that — we can see now that the
experience that you have, and now you
unfortunately don’t have the responsibility any
more of being the opening pitcher. But I think
that’s — do you think this may be the work that
you could do in the opening rounds?
FELIX HERNANDEZ: Yeah, it was a little
bit difficult, because it’s the first time I’ve come out
of a bullpen in the middle of a game. But I’m
professional, I know how to make the adjustments,
and I’m pro. And I tried to make the best of it. I
tried to throw three strikes. That’s what you have
to do as a pitcher.
And when I have Venezuela’s uniform on, I
think it’s incredible. It’s an incredible emotion.
Another pitcher who made his mark was Canada’s Phillippe Aumont, who worked himself into, and out of, a bases-loaded, no-out jam against Team USA. He got a line out from David Wright, then struck out Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson.
Wakamatsu admitted that the Mariners are trusting in the WBC managers to monitor the workload of their pitchers.
“We don’t have much control, obviously,” he said. “There’s sanctioning and rules (regarding how much pitchers can be used). We’re putting more trust in that than anything, and that to the best of our ability, they were where they should be when they went in.”
As for Morrow, he’s back from a bout with the flu, and still on schedule for a bullpen session on Tuesday to test his sore forearm. If that goes well, Morrow will start next Friday against the Cubs in Mesa.
Wakamatsu noted that Morrow, a diabetic, needs some special attention because of the disease. Even something like the flu can hit him harder than the average player. The team apparently is leaning toward having him at the back end of their rotation to better monitor his useage.
“Those are all concerns we talked about when we chose what was best for him, close or start,” he said. “If we can manage his weight, manage his recovery time being a starter, we might be able to maximize that. We’re going down that road right now. Our biggest concern right now is where he’s going to be opening the season. This is a little bit of a setback. We’ll see with the elbow, The reports seem to be pretty good. We’ll keep moving along with that.
“With the diabetic issue, those are always concerns. Where do we slot him in the rotation? We’re leaning a little more deeper, to try to manage the innings during the course of the year.”
Wakamatsu had kind words to say about right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez, acquired by interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas last July when he traded Arthur Rhodes to Florida.
“Watching him pitch, his body, his build, the four pitches, leads to some promise this guy could be a major-league starter that could eat up some innings,” Wakamatsu said. “A lot of this is in their hands, their belief system, but he showed us yesterday he has the abilty.”
Hernandez pitched against the Dodgers on Saturday.
Finally, a great quote from Wakamatsu when asked about the Mariners’ adherence to the spring-training rule requiring four starters to play in each Cactus League game. The M’s have been pushing that to the limit, although it’s extra tough with Jose Lopez, Ichiro and Johjima all off at the WBC.
“Starters — they never clarified what level,” he said.

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