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March 18, 2009 at 9:53 PM

Betancourt on thin ice

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Yuniesky Betancourt came through with a home run and an RBI triple in tonight’s 9-3 win by the Mariners over the Kansas City Royals. But the coaching staff is getting about as impatient with him as he’s looked at the plate. Until now, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu has given Betancourt the benefit of the doubt because of a hamstring injury that gave the shortstop a late start to spring training. But Betancourt looked fine running out that triple, and Wakamatsu said it’s now time for him to start getting with the program, taking pitches and doing the little things needed to move runners over.
Betancourt saw just six pitches tonight in his four at-bats. He popped out on one of them, hit into a double-play on another — helping short circuit what could have been a huge Seattle scoring rally.
Wakamatsu said that unless he sees a change in Betancourt’s approach, he won’t be put in the No. 2 spot in the order. When reporters pressed Wakamatsu as to whether that was all Betancourt had to fear for, the manager stated the obvious: that he won’t allow this to continue.
“I think it comes down to production,” Wakamatsu said. “And if he doesn’t produce, then we’ll look to go in a different direction.”
Now, that sounds ominous, but there’s a whole lot that would have to happen first before Betancourt loses his everyday job. Wakamatsu qualified his answer by pointing out that Betancourt hasdn’t had all that many at-bats yet. He wants to give him a shot at implementing some of the things that hitting coach Alan Cockrell has been working on with him.
Hear all that Wakamatsu said on the subject right here.
Seriously, listen to it all because it puts everything in the proper context. But you can tell Betancourt’s free-swinging ways are starting to irk folks.
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“There was a situation that he hit into the double play with nobody out,” he said. “The first thing we did is we went down and had Ronny (Cedeno) talk to him a bit about it. Because Ronny laid down another nice bunt. He’s got to have other weapons, especially if he has a desire to hit in the two-hole, and that’s what we’re talking about.
“It’s nice when he’s hitting a home run and a triple down the other line but there’s more to this game.”
Wakamatsu was asked whether he’s had situations before where guys were free-swingers and the team just allowed them to keep doing it because it was in their nature.
“But you look at those guys and I think the majority of those guys are higher on-base percentage guys,” he said. “Again, is he having productive outs? I think that’s the key that you’re going to look at. And whether he’s moving runners or has the ability to hit and run on certain guys. Those are the things that are more important to me. And if we can’t change, or can’t get him to see more than four pitches per game then we’ll look at productive outs in certain situations.”
Wakamatsu, as you saw, praised infielder Cedeno for the very nice bunt he got down for an infield hit to really get a two-run Seattle rally going. “It ignites the offense a little bit,” he said. “It’s fun to watch.”
Those are the things he wants to see from Betancourt.
“It’s going to be a concern if we can’t get him to start doing some of those things over the next two weeks,” Wakamatsu said.
Jarrod Washburn had a solid outing, going 5 2/3 innings and giving up two runs. Mike Wilson hit a pair of homers for Seattle.
Wakamatsu felt that David Aardsma, who gave up a double, looked sharp, while Miguel Batista, who went 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run on three hits, had a “flat” fastball. Batista still has yet to establish himself as any type of frontrunner for the closer’s job. No one really has to-date, though Aardsma continues to make a case.

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