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March 21, 2009 at 5:04 PM

M’s relievers shine in win

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: 5:39 p.m.: M’s manager Don Wakamatsu has clarified his earlier comments about Brandon Morrow, saying he was talking about the starter pitching out of the bullpen in spring training as he builds up arm strength, not doing so once the season begins. Wakamatsu says he misunderstood an initial question by an AP reporter and follow-ups from me about the subject of Morrow starting in the bullpen once the season opens. In fact, one of my questions was prefaced by the words: “If Morrow was to start the year in the bullpen…”
Presumably, Wakamatsu’s leaning towards sending Morrow to the minors if he’s not ready for the M’s rotation, which is what we’d mostly figured before his rather surprising — and newsworthy, judging by your reactions — comments this morning. Anyhow, we work hard to bring you the news when it happens and provide the context that you’ve all come to expect from this space via direct audio when possible. It’s not a journalist’s job to tell interview subjects how to answer a question (the team has enough good PR people for that), or wait to see whether they’re happy with how something might look in print before running with it. That’s for the team and its employees to worry about — very different from the media’s job. We asked what we thought were straightforward questions, he answered and those of us asking the questions gave you what was very clearly news soon after, without making you wait all day.
But Wakamatsu now says he misunderstood the first question, so we’ll give him that. Everyone makes mistakes. Anyhow, in the interest of context and clearing up questions you may have, we’ll again allow you to hear the entire exchange right here on this clip. Hope that helps.…on to the post-game post…
Anthony Recker of the Oakland A’s stares at a called third strike from Mariners pitcher Sean White (in the photo above) that ended today’s contest. The Mariners hang on for an 8-5 win in a game where the bullpen actually played a more prominent role than the final score might indicate.
Miguel Batista came on with the bases loaded in the third inning, his team ahead by two, and got a fielder’s choice groundout from slugger Jack Hannahan. Three groundouts later, Batista was through the fourth inning. Roy Corcoran, pitching for the first time since March 12, looked a little rusty command-wise, but also worked a 1-2-3 frame in the fifth, getting two flyouts to center and a groundout.
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Shawn Kelley tossed a 1-2-3 sixth. The only problems came when some guys who likely won’t factor into the major league bullpen, Luis Munoz and Jesus Delgado, gave up some runs in the seventh and eighth after the M’s had taken control of the contest.
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Afterwards, I asked Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu about Batista. It’s been a while since the team has had anything real good to report about him.
“I think he attacked the zone a little bit better,” Wakamatsu said. “It kind of went back and forth. But for me, just kind of being able to come in and throw more strikes, I guess.”
I asked whether some of Batista’s difficulties this spring were more an issue of “stuff” or how he goes about pitching to certain hitters. That’s important because Batista is into his late-30s and whether he makes this team — not a guarantee just yet — or not could depend on whether the coaching staff feels he has something left in the tank.
“Both,” Wakamatsu said. “I think trusting his stuff a little bit more. I think he gets too creative sometimes. But again, being able to put him in situations like that and him getting out of it, it’s a boost for him and a boost for us that he can do those things.”
On to Ken Griffey Jr.’s defense. I asked Wakamatsu what he thought of it in the first two innings when three balls of varying difficulty were blooped down the line for a single, double and triple.
“I think he’s still getting acclimated out there,” he said. “I thought he moved well to his left. I thought going down the line was a little different for him. He was a little cautious on the carom, the ball kicking around in the corner.”
Wakamatsu felt the sun was also “terrible” for outfielders today. That doesn’t change the fact that Griffey looked plodding in going after those balls. He did make a nice catch of a line drive, while ranging to his left, to end the first inning. I guess we’ll wait and see. There are two weeks left in spring training, plenty of time to get used to playing a new position.
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On the positive side for Griffey, he pulled a double to right field in the fifth inning. And he also smoked a line drive right into the glove of the second baseman. He keeps pulling the ball, though, which is a sign the timing issues he’d had previously might be coming around. That home run yesterday was also pulled. Before, he was lofting a lot of lazy fly balls the opposite way, a true sign somebody is swinging late.
Anyhow, a good day for the M’s.
Mike Sweeney went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to up his average to .381. He’s running better than Wakamatsu remembered him doing in Oakland as well.
Chris Shelton also went 2-for-4, lifting — sorry, make that “dropping” — his average to .514.
A nice choice for a team to have to make between two guys.

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