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March 22, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Mariners at Chicago Cubs: 03/22 game thread

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Mike Wilson just hit his fifth homer of the spring, a solo blast to left with one out in the seventh inning, to cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2. The homer was a rocket into a gusting wind that helped carry the ball a long way. You could hear the crowd gasp when he hit it. The ball nearly took out the top of the scoreboard in the bleachers before carrying over a back fence.
But the M’s still trail after the Cubs scored once in the fifth and three more times in the sixth. Mark Lowe gave up the tying run on a sacrifice fly after taking over for Erik Bedard and getting the final out of the third inning. Lowe went 2 1/3 innings, yielding the run on two hits.
Bedard was glad to get his pitch count up to 45 today. But that’s about it.
“I felt like I had nothing today,” he said. “It was all about the defense today.”
Bedard figures if he can get his pitch count up to 80 or 90 these next two weeks, he’ll be fine.
“I’ve got to get more innings under my belt and get my pitch count up,” he said. “As long as I feel fine, I’ll be fine for the season.”
Had a nice chat with manager Don Wakamatsu today as he looked ahead to the final two weeks.
As we told you already, the Venezuelan players from the WBC are due back here tomorrow. Wakamatsu told me that Felix Hernandez is slated to start on March 26. He’d previously told the media it would be March 31, but that’s since been clarified. Hernandez would have had to wait 15 days since his last start if that were the case, so, obviously, it isn’t.
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Somebody mentioned that the top-four hitters in today’s Seattle lineup are hitting over .300. That’s true, since Ronny Cedeno, Franklin Gutierrez, Wladimir Balentien and Russell Branyan entered the day hitting .311, .350, .364, and .356 apiece. Balentien added a fist-inning single the opposite way to right field off Carlos Zambrano to up that average even higher.
One guy hitting better than all of them is in the photo above. Chris Shelton didn’t start today’s game, but will come in later on. He enters today hitting .514 with a .595 on-base and .829 slugging percentage. The M’s have really been impressed by what he’s done this spring. But he’s still going to have a hard time making the team. The big reason for that is that Mike Sweeney has done everything asked of him since getting here. Sweeney has also become a harmonizing focal point in the clubhouse. He’s provided that vocal leadership the Mariners had been seeking out the past few years. And he’s producing with the bat now that he’s playing more regularly.
Sweeney is considered a better first-base glove than Shelton. The big question marks coming into camp were whether Sweeney could hit and whether he could still run. He’s running better, as Wakamatsu told us yesterday, than he did last season when the manager had him in Oakland. So, that’s one check mark. And he’s hitting for both average and power. That’s two check marks.
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Unless Sweeney’s knees blow out on him these final two weeks, it’s going to be very difficult for Shelton to make the squad. Not when the M’s are taking 12 pitchers north with them. There just aren’t enough position spots, as we discussed last week, to keep both Shelton and Sweeney unless it’s an 11-man staff.
And yes, 12 pitchers will be a must. Brandon Morrow is not going to start the year in the M’s rotation. That’s a given. He’ll barely be able to throw an inning at a time when he gets back into games this week.


1:57 p.m.: Erik Bedard’s day is done after 2 2/3 innings in which he thre 45 pitches. Bedard walked the first batter of the third inning, saw his fielders turn a nice 6-4-3 double-play behind him, then walked another batter before he was pulled. So, no runs on two hits and two strikeouts, but three walks on the day. He won’t be pleased with that walk total, but the rest seemed to go OK. Mark Lowe got the inning’s final out.
M’s lead 1-0 heading to the fourth.
1:39 p.m.: Greetings from warm, sunny Mesa, Ariz. where Erik Bedard and the Mariners are preparing to take on the Chicago Cubs. I feel kind of alone today as it’s just myself and Jim Street of MLB.com fame here as part of the Seattle contingent of media members. It’s getting late in spring training and folks have all kinds of features and things to prepare, so a trip out to Mesa isn’t exactly what you want to be doing on a Sunday morning.
But I was away from camp the last time the M’s played here, so I made the trip this time. Besides, when there’s fewer media members around, it gives you a chance for some one-on-one time with players and coaches.
Bedard is now through two innings of play, having given up no runs on two hits. Had some trouble in the first inning, when Derrek Lee doubled and Milton Bradley singled with two out. But he fanned Aramis Ramirez on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning. Two strikeouts for Bedard so far.
And Chris Woodward just homered on the first pitch of the third inning to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.

Comments | Topics: Chris Woodward

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