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April 9, 2009 at 9:07 AM

Early morning risers

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An early start today, so no Geoff Baker Live! That resumes tomorrow at noon, live from San Francisco, where I’ll be staying during the Oakland series. Yes, the team stays there as well. Ronny Cedeno is in at third base today, while Adrian Beltre is the DH. Mike Sweeney goes to first base and Russell Branyan takes a seat. Wladimir Balentien goes back in at right field. Four games, four lineups. A much different look to the team this year.
A look above at Chris Jakubauskas, rapidly making a name for himself within this organization. Not just because he got through two scoreless innings on one hit last night. The team has been impressed all spring long with his maturity and composure on the mound.
“There were a couple of outings in spring training where you kept saying ‘OK, is he going to rattle here?’ as he got close to making the team.” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “The outing against San Francisco, where he ended up pitching well over there, was kind of a turning point for me. You kind of knew. He had a couple of good outings and then he threw that one and you kind of knew this guy had something special.”
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Jakubauskas has done well all spring and again last night against lefthanded hitters. The team doesn’t have any bullpen lefties at the moment and Wakamatsu was asked whether Jakubauskas could see his role expand.
Wakamatsu cautioned that it’s still just one outing. He wants a longer look at all the pitchers before he starts figuring out exact bullpen roles. But he did say he’s keeping an open mind and that Jakubauskas against lefty hitters is one of many possibilities.
“The thing that impressed us so much in spring training was his ability to command both sides of the plate and mix in his off-speed pitches,” Wakamatsu said. “So, there’s a repetoire there that you kind of start buying into. His command, his aggressiveness on the mound. Keeping the ball down. All those things are the reason why he was successful at spring training and he did it again last night.”
Jakubauskas himself insists he wasn’t all that jittery in taking the mound. It helped to get a first at-bat strikeout against Carlos Gomez, who’d been hurting the Mariners with extra-base hits the last two nights.
“We’d talked in the bullpen beforehand about how to work him,” Jakubauskas said. “It’s something we worked on.”
Rob Johnson gets the start behind the plate tonight, his first this season. Jarrod Washburn is on the mound.
I asked Johnson whether this game feels any different to him than the first couple of times he got called up in September in 2007 and 2008.
“The biggest difference is, we aren’t 25 games out of first place,” Johnson said. “When you’re up here at the beginning of the year, it’s all about winning. It’s not about getting experience.”
And today is all about winning.
The M’s had a great start to this series for nearly two full games, but now risk losing three of four if Washburn can’t get it done tonight. Johnson wasn’t told until today that he’d be catching Washburn, but he’d been preparing for the possibility.
“Washburn and I have been talking the last four or five days,” he said. “I just think that if we stick with his game plan and he executes pitches, he’s going to do real well.”
What makes him think that, exactly?
“His sinker during spring training has been unbelievable,” Johnson said. “For a sinker to be that good in Arizona (where pitchers have trouble generating movment on pitches) it’s going to be just great here if he can execute it the same way.”
The lineups:
MARINERS (1-2)
LF Endy Chavez
CF Franklin Gutierrez
1B Mike Sweeney
DH Adrian Beltre
2B Jose Lopez
RF Wladimir Balentien
C Rob Johnson
3B Ronny Cedeno
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
LHP Jarrod Washburn
TWINS (2-1)
LF Denard Span
2B Alexi Casilla
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Justin Morneau
3B Joe Crede
DH Delmon Young
CF Carlos Gomez
C Mike Redmond
SS Brendan Harris
LHP Glen Perkins
UMPIRE WATCH: Chuck Meriwether kept himself off the highlight reel last night, but he’ll be at second base today. Keep an eye on any close stolen base or pickoff plays.

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