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April 22, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Branyan hopes to play Thursday, Rowland-Smith update and other news

First,here’s the Rays’ lineup. The news is that B.J. Upton, who was removed from Sunday’s game with tightness in his right leg, and sat out Tuesday, is back in center field.
B.J. Upton CF
Carl Crawford LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
Pat Burrell DH
Ben Zobrist RF
Dioner Navarro C
Akinori Iwamura 2B
Jason Bartlett SS
Jeff Niemann RHP
Now, on to the Mariners. who have the exact same lineup in back-to-back games (excluding the pitcher, of course) for the first time all season.
Russell Branyan took 35 swings in the batting cage before the game and though improved, still didn’t feel quite well enough to play. Branyan left last Friday’s game against Detroit with tightness in his back and now has missed four games since.then.
“It feels much better,” he said. “But I think if I played tonight, I’d take a chance of tweaking it.”
Branyan added that he feels he has “a good chance” of playing in Thursday’s series finale with Tampa Bay. He’ll test the back in batting practice,and if it’s OK, he’ll get the start.
“Hopefully, it’s a dramatic improvement, and he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow. If not, we’ll look at the Anaheim series with him,” Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu said.
Branyan described his problem as “spasms,and a little bit of inflammation,” and said it has happened before. He knows exactly when it happened — running the bases on Friday when he had to stop abruptly as he headed toward second base on a pop fly by Jose Lopez.
“I have a little history with it,” he said. “Maybe once a year. It normally happens early. Every time it’s happened, it’s taken four or five days for me to come back.”
The Mariners plan to put Branyan on a strengthening program to prevent recurrences.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I want to be out there contributing. I feel I’m capable of putting together a real solid year.

  • Ryan Rowland-Smith, who is on the disabled ist with left triceps tendinitis, was examined by Dr. Edward Khalfayan, and underwent an MRI. The news was good, but the Mariners acknowledge there’s no way Rowland-Smith will be ready to pitch when he’s eligible to come off the DL on Sunday.
    “He has some fluid in the joint, but no structural damage,” Wakamatsu said. “That’s good news. It does probably mean he needs at least a week or so more of rehab time, but it’s real good news there’s no structural damage.”
    The upshot is that Chris Jakubauskas — tonight’s starter — will remain in the rotation in at least the near future.

  • After the Mariners’ underwent bunting drills this afternoon, Yuniesky Betancourt worked on his leads off second and getting a good jump. Helping to instruct, along with the coaches, was Endy Chavez.
    “I don’t mention Endy enough in the leadership role on this ballclub, and his intelligence,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s like having another coach out there. His feel for the game, it rubs off on guys like Gutierrez and Betancourt. Since day one he’s showed up, every day he’s come to the park with a smile. It’s infectious. He’s been a pleasure to have on the club.”

  • The 2009 All-Star ballot was released on Wednesday,and the Mariners have eight candidates listed — including Ken Griffey Jr. in the outfield, along with Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez. Others on the ballot are first baseman Russ Branyan, second baseman Jose Lopez, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, third baseman Adrian Beltre, and catcher Kenji Johjima.
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