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May 7, 2009 at 9:45 AM

Yuniesky Betancourt, Endy Chavez take seats as Mariners look to revive struggling offense

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They’ve been having pre-game festivities for kids going on since more than two hours before gametime. Yes, that is a helicopter in center field.
Lost in all the Carlos Silva hoopla from last night was yet another dismal offensive performance. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu appeared increasingly frustrated and talked about the lack of pitch selection from his players at key points in the game. We’ve talked about Ichiro’s poor choice to swing at what would have been a fourth ball and a walk to force home a run.
But Ichiro wasn’t the only culprit. And today, Ronny Cedeno is healthy enough to finally make a start, so guess who is going to sit?
Yes, it is shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.
Now, it’s only been a couple of days since Betancourt managed to draw his first walk of the season — a in a key situation to boot. And Wakamatsu did not single Betancourt out, saying merely that he wanted to get Cedeno some playing time. But this is what increased flexibility can bring you.
I’d asked Wakamatsu yesterday about moving Franklin Gutierrez up to the No. 2 spot in the order. Wakamatsu told me at the time that he liked Gutierrez at No. 8 and didn’t want him rushed further up simply based on one good weekend of stats. Well, there’s Gutierrez in the No. 2 spot today.
Wakamatsu told me it had more to do with getting Cedeno in the lineup and keeping him further back. That the order will likely change once Betancourt gets back in. But not said in all of this is the fact that Endy Chavez. not in the lineup today, has quietly become an automatic out. They put him near the top of the order yesterday and he again went hitless. Chavez is now 3-for-his-last-29 at-bats. Given Ichiro’s struggles to be a sparkplug at the top of the order, that’s a 1-2 “punch” quickly sinking this team.
And so, Gutierrez gets to try his luck there today. And Wladimir Balentien takes Chavez’s left field spot, even though there’s a righthander on the mound. Clearly, these moves are being made to add some life to the offense.
No news on the Silva front. None was expected.
As I told you last night, other things have to happen first. One of you wrote in with a good question this morning asking what Silva has to do in order to be taken out of the rotation. A fair question, since he’s done little to justify being kept there. But this isb’t only about Silva and pulling him from the rotation is not the simple move some have made it out to be.
For starters, you need to have an adequte replacement. Right now, Jason Vargas is the one guy the team feels comfortable with.
Thing is, the team has to see whether Chris Jakubauskas can put it together in Minnesota tomorrow. Right now, his two-hitter aside, it’s a toss-up as to who is the worse pitcher: Jakubauskas or Silva.
Jakubauskas has gone 3 1/3 innings and 4 1/3 innings over his last three starts, taking away that two-hitter. Prior to that, he went 5 1/3 innings, coming off the rails in his final frame of work. Should he again get torched early tomorrow, the team would have to contemplate bumping him from his next outing.
And there’s the problem.
Vargas can only replace one guy at a time. He can’t take the spots of both Silva and Jakubauskas.
Ryan Rowland-Smith could help, but he’s at least two weeks away. Wakamatsu does intend to insert him in the rotation right away, so this is opnly a short term issue. But it’s a pressing one.
First, the team has to figure out what it’s goal is with Silva and it pretty much has already. If the idea is to pull him back for a bit, the team could simply skip his next scheduled start, on Tuesday, and keep everybody else on their regular four days’ rest. Wakamatsu told me this morning he wants to keep everyone on their regular schedule, so that can, in fact, be done since Monday is an off-day.
That means, if Jakubauskas has to be replaced, then Vargas could step into his spot and Silva could get a 10-day “break” without having to be removed from the rotation officially.
That’s one option.
In the event Jakubauskas has a good game tomorrow, then Vargas could be slipped into Silva’s spot. I get the feeling the team would prefer to go this route. But as I said, if Jakubauskas implodes, then it may have to use Vargas in his place instead.
Garrett Olson is also an option, though he’s still getting his feet wet. Looked OK at times last night, but was’t all that spectacular. Not sure starting him is going to help anything right now.
Obviously, when RRS is healthy, some of these problems take care of themselves. But for now, this is why there’s yet to be a call made on Silva. Hope that helps.
The lineups:
RF Ichiro
CF Franklin Gutierrez
2B Jose Lopez
1B Russell Branyan
3b Adrian Beltre
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
LF Wladimir Balentien
C Rob Johnson
SS Ronny Cedeno
LHP Jarrod Washburn
CF Coco Crisp
LF David DeJesus
3B Mark Teahen
RF Jose Guillen
1B Billy Butler
DH Mike Jacobs
2B Willie Bloomquist
C Miguel Olivo
SS Mike Aviles
RHP Brian Bannister



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