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May 17, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Pregame updates from manager Don Wakamatsu

Reporting from Safeco Field, manager Don Wakamatsu told reporters that Ryan Rowland-Smith threw on Saturday and that went well so the possibility remains he will be ready by the end of the month.
Erik Bedard is progressing after the hamstring tightness, Wakamatsu said, and he could be ready for his next start.
Wakamatsu’s most interesting comments related to the attempts to improve the patience of Yuniesky Betancourt and the approach of Wladimir Balentien. The goal is to get Betancourt to be more selective, look for his pitch, something Wakamatsu said there was progress. For Balentien, it’s getting him to stop trying to pull everything.
Balentien had a crucial at-bat in the fourth inning of Saturday’s loss, grounding out to shortstop with Boston’s infield pulled in and the Mariners holdinng the tying run on third base. Wakamatsu said he asked Balentien if that was the pitch he was looking for. Balentien said that yes, it was. He tried to drive the pitch to the opposite field.
Wakamatsu on Vargas: Probably the big thing today is we need a good outing out of Vargas. With the spot starts lately, it has put some wear and tear on our bullpen. It will be nice for him to go five or six innings today and give our bullpen a rest.
Q: What do you think you have in Vargas?
Wakamatsu: I don’t know yet. Again, I think it was a great test to be able to pitch in Texas in that ballpark and to be able to change the speeds the way he did and locate his fastball. What I like so far is the fact that he goes right at hitters. Showed that a little bit in the bullpen and showed that in Texas. With young pitchers, the big is thing can you get to the point of pitch economy. He went five innings in Texas. We’d like to be able to stretch that out a bit.
Wakamatsu on Betancourt’s increased patience, drawing three walks over the past two games: I think you’ve got to look at the matchups, too. I think Lester’s command wasn’t as good the day before yesterday, which helped in that. As a manager, you say, ‘Go up there and be selective maybe.’ I’ve never said take the first pitch, I’ve said swing at your pitch, and all of a sudden they’re 0-2. But what has impressed me yesterday is he did lay off some pitches and ended up having a couple of good at-bats, the home run obviously and the line drive to the third baseman. I thought the last at-bat, it was a questionably pitch, maybe up a little bit and he popped it up. I think just the focus and getting him to really understand what on-base percentage really means and putting it right above batting average, really try to understand that. Obviously, he got the message, we’ll see how it goes forward.
Q: What did you to point that need for patience out to him?
Well, we circled every stat that was important, and we’ve done that all along. I think the fact that he realizes he has to change because of a lack of playing time, I think that sends a message some times.

Wakamatsu on the hope Betancourt will become more selective: Can he be this posterchild for a selective hitter? We’ve told him, I think he’s one of the most talented hand-eye coordination hitters we have. We talk about the definition of a good hitter: What is the comfort level of a hitter with two strikes.

Wakamatsu on Balentien’s fourth-inning at-bat on Saturday: I think he swung at a good pitch. I think it was the pitch he was looking for. He hit it hard. Ideally, you would like that ball in the outfield, but I brought him over after and I said, ‘Was that the pitch you were looking for?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ He just happened to be a little bit, he was still trying to hit it the other way and in the outfield. He just hand-hooked it a little bit. But he’s a guy we’re looking to try and manufacture to become this guy that doesn’t pull everything to the left side. Overall, the last couple of weeks, he has done a phenomenal job with that. That’s where a lot of it is in batting practice and the drills. As we go forward, this is a guy that we’re looking to maybe be that production guy because he has enough power to hit the ball out the other way. And I think the adjustments from watching him from the other side of the dugout from last year, of being a swing and a miss guy, but now he’s staying on the ball longer because his approach.



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