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May 18, 2009 at 5:06 PM

Adrian Beltre sits out a night as Mariners hope he gets untracked

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Just up from the field where Yuniesky Betancourt is indeed in tonight’s lineup, while Adrian Beltre is not. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said the rest being given Beltre is largely due to his inability to get much going offensively in the middle of the order. While Wakamatsu did say that Beltre will be back in the lineup tomorrow night, he declined to answer whether the latter would again bat clean-up.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t know yet. We’ll talk about it.”
There was more.

“No one cares more about this club, or works harder than him,” Wakamatsu said. “And I think, just the last couple of days, it’s evident in the way he’s going about his at-bats where he’s trying a little bit hard and I think it’s just a day where we can let him sit back a little bit, do a little bit more work with (hitting coach) Alan (Cockerell) and get back in there.
“We’ve seen some improvment on the road trip and I just think today is probably a good day. He’s the only guy who, obviously, hasn’t had a day off on our club since the start of spring training. Plus, with the injuries he had, it’s a good time to rest his body.”
Thing is, Wakamatsu is sitting his clean-up hitter on the eve of a key showdown against a division rival expected to win the AL West. Wakamatsu would not be doing this if Beltre was approaching his at-bats the way he wants.
Wakamatsu has had conversations with younger players about the importance of good at-bats and proper pitch selection. I asked the manager whether that’s a conversation he can have with Beltre as well, or whether it’s assumed a veteran of his stature understands the concept already.
“I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt because of his stature,” he said. “But it’s also, when you get to this point and you talk about on-base percentage, just like anybody else, I don’t think anybody’s immune to that.
“And if we want to get out of a slump, again, we’re going to talk to everybody about what is the logical way of getting out of that — early work, reviewing the at-bats. But I think a lot of his struggle right now is how much he cares and how much pressure he’s putting on himself. And that’s basically the reason he’s sitting today.”
Had a chat with Mark Lowe earlier on about his improved command and some excellent work his past two outings. Lowe was throwing his fastball anywhere from 98-101 mph yesterday, then painting the corners with an 82 mph slider. His change-up was coming in around 89 mph.
Lowe says the secret to his newfound command might be linked to a quicker delivery time to the plate. In the past, he’d be between 1.3 and 1.5 seconds. Now, he’s about 1.1 to 1.3 seconds.
What really convinced Lowe was watching Twins closer Joe Nathan and his quick delivery. He later pulled some video of Nathan and studied his release.
“I mean, we throw completely different,” he said. “But just to visualize and see somebody else doing that, somebody who’s had so much success, is really the key.”
Lowe has worked on the quickened delivery since spring training. He’d do it in front of manager Wakamatsu and bullpen coach John Wetteland.
“There was just one day where I did it and they said ‘That’s what we want, that’s what we’re looking for’,” he said. “And I just kept repeating it over and over and over again.”
Wakamatsu said something as simple as quickening delivery really can help a pitcher put it all together.
“I think you look at some of the comments that came out of Texas with (Kevin) Millwood and quickening up his delivery to the plate,” Wakamatsu said. “We’ve talked about all those things since spring training. But yeah, especially a guy with a big arm. If you’re trying to generate it through body action, you’re over-rotating, your arm doesn’t catch up and it’s awfully hard to get that release point. But it takes a lot of work by that individual.”
Rob Johnson has some bruised fingers, the result of having the ball strike his hand as he attempted to lay down a drag bunt yesterday. Johnson was going to attempt some throws during batting practice just to ensure he could fill in for Kenji Johjima in an emergency.
Most of the bullpen is available tonight, except for Miguel Batista, who Wakamatsu wants to give an extra day’s rest to.
The lineup:
RF Ichiro
2B Jose Lopez
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
LF Wladimir Balentien
1B Russell Branyan
C Kenji Johjima
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Ronny Cedeno
LHP Jarrod Washburn



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