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May 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Mike Sweeney in at first base, Ken Griffey Jr. the DH for Mariners

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One of you asked whether Ken Griffey Jr. will get a DH start today against lefty Brett Anderson, and the answer is “Yes” he will. Mike Sweeney will also get a rare start at first base, as Russell Branyan gets a little rest. Sweeney has not had a start at first base in quite a while.
“I think last Memorial Day, wasn’t it?” he joked.
Actually, the last time Sweeney played first, Branyan was out with a stiff back. That was a month ago, way back at a time when the M’s were capable of winning consecutive games. Hasn’t happened since.
Sweeney said his back, which bothered him in April when he was actually playing the field, is now feeling much better.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said Branyan is “banged up” and that it’s time to give his best hitter a break.
“He’s been banged up a little bit with some foul balls off the leg, and the travel,” Wakamatsu said. “I just felt that today would be a good day.”
Branyan has exceeded expectations, hitting .305 with 10 homers and 20 runs batted in. He has a .989 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, including an impressive .906 versus lefties to go along with his stellar 1.031 against right handers.
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“I think the difference is that he really feels at home here,” Wakamatsu said. “For several different reasons, starting with (GM) Jack Zduriencik and the belief system that Jack instilled in him when he first signed him. To Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney and those guys being a support system for him, to say to him ‘You can do this.’
“I think the fact he’s proven to himself, that facing lefthanded pitching, it doesn’t really matter. The rest is really up to him, just going out there and learning how to play every day.”

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In other news, Ryan Rowland-Smith might be waiting a little while longer to get back into the major league rotation. The strong performances by Chris Jakubauskas, Jason Vargas and even Garrett Olson over the weekend have Wakamatsu feeling he can afford to wait for Rowland-Smith to be at his best before being re-activated off the DL.
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Rowland-Smith will make his next start on Thursday, and the team wants him to get his pitch count up 75 or 80 pitches. After that, he might need another outing at Class AAA. Rowland-Smith and Wakamatsu had a discussion behind closed doors in the manager’s office.
“We still have four months left in the season,” Wakamatsu said. “And the bottom line is we don’t want him coming up here and not feeling like he’s ready to compete and having bad starts when we could have taken another start or so.”
Wakamatsu said Rowland-Smith understands and is completely on-board with what happens next.
“When you look at it, he’s had four outings and this is going to be his fifth one,” Wakamatsu said. “Which is not a long of time. We tried to put it in that type of mindset. ‘If you were in spring training, would you be able to throw 100 pitches after just four outings?’ ”
The lineups:
RF Ichiro
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
1B Mike Sweeney
2B Jose Lopez
C Kenji Johjima
LF Endy Chavez
CF Franklin Gutierrez
RHP Chris Jakubauskas
2B Adam Kennedy
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jack Cust
LF Matt Holliday
1B Jason Giambi
CF Ryan Sweeney
RF Travis Buck
SS Bobby Crosby
3B Jack Hannahan
LHP Brett Anderson



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