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June 24, 2009 at 5:42 PM

Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow needs more “first pitch strikes”

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Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, in the photo above, tells Luke Wakamatsu, 12, that any left fielders he auditions need to be short like Endy Chavez. An unimpressed Wakamatsu, below, sizes up the competition as he contemplates a bullpen job. He can always ask dad about it later.
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Brandon Morrow takes the mound tonight and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu knows exactly what he wants to see out of him. No, not four innings of work.
“The biggest thing is first-pitch strikes,” he said. “I think that’s what got him into trouble out in San Diego where he was always behind. With good stuff, if you’re behind, you give in a little bit and elevate the baseball. Obviously, the efficiency, he’s had a lot of three and four-inning outings. I’d liek to see him get into the sixth. That would be nice.”
But just in case, there’s always Chris Jakubauskas. He and Morrow have become a tag team of sorts when the latter starts. The team still feels this is a better option than bringing Ryan Rowland-Smith or another Class AAA reliever up here.
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“I think it’s two-fold,” Wakamatsu said of going with Jakubauskas as Morrow’s follow-up. “No. 1, I think he’s a guy who’s been efficient with his pitches and can give you that length. I think the second part of it is we want to try to keep him as that long guy right now. He’s stretched out and he hasn’t pitched as much as some of the other guys.”
Wakamatsu was asked how Morrow has handled the back-and-forth switches in his roles.
“The biggest thing is that this is what he wants to do and we’re all on board on having him behind what he wants to do. I think that’s an important part. If he wants to be a starter, and we think as we go forward that this could be where his best chance is. We went back and forth, but…maybe with his mentality it suits him a little bit better right now.”
And what about developing up here as opposed to going down to the minors?
“Again, I think you have to look at it as, who’s down below? What are our options? The way we’re playing, all those things. He can jump into that role and we have some coverage behind him — whether it’s (Miguel) Batista, (Chris) Jakubauskas, or (Garrett) Olson — we felt that we could cover that at that time. And again, I think it’s important for guys, if you have that luxury, to develop at this level. Because you go down to AAA and (you don’t have) the stress level the crowds. Up here, he knows he has to be efficient with his pitches. he knows his last outing he should have gone a little bit deeper.”
Kenji Johjima is set to rejoin the team tomorrow, after he gets nine innings of catching in with Class AAA Tacoma tonight. The Mariners have a day game tomorrow and Wakamatsu said he wants Johjima to accompany the team to Los Angeles for the start of the road trip if all goes well.
Jose Lopez is expected to arrive here from Veneuzuela shortly. The plan, as of right now, is to play him tomorrow afternoon. But Wakamatsu wants to determine how he is mentally, after the death of his sister last week, before making a final decision.
“I would think it would be tomorrow, even if he gets in here a little bit later,” he said. “We’d like to get him in the cage, move him around. A lot of it’s going to depend on his mental state.”
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Adrian Beltre is back in the lineup tonight after being pulled in the seventh inning last night when his shoulder began acting up. The Mariners had Beltre checked out by team doctors yesterday and confirmed that he has bone spurs in his left shoulder again.
For now, he’s going to try to play through the pain, as he did last year, even when the team fell out of contention. What this means is that the team might have to use him a little more sparingly at third base, giving him added time off every now and then.
I spoke to Zduriencik about it moments ago, but he wants the full medical update before commenting on how this could impact trade discussions with other teams.
Anyhow, back to the saga of the young, ballplaying Wakamatsu, who has now moved on to lobbying Ken Griffey Jr. for help in securing him some righthanded DH time. Griffey seems intrigued by the idea, but checks the dugout first to make sure Mike Sweeney isn’t in earshot.
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Griffey seems to like the idea, and decides to take it up with big boss Zduriencik by inviting him into a cozy little family circle. But the gathering is abruptly called off when Griffey realizes the urgent need to find his youngest son, Tevin, 6, a smaller piece of dental floss.
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The lineups:
Padres (31-38)
Gwynn, cf
Eckstein, 2b
Hairston, lf
A. Gonzalez, 1b
Kouzmanoff, 3b
Headley, dh
Venabl, rf
Alfonzo, c
Cabrera, ss
Geer, rhp
Mariners (35-35)
Ichiro, rf
Branyan, 1b
Beltre, 3b
Griffey, dh
Gutierrez, cf
Balentien, lf
Betancourt, ss
Johnson, c
Cedeno, 2b
Morrow, rhp
HP – Randy Marsh (crew chief)
1B – Marvin Hudson
2B – Lance Barksdale
3B – Angel Hernandez



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