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July 6, 2009 at 5:36 AM

What the Seattle Mariners learned on their road trip

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The Mariners get no rest as they enter today 3 1/2 games behind both the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers. Los Angeles just feasted on the Orioles team the Mariners face tonight and Seattle must do the same. That late letup yesterday cost the M’s a valuable game to both teams in the AL West standings.
It would help Seattle’s cause if it could pass one of those teams soon. With Texas in here later this week, they seem like the prime candidates.
There is something the Mariners should have realized by now after this 5-4 trip.

Here’s a look at what the starting pitchers did in all nine games:
Morrow — 6 IP
Olson — 6 1/3 IP
Hernandez — 7 IP
Vargas — 4 IP
Washburn — 7 IP
Morrow — 5 IP
Olson — 5 IP
Hernandez — 8 IP
Vargas — 4 2/3 IP
Now, I may not be a genius, but it looks like the Mariners could use another seven-inning starter type. What’s that, you say? They have one? This Erik Bedard guy starting tomorrow night?
Good, let’s trade him for a bat.
Uh, no.
As you can see, there is a specific reason the bullpen got in a bit of trouble the past week or so. Anytime you ask a bullpen to work 24 innings over a nine-game stretch, you can bank on some tired arms.
So, for this team to stay in contention, trading away one of the guys who, when healthy, can be a legit seven-inning starter is not a good idea.
The Mariners have surplus in their bullpen. That’s what they have to deal. Miguel Batista won’t be here after this season and makes enough money to offset a pricey bat — like Garret Atkins — coming the other way. Batista has been a valuable innings-eater and short guy at times, but with Shawn Kelley coming back, this team will have other options. Once Ryan Rowland-Smith is ready, a starter — or RRS himself — can go to the bullpen and eat some of Batista’s innings.
If you are getting a younger bat that is less pricey and will be around beyond this year, there are young guys who can be traded. Sean White and Mark Lowe fit that bill. Yes, it feels like a steep price., But it is the least costly route towards fixing an offense that, unless bolstered, will prevent this team from contending.
Don’t forget, Phillippe Aumont could be up in this bullpen by next April. So, while it hurts to give up part of the future now, there are other arms on the way for 2010. And you usually do have to give up something to get something.
And yes, the team also has prospects it can give up. Jeff Clement has yet to be called up to help this team and that alone says something. Wladimir Balentien, while no longer a prospect, is still young and cost-effective enough that somebody might take a chance on him. Right now, he is pretty much a pinch-runner who can’t be sent back to Class AAA because he’s out of options and would be snatched up very quickly for the price of a waiver claim.
So, this team does have pieces it can deal, both young and old, that would bolster the offense without crippling the team.
Giving up Bedard? A guy who would look pretty good in a Hernandez-Washburn trio come the post-season? That’s a move designed for the future. Make that move now and the future could indeed look better for this team. But for the present, all it would mean is confining that bullpen to more road trips involving 20 or so innings of work. And realistically, that would be the end of contending in 2010.



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