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July 22, 2009 at 2:17 PM

UPDATED: Ryan Rowland-Smith to start Friday, Olson officially out of rotation (NEW AND IMPROVED WITH QUOTES AND MORE NOTES)

statues.jpg 009.jpg
That’s the backside of the Ty Cobb statue at Comerica Park, right next to the statue of ex-Mariner (and Tiger legend) Willie Horton.
Manager Don Wakamatsu just told us that Ryan Rowland-Smith will start Friday against the Indians at Safeco Field. He was scratched from his Tacoma start tonight and will instead throw a bullpen session.
Also, Garrett Olson is out of the rotation, as expected, but Wakamatsu said that he is not ready to announce who will start Sunday when Olson’s turn comes up. The obvious candidates are Jason Vargas, Chris Jakubauskas and Brandon Morrow.
Rowland-Smith, in his most recent start for Tacoma, struck out nine and didn’t walk any against Las Vegas. Overall, he’s 5-3 with a 4.31 ERA for the Rainiers.
“I think it’s the progression as much as anything,” Wakamatsu said of Rowland-Smith. “Just the fact the velocity was up (in his last start). There were different reports, good and bad. I wouldn’t say bad, but the location on certain pitches could be better. The overall improvement…it’s kind of what we talked about, him going down and getting ample work. We want to see how he’ll fare up here.”

Also, Erik Bedard’s start has been pushed back from Friday to Saturday for two reasons: To give him an extra day’s rest, and two, to ensure he pitches against the Rangers in the four-game series in Arlington from June 30-Aug. 2. Bedard is now set to pitch the opener on July 30 — one day before the trade deadline.
As for Olson, he should be available out of the bullpen on Friday, Wakamatsu said. The Mariners currently have 11 pitchers on their staff, and when Rowland-Smith comes up On, Friday the Mariners will have to decide whether to expand the staff to 12 and send out a position player, or send down a pitcher. They would face the same issue two days later if they dip into the minors for Vargas or Morrow, rather than go with Jakubauskas. Olson and Chris Shelton would seem to be the most logical candidates to go down, though Wakamatsu has had kind words to say about Olson’s work out of the bullpen.
Asked how to get Olson to believe in his ability, Wakamatsu said, “Because his stuff is as good as we think it is. That’s why we think, ‘OK, let’s get him back to the bullpen and see if he can do it out there, like he’s done already.’ He’s already proven he can do it there.
“We keep saying we need that left-handed guy out of the bullpen. He might be that guy. The more time, the more experience, he gets, later on we might be able to put him back in that situation. But you don’t give up on a guy like this. And we’ve told him over and over again. You see in a different situation, (Zach) Grienke. He’s a guy that almost walked away from the game and came back to be one of the best.”
“The rest is up to him. We’re in his corner, and we’re going to continue to talk to him and get him to believe that.”
Here’s what Wakamatsu said about having an 11-man pitching staff: “It allows us to carry an extra bench player, which is a luxury, but it does put a toll on your bullpen. Everything is dependent on itself. If the starting pitching goes and we get the innings out of there, you can afford to go with an 11-man; otherwise, it’s 12 or 13. I’ve been on all different types of clubs. It’s always nice if the starting pitching can sustain, so you can have an extra position player for some maneuverability.”

  • The Mariners will again have to face Cliff Lee , who pitched a complete game last Thursday in Cleveland to beat them. He’s scheduled to pitch Sunday at Safeco Field. Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers will work the other two games.
  • The progress report on third baseman Adrian Beltre, recovering from left shoulder surgery, is very encouraging.
    “He says he’s ready,” Wakamatsu joked. “He took groundballs yesterday. It was supposed to be controlled ground balls right at him, and then all of the sudden you see someone hook one down the line and he snatches it. Everything is going really good with him.
    “We’re still a week away from him hitting of fthe tee. I talked to him yesterday about maybe going down to Triple A to get some at-bats, but he’s still a little ways away. You watch him out there, he’s working hard every day.”
    Beltre’s range of motion is improving. Beltre had said his biggest problem was when he raised his arm above his head, but that’s getting better, Wakamatsu said.
    “And for him to go out and do what he did yesterday, it shows how good he is feeling. You just have to be a little cautious with him because he does feel he can play tomorrow.”
    I asked if Beltre’s return now could be closer to the six-week part of the initial estimate that he would be out six to eight weeks.
    “I think so,” he said.
    Franklin Gutierrez might be ready to start tomorrow, Wakamatsu said. Gutierrez was going to skip batting practice to receive treatment today, and the M’s were going to see how he felt tomorrow before makinng a decision.
    “The biggest thing is the jarring and stiffness in his neck from the collision,” Wakamatsu said. “The knee seems to be OK, the elbow seems to be OK.”
    Wakamatsu reiterated how lucky the Mariners were that Gutierrez escaped serious injury.
    “Absolutely. The amount of time he spent on the ground, the initial collision — I really thought he broke something. I was talking to Dave Niehaus earlier — he kept looking for the cart. For him to be able to just walk off with help of the trainers, that was a good sign.
    “He’s a tough kid. The majority of his body took the brunt, not one single area. That’s a blessing in itself. He’s got real light lacerations on his elbow. His knee’s just banged up. He had a pad on it, luckily; it helped some. When he hit the wall, it jarred his neck. I thought he might have hit his head, but he did not hit his head. It’s more the jarring of his neck. The neck muscle is pretty stiff. Tomorrow, I don’t want to send him out there if he’s not ready to go.”
    Ken Griffey Jr., who broke his left wrist in a similarly ugly collision at the Kingdome, joked that his play was much more heroic.
    “I caught the ball and I drove myself to the hospital,” he said.

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