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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

February 16, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Mariners keep on arriving ahead of schedule

Don’t forget Geoff Baker Live! coming up at 6:30 PT. Check out the highlights from last night’s show by clicking right here.
Coming at you, left to right, in the video above, we have some serious flamethrowers in Mauricio Robles, Josh Lueke and Dan Cortes. Good chance at least one of them makes the team out of spring training.
Several new faces rolled into camp today, two days ahead of mandatory physicals for position players. Jack Cust, Brendan Ryan, Jody Gerut, Gabe Gross and Chone Figgins were among the latest to get here early.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge is eager to get the full squad together. Throwing bullpen sessions is great, but Wedge wants to have the team together as a group so he can begin implementing the program he expects everyone to follow.
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Wedge admits he’s been holding back on giving certain feedback to players so far. He said there have been occasions when, had he been here in prior seasons so players had a chance to know him, he might have stepped in and said some things during the workouts.
“Well, yeah, but it’s going to take some time for them to get there in regard to what we’re looking for,” he said. “I want these guys to be in a certain place in regards to their mental framework when they leave here.
“When they come in next year, that’s going to be a given. Right now, we’re still working towards that.”
Wedge has made it clear that he’s not quick to judge people and wants to give his players some space. He doesn’t want them pressing early, trying to win a spot their first days of camp. Because of that, he said he doesn’t pay too much attention to which players have gotten here early and which will wait until Saturday’s physicals before showing up.
“In particular with the veterans, I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “These guys come in ready to play anyway. These veterans know what they need to do. It’s a long spring training, so either way, they’ve got families and…I understand that.”
We told you earlier that David Aardsma put about 30 percent weight on his foot today. He’ll do about 40 percent tomorrow and work from there. Once he reaches 60 percent, he’s allowed to take up to 26 steps at a time.
“So, if I want to walk over to a table to get something, it’s 13 steps there and then 13 steps back,” he said.
He isn’t limited to 26 steps per day, but has to rest in-between sessions.
“As long as I stop and rest for at lease five minutes, I’ll be good,” he said.


Had a chance to catch up with outfielder Gross, who I knew back in Toronto days after the Blue Jays made him a No. 1 pick in 2001 out of Auburn. Gross was a two-sport star in college, serving as the football team’s quarterback.
Naturally, I asked him what he thought of Cam Newton.
“He’s just so big,” Gross said. “You can’t really imagine it until you see him up close.”
I asked Gross to contrast his quarterbacking style with Newton’s.
“I used to race for the sideline to avoid linebackers,” Gross said. “He cuts back inside and tries to run them over.”
Gross had a chance to take in the BCS title game between Auburn and Oregon, which took place, incidentally, right across the street from the Seattle Times spring training condo (home of Geoff Baker Live!) in Glendale, Ariz.
I figured Gross, being an ex-QB, could get some decent seats by using his Auburn connections. He wound up at about the 35-yard-line, roughly 20 rows from the field.
“I thought they were pretty good seats, especially when I saw that they had (Charles) Barkley sitting two rows right behind me,” he said of his fellow Auburn alum and current NBA television commentator.
Speaking of ex-Blue Jays, one guy vying for a middle relief job in Seattle’s bullpen is Justin Miller, known throughout baseball as the king of tattoos. Miller’s body is literally covered in them, making longtime buddy Brandon League look almost bare by comparison.
When I asked Miller how many trips to the tattoo parlor he’d made in his lifetime, he said — with a straight face — “hundreds.”
But there’s one tattoo he won’t find replicated anyplace else.
Back in 2005, when closer Billy Koch was attempting a comeback, he came to spring training and dared Miller to tattoo “I love Billy Koch” on his backside.
Miller took him up on the dare and figures he made about $1,500. I asked him whether the tattoo is still there (I don’t go looking for these things) and Miller assured me it was.
All I can say is, good thing Miller doesn’t love Mariners minor league coach Andy Stankiewicz. There isn’t a backside big enough in camp to fit that in there.
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League knows the Koch tattoo story well and when he heard us talking about it he said “Ask him who the first person was he showed it to.”
So, I did. Turns out I know that guy too. Over at Blue Jays training camp in Dunedin, Fla. they had a somewhat offbeat freelance reporter the Associated Press would hire to report on the team. He was a former Vietnam veteran named Eddie Michaels, who lived in Florida year-round so he got to know the players well since many of them lived there and trained at the complex all winter
Eddie could be a bit — um — pushy at times if he wanted one of the players to give him some info. So, when Miller returned from the tattoo parlor, there was Michaels waiting to greet him in the parking lot.
Michaels kept wanting to see the tattoo, so Miller finally relented.
“We went between two parked cars, I dropped my pants and showed him,” Miller said.
Things haven’t been nearly as interesting in Mariners camp this spring. But, there’s always time.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins

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