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March 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Mariners 5, Rangers 4: Steven Baron’s home run proves the difference

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Don’t forget to tune in for Geoff Baker Live! at 6:30 p.m. PT
That’s Steven Baron wearing his catching gear in today’s ninth inning. Back in the eighth, Baron stepped up for the first time this spring and sent a solo home run over the left field wall to give the M’s a three-run lead at the time.
The extra run proved important, since relief candidate Denny Bautista had all kinds of trouble in the ninth. Bautista allowed the first three runners to reach base on a walk, a double down the right field line and a ball that took a funny bounce in the first base dirt and went for a two-run single.
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Things grew tense from there, but Bautista got out of it. The runner at first was bunted ahead one base, but the Rangers gave up a key out in the process. Bautista then got pinch-hitter Chad Tracy to pop out. A flyball out by Engel Beltre ended the game.
Bautista has some work ahead of him after two rough spring outings.
For Baron, 20, the team’s supplemental-round pick (33rd overall) in 2009, the power was a bit unexpected since he’s hit only six and posted just a .306 slugging percentage in his first 458 minor league at-bats.
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“He got into one, good for him,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Everybody was excited for him. Obviously, he’s a young kid, gaining a great deal of experience every day and he really got into that. He had great hands.”

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Milton Bradley, as we mentioned before, also had a big day. He went 3-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a run scored.
“I think he’s having a good time,” Wedge said. “He’s enjoying himself. He’s enjoying his teammates. I love his work ethic. His approach has been good. I just want to see him sustain that.”
I asked Wedge how important it was for Bradley to get some instant results. The reason-being all the pressure he tends to put on himself when things go badly for him.
“It is,” Wedge said. “I think, as a veteran, there’s not quite the urgency there. But you want to feel things in the game that really are a result of your work prior to.”
Wedge said it’s tough to expect results this early in a game like baseball, which can take a lot out of players at the best of times. It’s important, he added, to be patient.
In theory, that’s true.
Though anyone who watched Bradley unable to cope with an 0-for-4 game last season might appreciate that his getting off to a quick start here can help his overall well-being as he comes back off knee surgery and a disappointing 2010. Hey, it can’t hurt.
Josh Lueke, Royce Ring and Dan Cortes each got through a scoreless inning, with Lueke and Cortes allowing a hit apiece.
Nate Robertson, we told you, looked good while Blake Beavan struggled a bit.
At the plate, Adam Kennedy showed some pop with the bat, hitting that solo home run. Kennedy also made the nice play at first base and did impress the coaching staff. As of right now, I’d say he has the inside track on that backup infielder’s job.
“He’s very consistent,” Wedge said. “I like his versatility. He’s a veteran presence. A consumate pro and you know what you’re going to get from him.”



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