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March 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Vargas happy with simulated game

The Mariners are due to get started here in about an hour in an especially windy Peoria against the Reds.
But one of the expected mainstays of the pitching staff — Jason Vargas — has already gotten in his work for the day, throwing 31 pitches in a two-inning simulated game this morning.
Vargas, right now pegged to be the No. 2 starter for the Mariners behind Felix Hernandez, is being treated similarly to Hernandez in being eased into spring competition, an effort to hold down the wear-and-tear on his arm.
Vargas allowed two hits, both grounders through the hole at first and short, but otherwise didn’t allow a base runner in facing 10 batters (there are more than three outs to an inning to assure he gets the necessary work in). He also had three strikeouts, and got one double play.
“I felt fine,” he said. “All the pitches were right in the area I was trying to throw them in, so I was happy.”
Those pitches included a curveball, which is one of the primary focuses of Vargas’ spring. He’s been known so far for his fastball, slider and change up, the latter pitch of which is generally regarded as his strength.
Vargas said he was able to throw a curveball for strikes on a few occasions today.
“I think my one goal this off-season and this spring training was to get a breaking ball I could count on and be able to throw to get back in the count or ahead in the count,” he said. “And I think it’s given me a good chance to do that. I did that a couple times here today. I was able to throw a first-pitch curveball for a strike, and I think that’s been a weakness for me in the past.”
Vargas was 9-12 with a 3.78 ERA in a career-high 192.2 innings last season. Vargas said he doesn’t think he wore down, though he had a tough stretch late when he was 0-7 with a 5.74 ERA over his final eight starts, one of the reasons the team wants to ease him in this spring.
“I mean it’s good so far,” Vargas said of the team’s pitching plan for him this spring. “I don’t really have a say in the matter, though. It’s just one of those things because of the increase in innings they’d rather be safe than go in right away so whatever they want to do is fine with me.
“It’s something that I’ve never done before. You always want to get out there. But at the same time I like being able to get my work in (off the field) and get dialed in with all my pitches.”
Vargas said he thinks he will throw one more bullpen session before getting his first spring start, which would theoretically come sometime next week.
Denny Bautista, attempting to make the team as an invited free agent, also threw one inning and had two strikeouts in 20 pitches in one inning (facing four batters). The highlight of that session, however, might have been an over-the-shoulder catch by shortstop Nick Franklin, roving deep into left field and making the grab.



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