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March 13, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Wrapping up the day

This is also wrapping up my stint here covering the Mariners as Geoff Baker is back in town and will resume blog duties soon.
From my vantage point, the Mariners look like world beaters, going 7-2-1 during the 10 days I was here, outscoring their opponents 52-30.
Not that spring necessarily means much, obviously, especially this early. But I remember when I filled in during roughly the same 10-day stretch of the spring a year ago that the Mariners looked pretty sloppy and losing more than they were winning. Kind of just wrote it off as “that’s spring.” But obviously the product on the field never really improved. So who knows? Maybe this team has a little more than people think.
The Mariners concluded my stint here with a tidy 2-0 win over the Angels in Tempe, rapping out 12 hits while limiting the Angels to just four, three of which were singles.
It’s Seattle’s second shutout in the last five days, also blanking the Giants on Tuesday.
“That’s hard to do, especially in Arizona,” manager Eric Wedge. “Guys pitched well today, were aggressive, pitched out of situations, made pitches when they had to, things you like to see as you get deeper in camp.”
Starter Jason Vargas was the most impressive, with four shutout innings, and now even on the spring.
He said he threw four breaking balls today as he attempts to make that a bigger part of his arsenal. He said one was good, the other three balls, so he said it still needs work, but he thinks he can have it ready for at least some use by Opening Day.
“I feel good,” he said. “I didn’t have any exact way on where I wanted to be (right now in spring) other than being in the strike zone and being able to execute pitches when I wanted to, and for the most part I’ve been able to get back in the count and ahead of the count and pretty happy with it.”
Milton Bradley and Dustin Ackley keyed the offense, each with run-scoring doubles. Bradley is hitting .381 and Ackley .316 (and the team is at .264, light years ahead of last year’s .236, with the obvious caveat it’s spring, small sample size, etc.).
Also getting in the game today was knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who pitched a scoreless fifth, walking one but also getting a double play on a popup to second base.
It was his first live action while dealing with a sore back.
“I thought it was a good first outing,” Wedge said. “Obviously he has had to work his way back, but you look at the way he has worked his way back — whether it be the simulated games, the bullpens — he was able to take it right out there today. I liked what I saw today.”
He said Haeger will get a few more opportunities and it’s way too early to know what kind of role he might have this year.
In a few other notes. …
Michael Saunders, who is trying out a new wider stance with the bat on his shoulder rather than held high, had two hits, including a triple. Wedge said he thinks the new stance has helped. “You don’t ever expect to see something move directly in the game but it’s been an improvement. He’s in a better position to hit, the ball is coming off his bat better, and I think he is seeing the ball better, too. … it’s just puitting him in a better position as the ball approaches home plate.”
Fabio Castro gave up a double and a walk in the ninth but struck out Brandon Wood to end the game and get his second save. He has allowed no runs in four innings. “He’s been very impressive the entire camp,” Wedge said. “He created a little bit of a situation for himself but also worked his way through it., Got to bow your neck at certain points in time, particularly later in the game, and that’s what he did.”
—- Bradley was thrown out at home in the third when he made a run for it as Angel catcher Hank Conger threw the ball back to pitcher Ervin Santana. Santana noticed it and threw back to Conger for the out. Wedge, though, said he had no issues with the play. “He’s being aggressive,” Wedge said. “Saw an opportunity and took it and it was a bang-bang play and obviously saw what kind of ame it wasit was an opportunity for us to steal a run right there and almost got it done.”
— Seattle had three runners caught stealing and has been successful in just seven of 19 steal attempts.
Okay, that’s it for me for this run of spring training. Back to Baker.



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