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March 17, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Eric Wedge not happy with “sloppy” Mariners play after second straight loss

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Every spring, we get to this point: where the Mariners (and a lot of other teams) start losing some focus and some ballgames. Sometimes, teams pull out of it. Other times, they don’t until considerable damage has been done to them in April.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge feels that, with two weeks to go until opening day, his M’s have reached the lackadaisical stage of spring training. And he’s not happy about it.
“We were sloppy,” Wedge said after tonight’s 9-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. “The last couple of nights we were very sloppy. We’ve got to get better than that.”
Some teams can get away with putting it on cruise control in spring training. But Wedge knows the Mariners lost 101 games last year and that he was hired, in large part, to help avoid a repeat in 2011.
“There’s never any excuse for sloppiness, in my opinion,” Wedge said. “You hear me talk about playing smart baseball and staying ahead of the game. I just don’t feel like the last couple of nights, especially defensively, that we’ve done that. That’s just not the way we’re going to operate.”
Wedge said he understands why players tend to let up this time of spring. The M’s are just about to head into the home stretch, but until that happens, this is kind of a lull period.
“Everybody’s excited and fired up that first seven to 10 days,” he said. “Then, you get to the middle and you realize, hell, we’ve got another couple of weeks of this. Then you get towards the end and you’re like ‘All right, we’re about a week away.’ But having said that, you can’t let your guard down and you’ve got to come ready to play.”
The M’s didn’t do that tonight. When Ryan Langerhans out-hits the entire team, you know something probably went bad.
Langerhans had a home run and a single and inserted himself firmly into consideration for one of the final roster spots. But the rest of the team managed just one single.
Don’t forget, the M’s had managed only three hits and were down 4-1 in the eighth on Wednesday before Brendan Ryan hit a tying three-run homer. So, the offense hasn’t exactly been on fire the past two nights. That’s still a concern as the season nears. Alex Liddi and his grand slams won’t be starting the year off in Seattle.

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Back to Langerhans. I asked Wedge whether defense, or offense will play the biggest role in determining the back-up outfielder’s job. The past couple of seasons, defense has ruled the day when it came to choosing the backups.
“I kind of look at it as a total package,” Wedge said. “Somebody that can play all three (outfield positions). Who’s going to be able to put up a good at-bat, be a tough out at least. You know, ideally, be able to move and be able to do what we need to do on the bases too. You’re not talking about having somebody that’s supreme at any of that. But somebody who can do those things for you.”
Wedge just described Langerhans perfectly. There’s a reason he keeps making this team and sticking around the majors. The results aren’t always there at year’s end. But he always comes to camp prepared and usually delivers his best efforts when a job is on the line.
Not everyone here, did.
Manny Delcarmen was being counted on to perhaps land a late inning bullpen job but never really got it going this spring and was today sent to minor league camp.
“I just felt like he was a little bit behind,” Wedge said. “I think he’s made some small strides. But it just felt like he came in a little bit behind. We didn’t feel like he was going to be an option for us for Day 1, so we just wanted him to go down and continue to work.”
We didn’t have to ask about Dan Cortes. Anyone who watched him pitch this spring couldn’t miss the command issues. Can’t have those to that extent in the majors.
Josh Lueke has done a better job of controlling his pitches this spring. He gave up a two-run single tonight after entering with the bases loaded and two out. Lueke then pitched an additional inning and overall yielded three hits, while striking out one.
The guy who came on the mound before him, Jose Flores, likely sealed his fate with three walks. With the Mariners set to take as many as four or five non-roster guys, there just isn’t room to keep a Class A pitcher on the 40-man roster and the 25-man major league squad.
The 40-man roster is the big issue at this point. Flores probably has to go.
If I was Garrett Olson, I’d also be getting nervous about the stability of my 40-man roster spot at this stage. A .318 batting average against and 5.40 ERA don’t bode well for the lefty when there are other southpaws vying for his spot.
Again, the M’s will need some roster spots to give to non-roster guys.
The M’s could save a roster spot if Miguel Olivo is ready to start the season. Olivo has caught a bullpen session already and Wedge said he’s made great progress coming back from the groin strain. If Olivo is ready on Opening Day, then the team doesn’t have to use non-roster guy Josh Bard instead.
But Wedge didn’t sound too certain about Olivo being back in time.
“He’s been really progressing and we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” he said. “You’ve got to really hand it to the guy. The work’s been good. He’s caught a bullpen or two, he’s throwing well, he’s swinging the bat. I think the number one thing is we’ve got to make sure he’s out of harm’s way. And then, we’ll take a look at the reps behind the plate and the ABs too. So, I’m not exactly sure how much time he’s going to need.”
Wedge said Olivo doesn’t need “considerably more” time, but they do need to get him a bit more time in game conditions.
That’s it from me.

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