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

March 20, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Mariners can’t play a much better game than this one

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NOTE: Don’t forget, we’ll start up Geoff Baker Live! at 11 a.m. PT tomorrow morning, hopefully on location here at the Peoria Sports Complex. A lot will depend on the weather.
Plenty of things went right for the Mariners today, the least of which was Brandon League (photo above) closing out a 4-1 win over the San Diego Padres without too much trouble. League did issue a one-out walk in the ninth, but did a better job of locating all three of his pitches and kept the ball down and largely unhittable for the most part. There was a fairly deep flyball to center, but it was a routine out.
Other than that, the hitters talking swings against him were unable to get solid wood on the ball. They kept fouling it off with a lot of topspin and backspin. League’s pitches have quite a bit of movement to them, which is one of the reasons he can have trouble getting his command right where he wants it at times.
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After the game, I asked manager Eric Wedge whether, because of the way League’s ball moves, he makes more allowances when it comes to how long he can wait in spring training to start seeing the results he’d like without getting nervous.
“I think you have to,” Wedge said. “He has such a good arm. He’s a guy that…he knows himself well. He’s going to be able to utilize the entire spring to get himself where he needs to get to. I thought today was a good day for him.”
Josh Lueke got through the eighth inning with a little help from Ryan Langerhans, who made a sensational catch in right center to rob Jorge Cantu of a double that likely would have scored a run. Lueke then snagged a Will Venable line drive and threw to first to double-off Guillermo Quiroz.
I’ve seen Lueke make some nice defensive plays this spring, so it looks like he can field his position. He’s also making a case for himself to be one of the team’s late-inning relievers. I know the team would like Chris Ray to be the eighth-inning set-up man for closer League, at least at the start so that no undue pressure is placed on Lueke.
Frankly, had League struggled to a greater degree today, I think we’d all be wondering aloud whether Lueke might be looked at as the closer. Thankfully, we won’t have to discuss that. I think Lueke has done enough, to this point, to earn a spot in the bullpen for Opening Day. But he does tend to get hit hard at times. A little too hard for me to comfortably suggest him as the closer just yet. He misses bats, yes, but he also hits them.
For now, League’s still my guy, followed by…probably Ray, but let’s see a little more these next 10 days.

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Moving right along, we saw Erik Bedard throw five innings and use only 62 pitches to do so. The Mariners had wanted to see him throw about 70 or 80 pitches but decided not to push their luck. Bedard was starting to get hit pretty good in his final frame and was saved from a run by a hustling Milton Bradley — who chased down a double to left center and hit cutoff man Jack Wilson with a good relay to help nab Chris Denorfia as he tried for a triple.
So, yeah, we saw plenty of good defense to go with the strong pitching today.
As I mentioned earlier, that Langerhans play on the line drive to center may have gone a long way towards helping him solidify a backup outfield job. It’s only one play, but he’s shown all spring what he can do with the bat — hitting .324 — and now just showed his glovework at what is probably his second-best defensive position.
The M’s are having Langerhans work out heavily at first base as well. They want all of their backups to be able to play multiple spots in the infield and outfield. Unlike last year, Wedge wants to be able to sit guys out if they start slumping due to fatigue. He also wants to limit the playing time of certain players to avoid fatigue in the first place and maximize their production.
“The versatility part of it is going to be important,” Wedge said of what he expects out of guys defensively. “It’s important to any ballclub. But with looking at so many guys and making sure we have the type of offense we need day-in and day-out, the versatility is going to be important to us.”
Wedge said the team is close to making a call on Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan and figuring out exactly who will plat shortstop and second base. I’d expect the team to stick with Wilson at shortstop, given how well he’s swung the bat so far en route to a .448 batting average.
Why risk messing up any unexpected plate production from Wilson by moving him to a second base position he’s not all that familliar with? Yeah, I know Wilson has looked good playing second down here. But it’s a little different when the games start to count and you’d like to see his comfort level maximized. We saw last season how a position switch seemed to impact Chone Figgins in a negative way offensively. We’ll never be able to prove any exact link, but why take the risk if you don’t have to.
It was good seeing Ryan hit that triple as well after homering last week. Ryan’s bat had been non-existant all spring and the last thing the team needs is to replace Wilson’s black hole on offense with another non-hitting infielder just as Wilson is finally starting to make solid contact on a regular basis.
Finally, Miguel Olivo continues to make solid progress in recovering from that groin strain. Olivo made some throws down to second and third base earlier today.
Wedge watched Olivo catch a bullpen session yesterday as well. I asked Wedge what he has to see from Olivo first before he’d consider putting him in a game. He told me the lateral movement by Olivo, going left to right for balls in the dirt, is going to be the key.
“It’s just more the reactionary part of it,” he said. “Becasue that’s something you can’t control. When you get out there and play, you just react. Whether it be pitches in the dirt, or (running) on the bases, or on home plate getting out of the box, these are things we need to make sure he’s able to do before we get him in there.”

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins


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