If you missed Geoff Baker Live! earlier (replay above), we played you a clip of manager Eric Wedge discussing the team’s hot-hitting young players. We touched on Kyle Seager a bit and discussed where he fits with this team going forward. A viewer wanted to know how long a contract the M’s should give Ichiro after next season and for how much. We also discussed Michael Saunders and other prospects in this long exploration of some of what the team might do on the development front in 2012. A viewer asked whether there are any free agent shortstops the M’s might pursue. I quickly shot that one down. Finally, a viewer asked about my encounter with a grizzly bear while hiking in Montana over the weekend. I didn’t have a photo to show on the air, but I’ve put one that my wife took of the bear on the opposite page.
Not many highlights for the Mariners in this one, other than the pitching of Tom Wilhelmsen yet again. Wilhelmsen struck out three batters over two scoreless innings, following up on some filthy work on the road — where he fanned four in 1 2/3 innings at Cleveland and tossed three hitless frames at Tampa Bay.
I asked Wilhemsen after the game what his secret was and he told me: keeping it simple.
“I’m not trying to do too much or be too perfect,” he said. “It’s all square one and square two, go back to the basics of pitching. Put the ball in the glove. Just keep it simple.”
That’s something the Mariners need starting pitcher Charlie Furbush to do more of.
Furbush needed 35 pitches to get out of the first inning and 70 total to make it through three frames. He limited some of the damage after falling behind 2-0 in the first, but then Brent Lillibridge clobbered one of his fastballs in the fifth for a two-run bomb and that was it.
Jake Peavy and Chicago’s bullpen shut Seattle down from there when it mattered. The Mariners had 10 hits to reach double figures, but were hard-pressed to do anything when it really mattered.
That Chicago bullpen is real good and deep. It manhandled the M’s at key moments tonight.
Back to Furbush, he told me I “nailed it on the head” when I asked him if he was trying to be too fine in that first inning. The opposite of what Wilhelmsen was trying to do.
“The first inning’s kind of been a telltale for me sometimes,” Furbush said. “You’ve got to get that first one out of the way. I was battling, throwing some pitches down in the zone, away in the zone. Kind of all over the place, but I tried to pull it together the best I could the next few innings.”
Furbush insists he isn’t putting added pressure on himself to make the most of this opportunity. He says he’s trying to learn more about himself as a big league pitcher and soak this experience in as best he can.
He’s also trying to have fun.
“Just to be in a rotation feels good because I’ve been a starter my whole career and getting in a routine of being a starter every fifth day, you kind of get used to it,” he said. “I’m starting to get used to it (again) now and learn a lot about myself and about baseball at the big league level. How to make adjustments on the fly and pitch to what you see.”
The Mariners believe that Furbush can become more than just a relief pitcher. Eric Wedge said so a couple of times tonight. But first, he said, Furbush will have to stop getting too cute, fine or whatever with his pitches and just throw the ball over the plate with conviction.
“Ultimately, with any of these guys, you’ve got to work hard to get strike one,” Wedge said. “And if you don’t get strike one, you get 1-1 and make it a helluva lot easier on yourself.
“He’s still getting a feel for himself at this level,” Wedge said. “But…he has enough stuff and enough ability to get big leaguers out in the (strike) zone.”
Anyhow, that’s the story tonight. Furbush will get more chances in the rotation going forward. The M’s want a good long look at him ahead of next spring.