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March 29, 2012 at 5:53 AM

Mariners head home facing questions in bullpen, at the plate

This Japanese trip, so long-awaited by the Mariners, finally comes to an end tomorrow. The games part of it ended with a 4-1 loss Thursday to the Oakland Athletics in a game that raises plenty of questions for the team with a week of spring training now left to go.
For one thing, the bullpen that had been a concern for much of the spring helped torch a seventh-inning lead that Jason Vargas had nursed all night in allowing just two hits. Justin Smoak had just given Seattle the lead with a solo homer in the top of the seventh when Vargas was pulled at 85 pitches with one on and one out.

VIDEO ABOVE: See replay of Geoff Baker Live!, streamed live from Tokyo before Wednesday’s game.
But Shawn Kelley yielded the go-ahead, two-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes, George Sherrill gave up a homer right after that to Josh Reddick and got scorched for two “laser” singles as he called them. Steve Delabar looked OK for two innings, but also got burned for a home run by Jonny Gomes.
Three home runs in two innings of relief won’t cut it.
“I just hung a slider,” Kelley said. “Did him a favor, you know. It’s as simple as not executing a pitch and he hit it a long way.”
The slider is Kelley’s self-professed “go-to pitch” and he said he had a good enough feel for it coming out of the bullpen. He just put it in a bad spot.
“It’s sad,” he said. “Vargas pitched a helluva of a game, deserved to win. Smoakie got the big hit and I cost us the game. Everything that happened after me, that’s on me.

Well, that’s not quite what happened literally. The Mariners still were down only one run when Kelley left but Sherrill looked like a guy who wasn’t done spring training yet.
Sherrill gave up the homer to Reddick, then a bullet line drive to center for a single and an ensuing single ripped into right field.
“It was just bad pitches,” Sherrill said. “They seemed to be up.”
Sherrill said he hung a slider to Reddick but thought it was a “pop up” coming off the bat, only to land in the first row of seats. But the other pitches, he admitted, were ripped hard.
“I hate to say it but it still feels like spring training to me,” Sherrill said. “It’s kind of weird playing real games and then going back to playing spring training games again. It’s no excuse, I’ve still got to get better. But I’ve still got a little ways to go to get better.”
Sherrill says the fact he’s yet to go back-to-back in spring training games, largely due to stiffness he still feels in his elbow at times, is keeping him from being fully ready.
“You’ve still got to be prepared,” he said. “And I wasn’t.”
Sherrill says he isn’t worried yet, “but you still don’t like giving up a lot of lasers. I’ve got to clean that up.”



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