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May 26, 2012 at 3:40 PM

M’s notes: More on the closer change

Brandon League is out of his job as Mariners closer, but it’s probably temporary. And if last year’s experience is an indication, “temporary” could be a very short time span.
“We’re going to pull him back, give him some opportunities outside of that closing role and work to get him on track,” manager Eric Wedge said before Saturday’s M’s-Angels game. “Very similar to what we did last year.”
League (0-4, 4.43 ERA) has blown four saves this year, including three of his last five opportunities. His latest came Friday night in a 6-4 loss to the Angels.
Wedge didn’t name a replacement closer, saying, “We don’t feel that’s where we are with the guys we have in our bullpen right now.”
For the M’s, the shortfall with League is a double whammy. Not only have they blown games in the late innings, he’s considered one of their most likely commodities to be moved sometime before the July 31 trade deadline. But that value will obviously be diluted unless League can right himself.
His 2011 history would say he can do that. He had a horrific week in early May in Baltimore and Cleveland, becoming the first reliever in club history to be tagged with a loss in four consecutive appearances. He sustained three of the defeats that week in walk-off fashion.
Back then, Wedge adjusted his role briefly. League pitched in a non-save situation but by May 18 – just five days after blowing a save at Cleveland – he was back in the saddle, saving a victory for Jason Vargas.
League went on to play in the All-Star game, finishing with 37 saves and a 2.79 ERA.
The obvious candidate to replace League would be hard-throwing righthanded setup man Tom Wilhelmsen, but Wedge isn’t committing to anybody, and didn’t rule out a youngster – that would apparently include lefty Lucas Luetge – making a closer appearance if the situation is right.
“We’ll just match it up as we feel is best for us on that particular night,” Wedge said. “Of course, you look at everything and the lineup and see things forward, but it depends on the particular situation, where you’re at and how you got there.”
Walks, 12 in 20 1/3 innings, have been a bugaboo for League. Wedge said it isn’t just a matter of regaining command of his fastball (which sets up his splitter).
“When you look at him, in his last three outings, he’s had his good stuff,” Wedge said. “He’s been in the right arm slot, the ball’s coming out of his hand good. I’m not going to get into the what and why of what he needs to do.
“He knows what he needs to do. Last year, he made some good adjustments and I anticipate him doing the same thing this year.”
Leach in the House
The Mariners welcomed new Washington State football coach Mike Leach and his teenage son Cody. Wedge met Leach and general manager Jack Zduriencik chatted extensively with Leach around the batting cage.
Leach said he was wowed by the unexpected opportunity to be on the field. Helping to arrange it was Mariners clubhouse assistant Jeff Bopp, a former colleague of WSU director of equipment operations Milton Neal, who accompanied Leach.
And What’s More . . .
Alex Liddi wasn’t in the lineup, after going 0 for 8 with six strikeouts in the first two games with the Angels. This, after his first career grand slam that helped sink Texas in the finale of a three-game series Wednesday.
“It reminds you of how tough it is up here (in the majors),” Wedge said. “You just can’t expect to have success without making adjustments.
“If they keep getting you out a certain way, at some point in time, you have to take something away from them, and Alex has not done a very good job of that the last couple of days.”
— Wedge said he was awaiting an update on Franklin Gutierrez’ pre-game running efforts. Gutierrez, out with plantar fasciitis, isn’t expected back for at least another few weeks.
— Mariner starters entered the game with a 5-2 record and a 2.27 ERA over their last nine outings.
— Something has made Kyle Seager more selective recently. In his first 35 games, he walked only three times. But in his last seven, he has walked eight times, during which he has a .414 on-base percentage.



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