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March 9, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Garland impresses in Mariners’ loss to Dodgers

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Jon Garland today continued what is an increasingly strong bid to make the Mariners rotation. The M’s lost, 3-2, but Garland sailed through three innings. He gave up two hits and a run to the Dodgers in Glendale, walking one. Most importantly, the surgically repaired shoulder that kept him out all last season keeps getting better.

“I can definitely tell the arm’s getting stronger,’’ Garland said after his third stint of the spring. “In between innings, nothing’s tightening up. Good signs all around.”

Garland said he feels tightness the day after his starts, but nothing much different than he used to experience in his prime. What’s different is that at age 33, he is battling for a job for the first time in a decade.

“It’s a lot different,’’ he said. “In the back of your mind, you know you’re fighting for a spot. You’re trying to make the team, so you’re going out there with every intention of trying to put up as many zeroes and make as many pitches as you can.

“At the same time, you still want to try to work on some pitches and maybe throw a pitch in certain counts you normally wouldn’t do. It’s a little weird, but it’s good. It’s good to get the juices flowing and back in the swing of things.”

I really think that as long as Garland doesn’t have any health setbacks, he’s in a front-running position for one of the two open berths in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders. Erasmo Ramirez is also looking good right now, with Blake Beavan still in the mix, along with perhaps Danny Hultzen (depending on how he bounces back from his hip flexor strain) and Brandon Maurer.

Garland’s track record gives him an edge. He’s won 132 major-league games, and until his injury in 2011 had worked 190 or more innings for 10 consecutive seasons. When he convinced Garland to sign with Seattle during a phone call over the winter, manager Eric Wedge told him he would have a legitimate shot to compete for a job.

Garland has given up just one earned runs in six innings, and Wedge said he is not regarding him as a player coming back from an injury.

“We’re looking at him as a guy competing to make our club,’’ he said. “He’s been very impressive. Today was his best day, and he continues to push forward.”

Garland said he is main concern coming into camp was how his arm would respond to working multiple innings.

“So far, it’s been good,” he said. “I wouldn’t see why it wouldn’t continue to get stronger and get better.




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