PEORIA, Ariz. – Cliff Lee walked up the bullpen mound and threw a pitch Wednesday – and media members from around the nation watched.
There were writers from Philadelphia, TV crews from Phoenix and Seattle, radio broadcasters and beat writers lining the fence around the bullpen. General manager Jack Zduriencik?
“I’ve seen Cliff pitch quite a bit,” Zduriencik said. “I don’t need to see him throw a bullpen session.”
In a quiet spring camp, the Seattle Mariners’ news of the day was Lee testing his left foot, which underwent minor surgery two weeks ago. Lee, who had been walking, doing some drills and resting, said he knew the foot was fine before he took the mound.
“It was a test, yes, but I honestly didn’t think about it,” Lee said. “I knew how it felt – it was fine. We were operating under the better-safe-than-sorry rule this week, or I’d have already thrown.”
The former Cy Young Award winner acquired from the Phillies is a businesslike workman whose focus is like tunnel vision.
“I didn’t notice if there were a lot of people watching,” he said. “I was looking at the catcher, trying to find my mechanics, trying to locate my fastball.
“I knew this was what I was going to have to do. There’s no sense in denying that fact. I didn’t want to do anything to cause a setback. I understood what was going on and why I wasn’t able to take off with everyone else. But I’m a week behind, and that’s really not that bad at this point.”
Manager Don Wakamatsu was all smiles afterward.
“I was real happy with that, seeing him throw a bullpen, getting him going,” Wakamatsu said. “He threw for about 10 minutes, he’ll take a day off and throw again, then we’ll re-evaluate and see where we are.”
Jose Lopez took ground balls at third base again and looked a little less than enthused at times. The team believes once he gets over the shock of moving from second base – as a test at this point – they’ll get a better response from him and be able to judge his play more effectively. One positive sign: Lopez asked for extra ground balls at third. … Across the diamond, a handful of first basemen took grounders. Ryan Garko and Mike Sweeney did fine, but Casey Kotchman appeared to be in a class all his own defensively. “He says he likes to play first base as if he’s a middle infielder, and he looks like one,” Zduriencik said. “He’s a special first baseman.” … Reliever Steven Shell could have been in one of those “what’s wrong with this picture” contests Wednesday morning. Sitting quietly in front of his locker before 8 a.m., he was – gasp – reading a book. … Ken Griffey Jr. isn’t likely to see a minute of time in the outfield, but he brought six new gloves to camp anyway. When he left one on the field, Wakamatsu snapped it up. “He has five, now. This one’s mine,” the manager said. … Chad Cordero, who saved 47 games for the Nationals in 2005 and underwent surgery for a torn labrum in 2008, is dying to face hitters. “I’m hitting my spots again in the bullpen,” said Cordero, who lived on control. “But throwing well in the bullpen isn’t facing hitters, and that’s where you find out if you can still hit those spots when it matters.” Cordero, a non-roster invitee, will get the chance to face hitters once the exhibition games begin.