Junior uses his ‘peepers’ well in exhibition opener
LARRY LARUE; Staff writer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Leave it to Ken Griffey Jr. to explain the importance of the first exhibition game of the spring.
“Do you want to talk about my walk?” he asked, all mock sincerity, pointing at his eyes. “The peepers are working!”
Look for anything more serious in Seattle’s 8-7 loss to San Francisco in 10 innings and your peepers may stop working.
Starting pitchers Doug Fister and Tim Lincecum – the National League Cy Young Award winner – each gave up three runs in the first inning and the Mariners fell behind 7-3 before they rallied to tie it in the ninth inning.
“Coming back four runs, that’s something you’d like to establish early,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “Everyone is getting the cobwebs out. I was pretty pleased with it overall.”
Getting work is about all players and teams want in the first week of exhibition games. The Mariners, for instance, want to watch Jose Lopez at third base, and after an intrasquad game in which he played five innings – without getting a ground ball hit to him – he hadn’t had one in the first 42/3 innings of this one, either.
Then Kevin Frandsen grounded to third.
“I got a ground ball,” Lopez said afterward. “Then I wanted another one.”
The great experiment this spring is trying Chone Figgins at second base while seeing if Lopez can handle third base. The first ball he had the chance to catch Wednesday was a wild throw from catcher Adam Moore on a stolen base attempt.
“It hit me in the chest,” Lopez said. “It hurt, but after that I wasn’t so nervous.”
If not nerves, there was more adrenaline in playing something more than an intrasquad game, and the top third of Wakamatsu’s lineup – Ichiro Suzuki, Figgins and Milton Bradley – each stayed on for three at-bats Figgins and Bradley each walked twice, and Ichiro singled and stole his first base of the spring.
Griffey? He had a sacrifice fly in the first inning, when his RBI and those by Lopez and Casey Kotchman tied the game against Lincecum. In the second inning, Junior put his peepers to work and drew a walk.
And then, there was Ichiro.
Aboard on a first-inning error, he scored a run. Aboard on a single in the fourth inning, he stole a base.
“Ichiro set a tone today,” Wakamatsu said. “We’re going to be aggressive.”
Corridor to Lilliput?
The hallway leading into the Seattle clubhouse is a photo gallery of 28 life-sized posters, all images of players or great moments in team history.
Impressive as it is, it doesn’t include every player on the roster – so Shawn Kelley and David Aardsma added one of reliever Sean White. The kicker? It’s about one inch tall, the size of a yearbook photo, and taped haphazardly between posters of Mark Lowe and Brandon League.
Across the hall, someone found a tiny picture of Mike Sweeney – Sweeney says it’s from an old passport – and taped it to the wall, too.
Among the topics of conversation in the clubhouse Wednesday was the team golf outing a day earlier – in which reliever Mark Lowe won the longest drive contest with a 370-yard shot.
“It was probably more like 380 yards,” playing partner Kelley said. “It was ridiculous. I’d hit one about 300 yards and Lowe just blew past me.”
“My driver,” Lowe deadpanned, “is on steroids.”
The annual players union meeting took up most of the morning in camp, and among those with the union group was former Mariners outfielder Stan Javier
. … American Idol update: Kelley wouldn’t reveal the song he and his trio will sing Saturday morning, but he did say there were costumes and choreography involved. He was later seen practicing a hip swivel near his locker. … Luke French
agreed to a 2010 contract, the last man on Seattle’s 40-man roster to settle. … First baseman Kotchman and catcher Adam Moore
each had two of the Mariners’ 10 hits. … That game-tying, ninth-inning rally was built on a one-out single by Mike Carp
, a Michael Saunders
double, an RBI ground ball from Dustin Ackley
and Jack Hannahan
’s two-out RBI infield single.
The Mariners play the San Diego Padres in a 12:05 p.m. (PST) Cactus League game. Probable starting pitchers: Jason Vargas
vs. Chris Young