PEORIA, Ariz. – They began the day batting .259, with an ugly 8-14-1 record and an ever homelier 5.09 earned-run average, but David Aardsma isn’t worried about the Seattle Mariners.
“Last spring, we broke camp with the worst ERA in baseball and the highest batting average,” Aardsma said. “How’d that work out? You can’t pay attention to spring numbers.”
Manager Don Wakamatsu agreed, saying what mattered most was what he saw on the field, not the stat sheet.
“As these guys get their innings in, you start to see the changes,” Wakamatsu said. “Mark Lowe, for instance, hit 97 mph (Thursday), and he hadn’t been in that range all spring.
“Aardsma needs more innings and he’ll get them.”
Ken Griffey Jr. hadn’t hit all spring, but insisted he’s not concerned about himself or his team.
“We’ve played everybody, and (Wakamatsu) has tried to get at-bats for everybody,” Junior said. “You haven’t seen guys in their roles, you haven’t seen a final lineup. Until the bell rings, you take a long look at what you have and what you want to start the year with.”
As if on cue, Griffey later responded with a ninth-inning walkoff grand slam Friday to give the Mariners a 6-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Right-hander David Pauley threw 3 innings out of the bullpen, retiring all 10 batters he faced.
The Mariners have dealt with injuries and with players they’ve had to watch carefully, like catcher Rob Johnson.
“Rob is catching today, and that’s his first back-to-back games all spring,” Wakamatsu said. “We’ll get him a nine-inning game before the season starts. Adam (Moore) has already gone nine innings, and we’ll get him another one.”
“It’s about getting in shape for the season,” Griffey said. “You can’t pay attention to the spring record, the numbers.”
Slowly, the roles on the team have come together this spring. If the Mariners face a right-hander on opening day, for instance, their lineup will start like this:
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Chone Figgins, 2B
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Milton Bradley, LF
Griffey Jr., DH
Jose Lopez, 3B
Similarly, the Mariners’ rotation – without Cliff Lee – will look like this:
The Mariners have lost spring games – and seen their ERA soar – by systematically stretching some relievers out. That has meant less than clean innings on an almost daily basis.
“You work two, three innings after going just one the first few weeks, and you get stronger, but the numbers can look ugly,” Shawn Kelley said. “But once the season starts, you’re strong enough to go three innings or work one, whatever’s called for. That’s what you work all spring to do – get ready, physically, for what’s ahead.”
What did happen after last spring?
Well, Carlos Silva opened the year in the starting rotation, Brandon Morrow was the closer and Ichiro was on the disabled list with an ulcer. By mid-April, all of that changed.
Aardsma, who began 2009 without a single career save, got 38 of them.
Just one problem
Chad Cordero had one of those disastrous spring training lines in a box score Thursday – two-thirds of an inning pitched, five runs allowed – and hasn’t felt as good since 2007.
“I was throwing 91 mph, and I haven’t done that in three years,” Cordero said. “I felt great on the mound and thought I was pitching pretty well.”
“Chad threw a few pitches that could have ended the inning but didn’t,” bullpen coach John Wetteland said. “When the catcher sets up in the strike zone, then doesn’t move his glove when he catches the pitch, you think that’s a strike. When it’s not, you’re out there trying to find out where the strike zone is.”
When Cordero got his pitches up, they were hit.
“Broken-bat single, jam shot for a single and then a triple,” Cordero said, shaking his head. “I thought a couple of pitches were strikes that changed an at-bat. It’s such a different situation if the count is 1-2 than if it’s 2-1.
“I got a little frustrated, but I felt I was putting the ball where I wanted it. My velocity, my command – everything was great except the results. Those were terrible.”
Just a suggestion, mate
Ryan Rowland-Smith was scheduled for a bullpen session on Thursday, and at breakfast was talking to teammate Brandon League about his desire to face more hitters.
League suggested Rowland-Smith work an inning in a minor league game instead of a bullpen – and Rowland-Smith jumped at the chance.
The result? A scoreless inning, and Rowland-Smith got to see hitters react to his pitches, precisely what he wanted. Chalk up a coaching assist to League.
General manager Jack Zduriencik stopped by the clubhouse and shook hands with Griffey Jr. “Glad you’re still here,” Zduriencik said, teasing Junior about not playing in the last few games. “I don’t make spring road trips,” Griffey responded, laughing. ... Ryan Langerhans, the left-handed hitting outfielder fighting for a roster spot, has a tender left elbow and will miss a few games. ... Hernandez will make his final spring start Wednesday – in the minor leagues. The Mariners face Texas that day, and they see no need to give the Rangers a look at Felix again before they square off in the second series of the regular season. ... Jack Hannahan (strained groin) will fly to Philadelphia on Monday to be checked for a sports hernia. ... Fister’s bruised right forearm, the result of a line drive last week, has healed and he will pitch again on Monday. ... Catchers Guillermo Quiroz and Eliezer Alfonso were sent to minor league camp, leaving 38 players in camp – including catchers Adam Moore, Rob Johnson and Josh Bard. Moore and Johnson will open the season as Seattle’s two catchers.
Mariners play the Dodgers in a 1:05 p.m. game today that will be broadcast on 710-AM. Probable starting pitchers: Ian Snell vs. Charlie Haeger.