PHOENIX – It was as if the Seattle Mariners turned their whacky clubhouse pranks into a baseball game and let it run wild.
Milton Bradley managed one team and wound up throwing first base. Chone Figgins managed the other team and engineered a late trade – catcher Adam Moore for 7-year-old Teven Griffey.
Ichiro Suzuki homered – right-handed! Casey Kotchman played shortstop, Mike Sweeney played left field and at one point Eric Byrnes stormed off the field, calling the proceedings “a mockery of the game!”
Well, no kidding.
The Mariners staged a ragball game on the half-field in Peoria, with rules that included running the bases clockwise, batting from the wrong side of he plate and an umpire, Josh Bard, who accepted bribes.
That last part was key: Bard ruled a Franklin Gutierrez home run did not count because Gutierrez hadn’t stepped on home plate – although he clearly had.
And, with Bradley’s team ahead, 7-2, in the final inning, Sweeney hit a solo home run – then called in five pinch-runners and all circled the bases for a six-run home run.
Bard considered Bradley’s immediate protest and ruled it a three-run home run, instead.
“We can live with that,” Ken Griffey Jr. said.
The purpose was to let the position players have a bit of fun as camp draws to a conclusion, perhaps even do a little team-building on the field. Laughter was the tone of the day.
Bradley, playing his reputation to the hilt, had a mock rage in which he kicked dirt on umpire Bard, then dug out first base and heaved it.
Griffey and Kotchman grounded balls through the infield only to be thrown out at third base by someone playing left field at a depth of about 120 feet.
There was also a display of Mariners power as Chris Woodward, Josh Wilson, Jack Wilson, Sweeney, Byrnes and Ichiro all homered – and Gutierrez hit one out but had it nullifed.
Afterward, Byrnes briefly talked to two writers “covering” the contest.
“This game was rigged,” he said.
Well, no kidding.
Pitchers look sharp
A third consecutive day of great pitching was rewarded when Gutierrez broke a tie with a ninth-inning home run as Seattle beat Oakland, 3-2, in the real Cactus League game Monday.
Great pitching? Jason Vargas pitched five innings and allowed two runs, then Brandon League and Sean White each pitched a scoreless inning.
Rookie right-hander Kanekoa Texeira pitched two shutout innings – lowering his spring earned run average to 0.64 – and got the win.
Bard homered in the eighth inning to tie the game.
Major work, minors game
Innings are drying up in Cactus League games, what with starting pitchers going six and seven innings, so the Seattle Mariners took advantage of a minor league game to see their pitching on Monday.
Doug Fister worked four innings, Shawn Kelley two and Chad Cordero one in a minor-league intrasquad game, and all three got their work in. For Fister, it was his first game action since being hit by a line drive on the right forearm about 10 days ago.
“It was a good building day,” he said. “I threw 65 pitches and didn’t feel a thing from the forearm.”
That’s important, since Fister figures to be Seattle’s No. 5 starter when the season begins. Kelley, a middle reliever who has been stretched out to pitch multiple innings, threw 24 pitches and got seven outs – four in one inning.
How’s that? Well, in minor league games, if you want a pitcher to get a little extra work, you just extend the inning a bit.
“I’ve been working on the change-up, throwing it in different counts, and on a few small changes in my setup. My feet are further apart, my leg position is a little bit different. The more work I get, the more second nature it becomes,” Kelley said.
Cordero, the right-hander coming back from major shoulder surgery, figures to open the season in the Tacoma bullpen. He threw 34 pitches.
“All of them threw nice and easy, and Doug’s healthy, which we wanted to see in a game situation,” pitching coach Rick Adair said. “I saw a lot of first-pitch strikes from Fister and Kelley. Cordero’s command isn’t there, but it’ll come.”
The Mariners asked veterans Griffey, Sweeney and Figgins to talk hitting to their minor league players Monday. Think young hitters paid attention? … The annual WWE Wrestlemania was held in nearby Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, and reliever Cordero went. His review: “Awesome!” Cordero is a huge fan of the Undertaker, who beat Shawn Michaels in the final match. Now you know. … David Aardsma continues to battle a chest cold. … Griffey played in his first road game of the spring, and manager Don Wakamatsu joked about getting him into the gray Mariners road pants. “He kept telling me he’d sent them on to Oakland for the start of the season,” Wakamatsu said. “I told him today I’d had them sent back. He put them on.” … Erik Bedard played long toss, then climbed the bullpen mound and made 20 more throws, getting the feel of the rubber for the first time since last July.
Today’s the last day off in spring training before Seattle plays its last two games in Arizona against the Rangers and White Sox.