AUDIO UPDATE: Here's my interview with Ian Furness today. It's a mess of stuttering yammerings and blather. I always think of about five more interesting things that I should have said. Oh well, I wish I could say I was better.
UPDATE #2: The venerable voice of the Rainiers, Mike Curto, pointed out that the Rainiers home opener is Friday. I should have known that since I have to cover it. And he also gave me a few notes on relievers throwing well ...
Eric Hull - 6 IP, 1 hit allowed, 0 ER.
Randy Messenger - 3 UP, 1 hit, 0 runs
Denny Stark - 3.1 HO, 2 hits, 1 run - hit 95 on Rainiers' radar gun multiple times.
Jesus Delgado - one game, 3 no-hit innings, looked most impressive of the group.
Griffey is back at DH. Wakamatsu said the back is still stiff. With Ichiro back in the lineup, it doesn't mean Wak won't continue to move guys around and feature multiple lineups.
"Early in the season we've got to make sure we're allowing guys to play, but writing him in solidifies right field so we've got to be a little more creative," Wakamatsu said. "We talked about giving guys some days off to make sure everybody can be a part of it."
Who it will cost at-bats is most likely Mike Sweeney, which Wakamatsu admitted.
"The challenge is to find Mike Sweeney some at-bats," Wakamatsu said.
Some of this ABs came yesterday if Wakamatsu had decided to pinch hit Sweeney for Russ Branyan when he faced Darren Oliver twice late in the game. But Wakamatsu decided to stick with Branyan.
"What we've tried to do so far, whether it's the pitchers and leaving them out there, we're trying to find that balance where they can succeed," Wakamatsu said. "Russell is our first baseman and he's going to have to face tough lefties as we go along. Now is not the time to take some confidence away from him. AS we go forward, hopefully he builds that confidence. His production numbers have always been good against lefties."
Well that's not completely true, Branyan only has 388 career plate appearances against lefties and in 299 at-bats, he has 61 hits including 20 homers for a .204 batting average and his OPS of .730
Still with the return of Ichiro, at-bats are going to become less and less for some players, including Sweeney, Endy Chavez, Wlad Balentien and Ronny Cedeno, but Wakamatsu isn't concerned about hurt feelings.
"A lot of it goes back to spring training, whether it's where guys hit in the lineup or where they play, we're going to do what's best for the club first and everybody's bought into that," Wakamatsu said. "You worry about those things as a manager but the bottom line is that we've got to put the best product on the field at any time."
Here's today's lineups
Chone Figgins 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu RF
Vlad Guerrero DH
Torii Hunter CF
Robb Quinlan 1B
Juan Rivera LF
Jeff Mathis C
Erick Aybar SS
Jered Weaver RHP (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Endy Chavez LF
Ken Griffey Jr. DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Russell Branyan 1B
Jose Lopez 2B
Kenji Johjima C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jarrod Washburn LHP (1-0, 0.00)