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M's Notes: Players of all sizes working on small ball
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners' drive to execute better baseball took form Thursday when, for the first time in memory, the team held a drill specifically for situational hitting.
Every position player in camp bunted several times, then was asked to swing for hit-and-runs with a runner at first, hit to the right side to move a runner over from second (as if there were no outs), and to get a runner in from third (as if there were less than two outs).
While Richie Sexson did a good job in the bunting drill, manager Mike Hargrove did say that is not likely to happen in the season. "If I have Richie bunt," he said, "lock me up and lose the key."
Noting that Seattle must score more than its 699 runs of 2005 (second lowest in the American League to the Twins' 688), Hargrove said there would be more emphasis on playing well when the club goes with small ball this year.
That means more aggressiveness on the bases, which means better leads and turns at first on singles.
"When the other club knows you're looking to take an extra base, they'll charge the ball more," Hargrove said. "When they have to charge, a tricky hop could mean the difference between getting around to third and having to stay at first."
He wants runners to be more like Willie Bloomquist.
"He's not the fastest, but he's a good, aggressive base runner," Hargrove said. "He gets a good lead and when he commits to stealing a base, he really commits. He pushes the envelope and that's the key to his success."
Hargrove is seeking that from Jeremy Reed, Carl Everett, Raul Ibanez, Adrian Beltre, Yuniesky Betancourt, runners with some ability to steal.
"For the most part last year we ran the bases like we didn't want to run into outs, way too defensive," Hargrove said. "We took leads like we didn't want to get picked off, rather than make it to the next base.
Getting in the swing
The Mariners have scheduled intrasquad games Monday and Tuesday at 11 a.m., so hitters can get some at-bats prior to the start of Cactus League play Thursday.
In addition, Joel Pineiro will throw a simulated game Sunday.
"We want him to throw 25-30 pitches, so we can get him up to 40-45 in the B game [against San Diego] on March 3."
Pineiro is scheduled to pitch March 8 for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
Putz's big (come)back
Reliever J.J. Putz threw batting practice and was said to be much improved from back spasms that struck him Tuesday and sidelined him the past two days.
"I probably shouldn't have thrown that day; it was stupid," the right-hander said. "But you don't want to start backing off, or else you'll be doing that a lot more than you have to."
When it was noted that his big back might induce big spasms, he cracked, "Yeah, good thing I didn't have butt spasms."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company