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Saturday, March 31, 2007 - Page updated at 09:06 PM

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M's Notebook | Spring success presents White with a Catch-22

Seattle Times staff reporter

TUCSON, Ariz. — It's a situation as strange as any Sean White has ever faced as a ballplayer.

It's possible that the better he pitches for the Mariners, the lesser his chances of ever playing for the Seattle team of his childhood dreams. The Mercer Island resident has given the Mariners plenty to think about so far, compiling a 1.64 earned-run average in 11 innings this spring.

Problem is, as good as the Rule 5 draft pick has looked, his former Atlanta Braves squad would almost certainly snatch him back unless Seattle, as per MLB rules, keeps him on the major-league roster all season. And that's a tall order for the Mariners, who would be hard-pressed to carry such an inexperienced pitcher all year no matter how good his spring numbers.

"I'm trying not to think about it too much," White said Wednesday after notching three consecutive groundouts in the seventh inning of Seattle's 7-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies. "You could drive yourself crazy thinking about what's going to happen."

The Pullman native has always followed the Mariners, and dreams of pitching at Safeco Field. He actually worked out there this winter after Seattle made him a Rule 5 pick.

But the rules say White has to go back to Atlanta unless the Mariners keep him in the majors. The only other option would be for the Mariners and Braves to strike a deal that would compensate Atlanta for allowing Seattle to keep White and ship him to the minors.

The chances of that happening would have been far greater had White had a mediocre spring. But there's no hiding these numbers from the Braves: opponents hitting just .200 off White, with two runs scored in almost a ballgame and a third worth of innings.

As good as he has looked, though, forfeiting a big-league spot to a 25-year-old with limited Class AA experience would be risky should his Arizona success prove a desert mirage. White can't afford to worry about that as he continues to work on what has got him this far.

"I definitely feel I've made quite a few improvements this spring," he said. "The biggest is staying back in my delivery and using my legs to drive towards the plate."

Putz to face

minor-leaguers?

Mariners closer J.J. Putz will get at least one outing in a minor-league game at spring training before being sent to the mound against big-leaguers. That was the word Wednesday from manager Mike Hargrove, and appears to raise more doubts about the chances of Putz being ready by opening day.

Putz played a third consecutive day of catch at the team's complex in Peoria. He will get a day off today while the team decides whether he can throw a bullpen session as the next step in recovering from a strained flexor pronator muscle in his elbow.

"He felt fine, he felt good," Hargrove said. "But we haven't discussed when the bullpen [session] will be. That's the next step."

After the bullpen session, depending on his progress, the team could put Putz in a minor-league game. Hargrove said he would like to have Putz face both minor-leaguers and major-leaguers in spring training before sending him north.

But the manager quickly added that those plans are flexible.

"I don't know that he has to pitch in a major-league game before he starts the season," Hargrove said. "I think he will. But I don't think he has to."

Notes

• C Jamie Burke, in a battle to unseat C Rene Rivera as Seattle's backup, threw out two runners on base-stealing attempts while going 0 for 2 at the plate.

• Seattle's bullpen held Colorado scoreless over the final four innings. LHP Jake Woods allowed three hits, but no runs, in working the eighth and ninth frames after entering the game with opponents batting .323 off him.

• LF Raul Ibanez clubbed his team-leading fourth homer of the spring in the sixth inning. The blast was a wind-aided shot that carried over the right-field fence to tie the score at 4.

• 3B Adrian Beltre continued his hot spring, notching a double and a single in a 2-for-4 day that raised his average to .343.

• 1B Richie Sexson had his third hit in the past two games, a hard single to left field. Sexson had recorded just two hits all spring until the past two contests.

Wednesday's box score

Seattle Colorado
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Ichiro cf 4 1 1 0 Finley cf-lf-cf 4 1 1 0
Jones cf 1 0 0 0 Fowler cf 1 0 1 0
Beltre 3b 4 0 2 1 Matsui 2b 4 1 3 0
White p 0 0 0 0 Quintanilla 2b 1 0 0 0
Ordonez 2b 0 0 0 0 Atkins 3b 4 1 2 2
Guillen rf 4 0 1 1 Menechino 3b 1 0 1 0
Ibanez lf 3 1 1 1 Helton 1b 2 1 2 1
Reed lf 1 1 1 0 Almonte pr-1b 2 0 0 0
Sexson 1b 3 1 1 0 Spilborghs lf-cf 3 0 1 0
Dawkins 3b 1 0 0 0 Martin p 0 0 0 0
Betancourt ss 4 2 2 2 Herges p 0 0 0 0
Lopez 2b 4 0 0 1 Sullivan ph 1 0 0 0
Woods p 0 0 0 0 Gallo p 0 0 0 0
Burke c 2 0 0 0 Hawkins p 0 0 0 0
Rivera c 1 1 0 0 Bernier ph 1 0 0 0
Batista p 2 0 0 0 Hawpe rf 4 0 1 0
Green p 0 0 0 0 Czarniecki pr-rf 0 0 0 0
Broussard ph 2 0 0 0 Iannetta c 3 0 3 1
Gil c 1 0 0 0
Barmes ss 4 0 0 0
Fogg p 2 0 0 0
Gomez lf 2 0 1 0
Totals 36 7 10 7 Totals 40 4 16 4
Seattle 020 002 210 -- 7
Colorado 004 000 000 -- 4
DP — Seattle 1, Colorado 1. LOB — Seattle 3, Colorado 10. 2B — Beltre, Suzuki, Reed, Iannetta, Finley, Atkins. 3B — Betancourt. HR — Ibanez. SB — Matsui. CS — Barmes, Spilborghs.
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
Batista 5 11 4 4 1 2
Green, W 1 2 0 0 0 0
White 1 0 0 0 0 0
Woods, S 2 3 0 0 0 1
Rockies IP H R ER BB SO
Fogg 5 2/3 5 3 3 0 1
Martin, L 2/3 2 2 2 0 0
Herges 2/3 2 1 1 1 1
Gallo 1 1 1 1 0 1
Hawkins 1 0 0 0 0 0
T — 2:28. A — 3,981.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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