Mariners Notebook | Morrow switch to role of starter looks more iffy
All the talk about the Mariners converting Brandon Morrow to a starting role out of the team's bullpen this year was apparently just that...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Friday | vs. Detroit, 7:10 p.m., FSN | M's RH Carlos Silva (3-4, 5.14) vs. LH Nate Robertson (2-5, 5.88).
Saturday | vs. Detroit, 12:55 p.m., Ch. 13 | M's RH Felix Hernandez (2-5, 3.60) vs. RH Justin Verlander (2-7, 5.16).
Sunday | vs. Detroit, 1:10 p.m., FSN | M's RH Miguel Batista (3-6, 5.98) vs. LH Kenny Rogers (4-4, 6.66).
Monday | vs. L.A. Angels, 7:10 p.m., FSN | M's LH Erik Bedard (4-3, 4.08) vs. RH Ervin Santana (7-2, 3.09).
Tuesday | vs. L.A. Angels, 7:10 p.m., FSN | M's LH Jarrod Washburn (2-6, 6.54) vs. LH Joe Saunders (8-2, 2.76).
All the talk about the Mariners converting Brandon Morrow to a starting role out of the team's bullpen this year was apparently just that.
Now that the talking is done, it seems the Mariners have ruled it out. At least, that's what manager John McLaren told Morrow during batting practice on Tuesday. Before Morrow used some 99-mph heat to get the team out of an eighth inning jam.
"He didn't think it was going to be a good idea to do it during the season," Morrow said before Wednesday night's game.
In a conversation with reporters after Morrow spoke, McLaren indicated the team was leaning away from converting the pitcher in-season.
"I'm not saying we've backed off it," McLaren said. "But there's a lot he has to do to get ready to start. We've by no means given up on this season at all. What he can do in that eighth inning like that is special. We just want to get him in that opportunity a lot more here coming up. A lot of times we just use him to get some work in. We'd like to utilize him when the game is on the line."
In other words, the team may be reluctant to send fans a signal it has "given up" on 2008, before the season is even two months old, by transitioning their best setup reliever. But the team did enter Wednesday 12-½ games out of the division lead and 15 games under .500.
Morrow has been steadily improving as a late-inning reliever this season, posting a 1.50 earned-run average and .229 batting average against in 16 appearances. On Tuesday, he struck out Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell, his fastball hitting 99 mph and 98 mph in the respective at-bats, before getting J.D. Drew to fly out to end a two-on, none-out threat in the eighth inning of a tie game.
The pitcher began honing his secondary pitches as a starter in Venezuelan winter ball late last year. He has now got an improved changeup to go along with his high-90s fastball and a slider and says those pitches will only get better if he transitions to starting.
"Sometimes it's just getting in a rhythm with them and that takes time," he said. "When you're warming up to come in as a reliever, you may only throw four breaking pitches in the bullpen. So, how sharp is your breaking pitch going to be the first couple of times you throw it?"
Morrow, a starter in college and the team's fifth pick overall in 2006, said it's "not a big deal" to him if he has to wait until the off-season to begin starting again. But he is looking forward to the day he can do it.
"Starting, I feel like I have more contribution," he said, later explaining that he feels "getting a quality start is more important than getting a couple of outs in the seventh and eighth."
Sexson on bench again
Richie Sexson was on the bench for a second straight night Wednesday amid rumors the club is actively pursuing longtime Yakima resident Scott Hatteberg, released by the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. Sexson has posted just a .197 on-base percentage so far in May.
Miguel Cairo got the start at first base instead, having gone 1 for 3 with a sacrifice bunt in Sexson's place on Tuesday night.
"I thought Cairo brought us some energy, made a couple of plays in the field," McLaren said. "I could feel the crowd getting into it. They haven't had much to cheer about here lately.
"We've been seeing some things here the last few days, the way the guys have been going about their job, the urgency and diving for balls. "
The Mariners had indeed looked far more competitive the past three games than they had in five consecutive prior blowouts on the road. Which raises the question of why it took them so long, though McLaren insists they were playing hard on the road despite getting blown out.
"You know what, I saw it in Detroit too," McLaren said. "Regardless of what anybody saw. My eyes saw the same thing — the effort. It's just that we got behind so much. In the dugout, they were still pushing and 'Let's go, keep it going, we can fight our way through this.' "
McLaren and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt had a brief meeting before Wednesday's game to discuss the latter's dugout conduct after being lifted for a pinch-hitter, Jeremy Reed, with a runner on second and one out in the ninth inning on Tuesday. Betancourt, who declined to comment on the matter, slammed his bat in the dugout, in a scene that was captured by television cameras.
"I didn't see all of it," McLaren said. "I heard the bat. We had a discussion today. It's just an in-house thing. I liked the emotion to be honest with you."
The manager said he liked the fire shown by Betancourt, who was batting .318 with runners in scoring position at the time. Reed wound up grounding out. But Jose Lopez singled to drive in the game-winning run after that.
McLaren said he made the move he thought was best at the time — given that left-handers were hitting .370 off Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin.
"No one should be happy," he said of being pinch-hit for. "But being best friends is not my main concern around here. Getting a win is all I care about. If they're mad, prove me wrong."
• Jarrod Washburn has been bumped back from his next scheduled start so he won't have to face the Detroit Tigers this weekend. The Tigers pasted Washburn for nine runs off 12 hits in just 2-1/3 innings last week in Detroit and seemed to hit everything he threw their way.
The team has been juggling its rotation around to create better matchups and felt that Washburn — who allowed only two runs over six innings at Yankee Stadium last Sunday — would be better off facing the Los Angeles Angels instead.
Washburn will now go Tuesday — eight days since his previous start. The weekend rotation will see Carlos Silva on Friday, followed by Felix Hernandez and Miguel Batista.
• Jose Lopez found himself back in the No. 5 spot on Wednesday, a tribute to the way he's driven in runs of late. Lopez has put up a .318 average with runners in scoring position heading into Wednesday.
He handled the No. 5 spot when Sexson served a five-game suspension earlier this month for charging the mound against Texas.
For the record
|M's W-L||W PCT|
vs. AL West: 10-11
vs. L.A.: 3-3
vs. Oakland: 3-2
vs. Texas: 4-6
vs. AL East: 5-14
vs. AL Central: 3-8
vs. NL: 2-1
vs. LHP: 4-10
vs. RHP: 16-24
Extra innings: 2-2
Wednesday's crowd: 30,752
Season total: 747,497
Biggest crowd: 46,334 (March 31)
Smallest crowd: 15,818 (May 6)
Average (27 dates): 27,685
2007 average (27 dates): 29,985
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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