Mariners closer Brandon League makes it look easy
Mariners closer Brandon League, who had struggled in his most recent appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning Wednesday to save the Mariners' 5-3 victory over Texas.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When last seen, Brandon League was surviving a harrowing ninth inning against the Rockies on Sunday. When last seen before that, he was blowing a game in Cleveland.
But on Wednesday, League turned in a much less nerve-racking ninth, working a 1-2-3 inning to pick up his ninth save. League hit 99 mph on his first pitch to Mike Napoli, whom he struck out on three pitches to end the game.
To manager Eric Wedge, it was a continuation of positive signs he saw in Denver, despite the shaky results.
"The last outing was a battle, but his stuff was real," Wedge said. "The way the ball was coming out of his hand was real. You have to work off what you see. It's not always the results. That can be tough to control just for the fact those guys over there are getting paid and they're pretty good players, too.
"Today was a much more clean effort, and I think that's a product of what we saw stuff-wise in his last outing, and he was able to carry it over to today."
League was encouraged by his outing, in which he struck out both Yorvit Torrealba and Napoli on split-fingered fastballs after a long fly out by Nelson Cruz.
"I still have work to do, even though the outcome was great," he said. "I felt like the first at-bat to Cruz, there were still some kinks. It wasn't quite what I had been working on. But I got in the groove against Torrealba and Napoli. I'll keep working. Just keep working."
League on the gun reading of 99: "I don't know how accurate that thing is. But we say in the pen, if it's on the board, it counts."
Liddi struggles with fly ball
Alex Liddi, making just his second career start in left, struggled mightily with a high fly into the corner by Torrealba, which fell for a two-base error in the third.
"I couldn't tell how far the fence was," he said. "When I looked up again, the ball went into the shadow of the sun. The sun was covered by clouds, but it was still bright. I kind of lost it a little bit."
Move the fences in?
The question of whether the Mariners should move the fences in at Safeco Field is again a hot topic, and Wedge was asked about it before the game.
"Like I've always said, Jack (Zduriencik) and I talk every day. Jack talks to the powers that be on a daily basis. When the season's all said and done, we're going to evaluate everything. I mean, everything. Both on and off the field, both in regard to the field or anything else regarding that. I'll leave it at that.
"The longer I'm here — nothing's going to happen this season, that's obvious — but it does allow me to give it another four months to take a peek at it, too. I have my thoughts, of which I will not let you in on. Safe to say we will evaluate everything when the season's done."
Asked if he thinks it gets in the players' heads when they hit a drive they're sure is out of the park, only to have it die on the warning track, he said:
"What we don't want it to be is a crutch. There's no excuses here. These players are young enough, and I think they're tough enough, they can handle anything that comes their way. Having said that, they're human. Whether it be a ball you hit right on the screws you line out to the third baseman, or one you hit you feel it's gone and they grab it, you're going to have human moments. I accept that."
• With John Jaso still a little banged up from a foul ball he took off his shoulder on Monday, Jesus Montero caught a day game after a night game.
• Franklin Gutierrez again worked out before Wednesday's game, throwing and running while the trainers watched. All seemed to go well, but Wedge, asked if he was pleased, said, "I'll be pleased when he's back with us." The plan is for Gutierrez, battling plantar fasciitis, to work with the Mariners throughout the week, return to Arizona on Sunday and play about five or six games in extended spring training, then begin a rehab assignment if all goes well.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com