Balentien, Netherlands rough up M's Garland
Onetime Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien wasted no time showing why he's become a star hitter the past two seasons in Japan. Balentien crushed a three-run...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — Onetime Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien wasted no time showing why he's become a star hitter the past two seasons in Japan.
Balentien crushed a three-run homer off Jon Garland in the first inning Friday night, then drove in two more runs with a single just one frame later as his Netherlands squad routed a pitcher vying to make Seattle's rotation.
The Netherlands was tuning up for next week's semifinal round of the World Baseball Classic, and Curacao native Balentien and friends looked much sharper than did Garland, 33, one of two nonroster veterans looking to crack the Mariners' rotation. Garland left after three innings, having yielded the five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven in a 70-pitch outing.
Balentien, 28, signed a three-year, $7 million contract extension in December with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows after hitting 31 home runs for them last year despite missing more than a month due to injury. He admits his new home-run-king status overseas resulted from a more disciplined plate approach, something he feels might have given him a different major-league future. He struggled in two seasons with Seattle in 2008 and 2009 before being traded to Cincinnati for a low-level minor-leaguer.
"Probably, I'd be in a different situation," Balentien said before Friday's game. "I was young. I was not able to put everything together quick. But, thank God, I have another opportunity and I've taken advantage of it."
Balentien hasn't ruled out attempting a major-league comeback when his Japanese deal expires after 2015.
"I've always thought I could still play in the major leagues," he said. "And not just play. Be a good player."
The other Mariners nonroster starter hoping to make it, Jeremy Bonderman, 30, fared much better than Garland earlier Friday by tossing four solid innings in an 8-5 split-squad victory over the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, Ariz.
Bonderman got some key double-play grounders and kept the ball down, for the most part.
"There are some good guys here," said Bonderman, who hasn't pitched since 2010. "If I don't make the team, I don't make the team. It's part of the business. I've proved to myself I can pitch again in the big leagues. If it isn't here, it will be somewhere, hopefully. If not, I'll be at home."
As to possibly starting the year in Class AAA, Bonderman said it's too early to decide whether he'd go for that or leave the organization.
While he admitted to being focused on results in an effort to impress the team, he still found time to try something he never has before — throwing split-fingered fastballs to a pair of right-handed hitters, the two being Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo.
"I think it's a good pitch to be able to do," Bonderman said. "It keeps guys honest, gives them something else to look for. I'm just trying to add some different stuff."
Class A prospect
Mariners prospect Julio Morban at least came away with something after a two-homer day against the Angels. Morban, 21, who played for Class A High Desert last season, clubbed two-run shots off major-leaguer Tommy Hanson in the second inning and minor-leaguer Billy Buckner in the eighth, only to learn after the game he'd been cut from his first big-league camp.
The good news? Morban was optioned to Class AA — meaning he earned a promotion, up one level.
"He's a good baseball player," M's manager Eric Wedge told reporters. "He has a nice swing, has a nice approach at the plate. He's focused and he's had a great camp for us. This is a guy who came in here and has made quite an impression."
• The Mariners optioned several others to the minors as infielders Alex Liddi, Vinnie Catricala and Carlos Triunfel, left-handed pitcher Bobby Lafromboise and right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina went to AAA. Outfielder Francisco Martinez was optioned to AA, while catcher Ronny Paulino, right-handed pitcher Andrew Carraway and outfielder Stefen Romero were reassigned to minor-league camp.
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