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Originally published Monday, March 18, 2013 at 5:58 PM

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Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma building toward regular season

Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma had trouble gripping the ball Monday but pitched well enough for five innings to help the Mariners beat Oakland, 6-5.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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I see Gutierrez is rounding into shape nicely for the 2013 season, taking a week off as... MORE
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PHOENIX — Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma had trouble gripping the ball Monday, but still made it through five innings against an Oakland Athletics team he'll likely face two weeks from now in the regular season.

Iwakuma gave up a two-run homer to Derek Norris and three runs in a 6-5 win, but otherwise built his arm up with 76 pitches as he gears to open the season as the team's No 2 starter. Building arm strength was an issue for Iwakuma last spring, but he's had few troubles this year other than Monday, when he struggled to keep the ball down.

"Today was dry and the ball was slippery," Iwakuma said, through interpreter Daisuke Sekiba. "I was losing my grip."

Michael Morse hit his sixth home run of the spring, which leads all major leaguers. Dustin Ackley had two singles and two runs batted in, Justin Smoak had a double and a single and Jesus Montero a long double.

Montero nearly had a home run in the second inning, but center fielder Coco Crisp climbed the wall and robbed him with a catch.

The dry conditions might have also explained some deep fly balls off relief pitcher Lucas Luetge, who yielded a double and then a long sacrifice fly in the eighth. Dry conditions make it difficult for pitchers who rely on movement to get enough grip and rotation on the ball to make it do what they want.

Luetge has struggled this spring and has a 5.14 earned-run average. But he doesn't appear in danger of losing his bullpen job.

His only real competition for a spot would be if the team planned to go with Class A flamethrower Carson Smith as an extra right-hander. Smith retired the side 1-2-3 in the ninth, but manager Eric Wedge after the game sounded like he views Smith as future depth rather than someone to open the season with.

"You know as well as I do, you're going to run through multiple pitchers in the bullpen and probably the starting rotation," Wedge said. "Hopefully, that's not the case, but that's just the reality of it. The depth that we need to have and to have the ability to watch these guys pitch in these types of games in spring training is important. It's great experience for them and it allows us to see them, so that when they do get the call they should be that much more comfortable."

Notes

• Smoak's two hits both came from the left side and the first baseman said he's been so comfortable there this spring that he actually had to back off a bit. "I've been seeing the ball so well, sometimes I go up there and just want to kill it," he said. After a spate of recent strikeouts, he said he made a conscious effort to ease up so he wouldn't fall into any bad habits with his swing.

Franklin Gutierrez wasn't in the lineup Monday — one day after returning from a weeklong absence from games because of leg stiffness. But Wedge said the rest was just a precaution and that Gutierrez feels fine and the plan is to play him regularly from here on out.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.

Seattle Oakland
AB R H BI AB R H BI
M.Saunders rf 4 0 1 1 Crisp cf 4 0 2 0
C.Wells cf 5 0 0 0 D.Coleman ss 1 0 0 0
Ibanez dh 4 0 0 0 Sizemore 2b 4 0 1 1
M.Dowd ph-dh 1 0 0 0 Reddick rf 3 0 1 0
Morse lf 3 1 1 1 Parrino lf 1 0 0 0
Thames pr-lf 1 1 1 0 S.Smith lf 2 0 0 0
Smoak 1b 3 1 2 0 S.Peterson cf 1 0 0 0
Jacobs 1b 1 0 0 0 Lowrie 3b 2 1 0 0
J.Montero c 3 1 1 0 Sogard 3b 1 1 1 0
Zunino c 1 0 0 0 D.Norris c 3 1 2 2
Ackley 2b 4 0 2 2 Montz c 1 0 0 0
Andino ss 2 1 0 0 J.Weeks dh 3 1 1 1
B.Miller 3b 3 1 1 2 Barton 1b 2 0 0 0
A.Aliotti 1b 1 0 0 0
Rosales ss 2 1 1 1
J.Barfield rf 1 0 0 0
Totals 35 6 9 6 Totals 32 5 9 5
Seattle 000 032 010 6
Oakland 000 211 010 5
E — O.Perez (1), D.Norris (3). DP — Oakland 2. LOB — Seattle 8, Oakland 6. 2B — Thames (3), Smoak (5), J.Montero (5), B.Miller (3), Reddick (2), Sogard (7), D.Norris (2). HR — Morse (6), D.Norris (3). SF — Sizemore, J.Weeks.
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
Iwakuma W, 2-0 5 6 3 3 2 0
O.Perez 1 2 1 1 0 0
Pryor 1 0 0 0 0 1
Luetge 1 1 1 1 0 1
C.Smith S,1-1 1 0 0 0 0 1
Athletics IP H R ER BB SO
Griffin L, 1-1 5 1/3 6 5 5 2 3
R.Cook 2/3 1 0 0 0 0
Figueroa 1 0 1 1 1 1
Neshek 1 1 0 0 1 0
C.Hernandez 1 1 0 0 0 2
HBP — by O.Perez (Barton), by Iwakuma (Rosales), by Figueroa (Jacobs). T — 2:46. A — 6,305.

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