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Friday, June 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Bob Finnigan
ARLINGTON, Texas As he had speculated after Wednesday night's loss, manager Bob Melvin rearranged the top of his lineup for yesterday's Rangers series finale, moving Ichiro out of the No. 3 hole, where he had been for 10 games, back to leadoff and dropping Randy Winn and Jolbert Cabrera a spot each, into the No. 2 and 3 positions.
In addition, Melvin gave struggling Bret Boone the day off, with the expectation the second baseman would be back in the lineup for tonight's San Diego Padres series opener.
"We had never intended for Ichiro to hit third for long; he's our leadoff man," Melvin said. "More than anything, it was just to change our look. It was not the case at all that he was supposed to produce runs in the three slot."
But neither was there an idea he would go a terrible 1 for 12 with men in scoring position while hitting .270, more than 60 points below his average going into that stretch.
Ichiro was apprised of the change after the game Wednesday and yesterday shrugged and said, "No difference to me."
Melvin said that while the club had gone 6-2 the first eight games with Ichiro hitting third, the 10-2 and 6-3 drubbings to open this series showed "we had to find a new recipe, color things a little different. We have to get some hits, win some games."
In reality, the top of the lineup was only part of the problem and, with Winn and Cabrera hitting .324 and .300 on the road trip, not the worst part.
The heart of the order was barely beating. Boone is in a 1-for-21 spin, Edgar Martinez 4 for his past 22, John Olerud 3 for 21, Scott Spiezio 3 for 31.
"We're just looking for more offense," Melvin said. "Ultimately, it's going to have to come from the middle of the order. Those guys are going to have to start knocking some people in."
Boone said that this was "about the fifth day I've been rested in the first half. How am I looking? Not good."
Asked how the negotiations with top draft pick Matt Tuiasosopo were going, GM Bill Bavasi deferred to Benny Looper, the Mariners' director of player development.
Looper said he preferred not to comment.
It would appear the ballclub is being sensitive to negotiating with a highly regarded and talented local family.
In the information vacuum, speculation has run both ways that the talks have been going well or not well, and that Tuiasosopo, who reportedly preferred baseball to a run as UW quarterback, is seeking $2 million, which would be first-round money for a player taken in the third round.
Green means go
When Rich Aurilia homered on a 3-0 green light Wednesday, it made the Mariners 3 for 6 as a team hitting on 3-0 this year, with two homers and three runs batted in. Spiezio hit the other 3-0 homer, May 22 against Detroit.
Aurilia hit the homer off a fastball, the pitch with which he is most familiar from his eight years in the National League.
One of the parts of the American League puzzle he has struggled to solve is the penchant in this league to throw offspeed stuff or breaking balls in what the NL considers fastball counts, when the pitcher is behind.
"If you went by the totals, you might not see much difference between the leagues," Aurilia said. "It's when they throw the breaking ball here.
"In the other league you almost always get a fastball on 2-0 or 3-1. Here, you might get anything."
Texas catcher Rod Barajas hit two home runs yesterday, giving him 12 for the season. That's one more than his career total of 11, set in 211 games with Arizona before 2004.
Edgar Martinez tied a Mariners record with five walks.
The teams combined to throw 552 pitches 300 for Texas, 252 for Seattle.
Raul Ibanez, recovering from a strained right hamstring, has been hitting off a batting tee for six days as well as taking treatments.
RHP Rafael Soriano, out six weeks with a sprained right elbow, has also been taking treatments. He will be re-examined today and could get the go-ahead to begin throwing next week.
Coming back from arm troubles in the Peoria, Ariz., camp, Ryan Anderson is throwing at 80-85 percent. But trainer Rick Griffin said when the 6-foot-10 left-hander tries to pump up the velocity "he has setbacks. So we're focusing on his strength and mechanics."
The Tacoma Rainiers will have three representatives in the Class AAA All-Star Game, July 14 in Pawtucket, R.I.: LHPs Travis Blackley and George Sherrill and DH Bucky Jacobsen.
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