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Monday, August 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Bob Sherwin
Clint Nageotte walked gingerly around the clubhouse yesterday, one day after being removed from his start and placed on the disabled list with a strained lower-right back.
Nageotte started feeling it early in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, but when he ran over to cover first base with two outs in the third inning, "that's when I really tweaked it."
This has happened before. He did it in spring training, but his worst episode was last year in the Arizona Fall League. He said he was stuck on the mound in a bent-over position and had to be carried off the field that way.
Saturday's setback doesn't come at a good time for him. He's in the mix with several other candidates for staff positions next season. As one of the system's top prospects entering the season, he has not shown much in his 12 outings, including give starts, with the big club. He is 1-6 with a 7.36 earned-run average. He has allowed 48 hits and 27 walks in 36-2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts.
When he exited Saturday's game, he had given up four runs and five hits in three innings.
"It's kind of big right now, especially when you want to go out there and do well," Nageotte said. "But once I get healthy, it'll be all right."
Mariners manager Bob Melvin added, "He certainly wants to show what he can do and pitch. He probably hasn't pitched as well as he would have liked up here. It is a little bit of a setback for him, but he'll get some games."
Nageotte figures it'll take a week for the back problem to disappear. He expects to return to the field when he is eligible on Sept. 12.
The 50-Hit-Month Club
What is known, according to the M's, is that Ichiro is the first player with three 50-hit months in a season since Joe Medwick in 1936. Ichiro is the first to do it consecutively since Medwick did it that season. Ichiro also is the first to have four in a career since Pete Rose did it in 1979.
But researcher David Stephan, who is affiliated with retrosheet.com, a baseball-research site, has gone further. It's his determination that Ichiro is the first to have three in a season. Stephan also said Ichiro is the sixth player to do it in consecutive months, joining Medwick, Lou Gehrig (1930), Rogers Hornsby (1924), Ty Cobb (1917) and Bill Terry (1929, 1930) twice.
In addition, Stephan said the record for most hits in a month is 67, done twice by Cobb and once by Tris Speaker. There have been 13 players with more than 60. George Sisler is the career leader in 50-hit months with 10. Heinie Manush had seven.
Stephan also said there have been 215 50-hit months in baseball history, but none in April.
Ichiro is going after another record that is verified. Sisler had the most hits in a season in 1920 with 257. With three hits yesterday, Ichiro has 209, on pace for 260 with 32 games remaining.
Melvin said he doesn't expect to rest Ichiro the remainder of the season.
"Unless we felt like physically he has worn down or has ailments that need rest for a day and we'll consider doing that but he keeps in such good shape and gets his rest," Melvin said. "There really is no reason to rest him."
The Mariners have three days off through the remainder of the season. The first one is today, and the next two are Sept. 7 and Sept. 23.
"This has never really been done before. Enjoy what you are watching," Melvin said. "The record was set in like the '20s when you're seeing one pitcher, maybe two. Now they're specializing by bringing in guys just to get him out.
"What he's doing just hasn't happened."
Right-hander Julio Mateo, on the disabled list with elbow tenderness, has a timetable to come off in mid-September. That would be past the time he could be sent on a rehab assignment to the minors. All of the Mariners' farm teams are finished with their regular seasons by Sept. 6. "It's going to be difficult to do that," Melvin said. "We'll probably have to have simulated games for him."
Melvin said there may be as many as three players called up from the minor leagues when rosters are expanded in September. Tacoma outfielder Jeremy Reed, acquired in the Freddy Garcia trade, is one possibility. Reed is hitting .304 with four home runs and 32 runs batted in in 53 games. Tacoma third baseman Greg Dobbs (.289, 8 homers, 31 RBI) is another candidate, as is Class AA San Antonio reliever Aaron Taylor (3-1, 2.97 ERA in 27 games), coming back from shoulder surgery.
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