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Published: Sunday, June 21, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

M's NOTEBOOK: Chavez out for season with 'devastating' injury

The Mariners got the brutal confirmation Saturday of what they suspected Friday night not long after outfielder Endy Chavez collided with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. A magnetic resonance imaging exam showed massive damage to Chavez's right knee.
Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the Mariners' medical director, said Chavez would be out 9-12 months and there's no guarantee that he'll retain the same speed he had before the injury.
Khalfayan said Chavez tore his anterior cruciate ligament, his medial collateral ligament and also damaged the meniscus. He'll undergo surgery when the swelling goes down, which may take as long as three weeks.
"It's a devastating injury," manager Don Wakamatsu said.
The Mariners put Chavez on the 60-day disabled list and filled his roster spot -- although not the outfield vacancy -- with backup infielder Josh Wilson, who they claimed off waivers Friday from the Padres.
The Mariners' challenge is to replace Chavez as their primary left fielder and center field backup, and no option is without peril.
Wladimir Balentien started in left field Saturday night, but he has been a disappointment both in the field and at the plate (.223, one home run entering Saturday) and he won't get many more opportunities to prove he can make it in Seattle.
"We have given Balentien a couple of opportunities this year to see if he can be the kind of player we think he can be," Wakamatsu said. "If not, we'll have to make some changes."
Ronny Cedeno will get more playing time but if he and his current .132 average can't hack it, don't be surprised to see the Mariners look elsewhere. And it could be somewhere other than Class AAA Tacoma because there's no sure-fire answer there.
Ken Griffey Jr. is a possibility, although he played five games in left field during the last road trip and hasn't been able to start each of the past two because of knee pain.
Jerry Owens, picked up early this season, has major league experience but is considered a one-tool player (his speed) who lacks the arm to be a viable candidate in the outfield at Safeco Field.
Michael Saunders was batting .296 with eight homers and 22 RBI in 162 at-bats with the Rainiers, but he's extremely young in his development and it would be a rush to bring him up now. And Prentice Redman was batting .305 with 11 homers and 29 RBI, nice numbers although he has fallen off recently. Also, the Mariners remember Redman's horrible spring training, when he seemed overwhelmed trying to make an impression in the big-league camp.
Mike Carp is a sweet-swinging left-handed hitter who has impressed the Mariners with his patience and eye at the plate despite being 23 years old. He has little experience in the outfield, although Wakamatsu played him there during spring training and he got plenty of games there with Tacoma. He nearly made the starting lineup Saturday before Wakamatsu decided to put Balentien in left.
Of note
Ken Griffey Jr. was scratched from the original lineup because his left knee remains sore after he played five games last week in the outfield. … Catcher Kenji Johjima (broken toe) played five innings with Class AAA Tacoma on Saturday. … Relief pitcher Shawn Kelley (strained oblique) threw in the bullpen for the first time since he was hurt in early May. … The Mariners entered Saturday with a major league-leading 1.13 bullpen ERA this month. Since May 15, the relievers have a 2.27 ERA, and for the season it's 3.20. … The Mariners have promoted pitcher Phillippe Aumont to Class AA West Tennessee. He had 12 saves, a 3.24 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings at Class A High Desert. … Outfielder James McOwen of High Desert entered Saturday with a 30-game hitting streak, the longest in the minor leagues this season and five from tying the California League record.
Kirby Arnold, Herald writer
Story tags » Mariners

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