Don’t worry, be happy

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, March 6, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Mike Hargrove knows a poor start to spring training doesn’t satisfy an antsy fan base. But he really isn’t as concerned with the Seattle Mariners’ record as much as he is with the way the team is playing.

According to Hargrove, the Mariners are doing just fine, and it didn’t take the Mariners’ first victory Tuesday – 10-3 over the Texas Rangers – to convince him of that.

“If I was a fan, I would look at this and say, ‘Holy cow, what’s going on?’” Hargrove said. “I understand that. But I also understand that you can win a lot of games at spring training because the other team you played that day is really bad. Tampa Bay made six errors the other day.

Tuesday’s victory gave the Mariners a 1-5 record, but Hargrove has said since the beginning of camp that the bottom line is to be winning in April, not March.

“You don’t get a ring, you don’t get any playoff money, you don’t get a T-shirt, you don’t get anything for winning the Cactus League,” he said.

And losing it doesn’t mean much, either.

The Mariners’ four playoff teams – in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001 – went a combined 47-59 at spring training. Only the ‘97 Mariners avoided a losing record and they barely did that, going 16-16.

The 2001 Mariners had the worst record of the four at 13-19, and went on to tie the all-time major league record with 116 victories. The 2004 Mariners, who finished last in the regular season, went 18-10 at spring training.

The Mariners still must be wary of stumbling too much this month. Otherwise, the here-we-go-again feeling could set into a club that has finished last three consecutive years. That’s one reason Lou Piniella, in his first year managing the Chicago Cubs, held a team meeting Monday morning after they’d lost their first three exhibitions.

Hargrove isn’t ready for that step because he says the Mariners are playing well. Four of the Mariners’ five losses were by one run, while the Cubs lost 9-2, 9-5 and 13-2 before beating the Mariners 6-5 Monday.

Hargrove has only one suggestion for M’s fans who already are worried.

“Be patient. It’s spring training,” he said. “While I understand that fans want us to win, winning at spring training is not the end-all, be-all. The games we’ve played, we’ve played pretty well. There’s not a whole lot to sharpen up.

“Believe me, it’s no fun to ever lose a game. But I would rather go 1-31 and win the American League West than go 31-1 and come in last again.”

Ramirez gets it together: Left-hander Horacio Ramirez struggled early in his first Cactus League start, then settled down and pitched three hitless innings.

“I was probably a little excited,” he said. “I am just excited about pitching again. I love to pitch. I love fielding ground balls and things like that.”

He did that well in the first inning, fielding Frank Catalonotto’s chopper up the third-base line and throwing off-balance to get him at first base. Ramirez, who endured an injury-filled 2006 season, turned his right ankle on the play but finished his work.

Well-centered: Adam Jones has been a project in center field since the Mariners moved him there from shortstop a year ago.

Tuesday, he played his best defensive game since the switch. He made three difficult catches, including a leap high against the center field wall to rob Hank Blalock of an extra-base hit with two runners on base in the sixth inning.

“When we called him up last year, he couldn’t go back on the ball because his game had not developed to that point,” Hargrove said. “He worked really hard on that, as you can see by the way he played.”

Remember them? Some numbers from other games Tuesday involving recent Mariners:

* Jamie Moyer made his second appearance for the Phillies, holding the Pirates to one hit in three shutout innings. Third baseman Greg Dobbs went 0-for-2- with two walks and two runs scored, and now is batting .438.

* Joel Pineiro, roughed up in his first outing, pitched a scoreless inning for the Red Sox against the Marlins and now has a 10.80 ERA.

* Reliever Emiliano Fruto gave up two home runs in 12/3 innings for the Nationals against the Braves. Outfielder Chris Snelling went 1-for-4 for the Nationals.

Trimming: The Mariners made their first cut Tuesday, re-assigning left-handed pitcher Jamie Cerda to the minor-league camp. He didn’t appear in any Cactus League games. The move leaves 60 players in the major league camp.

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