By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said Wednesday that left-hander Cliff Lee “still feels it a little bit in his side” after he played catch for six minutes on Tuesday.
“It” is the strained lower right abdominal muscle that probably will cause Lee to miss the start of the season.
“He’s going to try to play catch (today),” Wakamatsu said. “He didn’t feel it at all early (Tuesday when he played catch) but felt it a little bit at the end.”
Right-hander Doug Fister threw off the bullpen mound Wednesday, five days after he was hit on his pitching forearm by a line drive. Left-hander Garrett Olson also pitched in the bullpen one week after he injured his left ring finger when a ground ball hit it during a fielding drill.
Wakamatsu expects both to pitch in games soon.
“We’ll have a better feel for when that will be after we see how they react to the bullpens,” he said.
Erik Bedard played long toss Wednesday as he continued his comeback from left shoulder surgery last August. Wakamatsu said he’ll take a day off, long toss again Friday “and then we’ll figure out when he’s going to throw (in the bullpen). He feels real good.”
Vargas impressive again
Left-hander Jason Vargas continued his strong spring training Wednesday night, pitching five scoreless innings in the Mariners’ 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. Vargas scattered six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.
Vargas has a 2.89 earned run average and only three walks in 182/3 innings this month. Four of the six earned runs he has allowed came on solo home runs Friday against the Reds when he was left in the game to push his pitch count.
That’s the kind of performance that will win a job in the rotation, although manager Don Wakamatsu wasn’t prepared to appoint that.
“Vargas was outstanding,” Wakamatsu said. “He got up to 80 pitches and all of them were good. He had good down angle to his pitches, poise and everything. There’s nothing I didn’t like about what he did out there.”
He couldn’t say that about closer David Aardsma.
The Mariners had wanted Aardsma to pitch two innings, but he needed 33 to get through the seventh inning, when the Padres popped him with four hits, a walk and two runs. He wasn’t helped by a popup in shallow right field that first baseman Tommy Everidge couldn’t reach.
Aardsma, who missed a turn early in spring training with a tight groin, has a 12.46 ERA and has allowed nine hits and five walks in 41/3 innings.
“He’s still not quite where we’d like him to be,” Wakamatsu said. “We’ll continue to watch him pitch. For me it’s just consistency. His tempo was a little bit fast; he’s getting the ball and not really getting into the set position. That’s where you see a little of a push rather than that last little explosion through the zone.”
Wakamatsu said it’s similar to what Aardsma experienced early last season.
“We need to get him out there pitching a little more,” he said.
Today in camp
The Mariners will split the squad for two games, against the Indians at Goodyear (on ESPN 710 AM radio) and the Royals at Surprise. Right-hander Felix Hernandez will make his next-to-last spring start against the Indians. Also scheduled to pitch that game is highly regarded minor leaguer Michael Pineda, a 6-foot-5, 243-pound right-hander. Right-hander Shawn Kelley will start against the Royals, followed by right-handers Kanekoa Texeira, Mark Lowe and Chad Cordero.
Wakamatsu said there may be another round of cuts today, although many of those players may stay with the team and remain available next week when the M’s play exhibitions at Albuquerque and San Francisco. … As impressive as Chad Cordero has been in this camp, he’s still not completely back from the labrum shoulder surgery that halted his career in 2008. “I would say he’s closer,” Wakamatsu said. “I like what I see. There are stints where I know he feels like he’s back to normal, but then there will be a little inconsistency. But it’s light years from last year. He’s made tremendous improvement and he feels like he’s getting awfully close.” … With Chone Figgins getting the night off, shortstop Jack Wilson batted second Wednesday behind Ichiro Suzuki. “Don’t read anything into this,” said Wakamatsu, who probably would bat Franklin Gutierrez second on days when Figgins doesn’t play.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog