By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — A 9-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Thursday spun the Mariners to their fifth straight defeat, and they’ve been outscored 17-3 in their past two games.
As difficult as the game was, manager Don Wakamatsu wasn’t concerned.
The Mariners still aren’t playing their regulars together on a consistent basis; Thursday’s lineup was comprised entirely of players who won’t make the starting lineup and many with little or no chance of making the opening-day roster.
“We’re still at that point where we’re playing a lot of minor leaguers,” Wakamatsu said. “You’re always looking for positives. Starting Sunday, I think you’ll see a consistent lineup and I think you’ll get a real feel for what kind of personality and what kind of ability you have.
“That’s what’s tough right now. We’re going every other day and guys aren’t getting consistent work that way. But you’ve kind of got to do that to get them in shape.”
Starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith gave up five hits and two earned runs but reached 66 pitches in 22/3 innings Thursday before Wakamatsu pulled him.
“I thought he was up in the zone and pulling off a lot of pitches,” Wakamatsu said. “The good thing is the amount of pitches; 66 is on track but there’s a lot more work to be done.”
Rowland-Smith said he’s in a typical mid-spring training mode, where he’s still searching for the crispness to all his pitches that will allow him to put away hitters when he gains all of his arm strength by opening day. Rowland-Smith had several two-strike counts that the Rockies turned into long at-bats.
“Everything needs to sharpen up a bit,” he said. “I’m right where I was last year. Everything will get sharper. The strength will get back there.”
Rowland-Smith became upset in the first inning when first-base umpire Bob Davidson called him for a balk as he tried to make a pickoff throw. Davidson said Rowland-Smith’s stride was more than 45 degrees toward the plate.
Rowland-Smith, while he said little, showed his disagreement by marking a spot in the dirt where his foot landed, then swiping his foot to create a line in the dirt.
Unlike Wednesday night when Mariners hitter Milton Bradley was ejected for dropping his bat after being called out on strikes, Davidson did nothing.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had a balk in the big leagues,” Rowland-Smith said. “I was under the assumption that it’s 45 degrees. I stepped 45 degrees and they called it a balk. I looked in the dirt and got the protractor out, and it was probably 45.”
No, he didn’t really have a protractor.
Saunders among three cut
Michael Saunders’ chances of making the opening-day roster seemed slim, given the number of veteran outfielders the Mariners brought to spring training.
Thursday, the Mariners optioned Saunders to Class AAA Tacoma, where he’ll get what he needs most — regular at-bats. He batted .222 this month, going 4-for-18 with one home run, one double and one triple.
“I liked what he did at the end of last year and he went to winter ball and did a nice job,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “We had a long discussion today. We’re still extremely high on him. We want him to continue the path that he’s on right now. We like what we see in him and the maturity. He could use a little more time down there to refine those skills.”
The Mariners also re-assigned right-handed pitchers Mike Koplove and Levale Speigner to the minor league camp. Koplove allowed four hits and a walk in 51/3 scoreless innings and Speigner allowed one hit in five scoreless innings.
Wakamatsu said both impressed him enough that he’d consider them when he would need to call up pitchers during the season.
The moves leave 41 players in the major league camp, including 10 non-roster invitees.
Today in camp
The Mariners play the Cincinnati Reds at 7:05 p.m. in Goodyear (ESPN 710 AM radio). Right-hander Doug Fister, 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA, will make his fourth exhibition start for the Mariners as he attempts to win the fifth-starter job. Left-hander Jason Vargas, also competing for a spot in the rotation, will follow Fister, with right-hander Jesus Colome and left-hander Garrett Olson also pitching for the Mariners. Right-hander Aaron Harang will start for the Reds.
Reliever Sean White pitched a perfect sixth inning to keep his ERA at 0.00, continuing to look strong after dealing with shoulder tendinitis late last season. Wakamatsu said the club has considered extending White beyond one inning of work but is hesitant because he’s pitching so well in his inning-at-a-time outings. … Catcher Rob Johnson was feeling soreness in his glute muscles Thursday after catching games Monday and Wednesday. Wakamatsu said he probably would catch again Sunday. … Utility player Jack Hannahan, who suffered a mild groin strain last week, took batting practice for the first time Thursday. Wakamatsu said Hannahan may be a few days ahead of the 7-10 day estimate originally given for his recovery. … Right-hander David Pauley, still in the running for a long relief spot, pitched two good innings before he faded in the ninth. Wakamatsu said the team is trying to build his stamina and he got tired in the ninth. … Mike Sweeney tripled on an opposite-field fly that carried to the warning track in right field but also struck out twice. He’s batting .684. … The Mariners sent minor league right-handed pitcher Miguel Celestino to the Red Sox to complete the trade for first baseman Casey Kotchman. The Mariners acquired Kotchman on Jan. 7 in exchange for utility player Bill Hall and a player to be named later. That player became Celestino, a 20-year-old who was 5-3 with a 4.73 earned run average last year with rookie-level Arizona.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog