By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz.— With so much uncertainty over how — and how much — the middle of the Seattle Mariners’ lineup will produce runs this year, the one element they must utilize is their speed.
Proving that it’s never too early to start running, the Mariners did just that in their exhibition opener Wednesday, an 8-7 loss in 10 innings to the San Francisco Giants. The Mariners stole two bases — by Ryan Langerhans and Ichiro Suzuki — and used every opportunity they got to advance an extra base. Jose Lopez went from first to third in the fifth inning and even Brad Nelson, a big-bodied first baseman, scored from first base in the sixth. The Mariners also drew nine walks, including two by Chone Figgins and two by Milton Bradley.
“Patience at the top of the order. We had nine walks and I liked the dynamics of Ichiro and Figgins,” Wakamatsu said. “Ichi stealing third base right out of the gate is something you didn’t see last year. He’s setting the tone the first day and it’s something we’ve been talking about, being aggressive on the bases.”
Walk like a man
Ken Griffey Jr. hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning, but he was more eager to talk about his walk in the second inning.
So eager, in fact, that when three reporters walked past Griffey’s locker as they headed back toward the stadium, he shouted, “Doesn’t anybody want to talk to me about my walk?”
OK, what about the walk?
“The peepers were working,” he said.
Asked how old those peepers are now, Griffey didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Thirty-nine and 465 days old,” he said. “Never say 40.”
Postage stamp-sized poster
The long hallway leading from the players’ parking lot to the clubhouse contains a gallery of 28 life-size posters of current Mariners. Sometime recently, two more appeared, although the new images certainly aren’t in proportion with the others.
Taped to the wall between Mark Lowe and Brandon League is an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny Sean White. It’s the mug shot from his days pitching for the University of Washington and is the work of fellow relievers David Aardsma and Shawn Kelley.
“Aardsma found the picture and I took care of the rest,” Kelley said.
Across the hall is another flash from a more distant past, a similarly small mug shot of a young guy who looks a lot like Mike Sweeney. No word yet on who found that one.
“It’s from 1999. My passport photo,” Sweeney said. “Back when I had hair.”
Fire up the Breakfast Club
Mariners catching coordinator Roger Hansen walked through the clubhouse Wednesday morning and was asked if he’s getting excited about his “Breakfast Club” for minor leaguers.
“Of course,” said Hansen, the longtime coach who lives near Stanwood.
The Breakfast Club is anything but breakfast. It’s the 4:30 a.m. run around a dark practice field which serves as a “reminder” to the minor leaguers that they must adhere to the rules on and off the field.
Don’t run hard to first base? Breakfast Club.
Cause a stir at the hotel? Breakfast Club.
Offenders of those and any number of team expectations can expect an early morning session with Hansen, who is among the first to arrive at the Mariners’ spring training complex each morning. While they run, he usually sits in a golf cart overlooking the field as he sips coffee.
He figures he’ll have some Breakfast Club participants soon because minor league pitchers and catchers report on Sunday for physical exams.
“You know something will happen,” he said. “It’ll probably happen during the physicals.”
Today in camp
The Mariners face the Padres at 12:05 p.m. (PST) in the annual charity game to benefit several causes in and around Peoria. Left-hander Jason Vargas will start for the Mariners, followed to the mound by right-handers David Aardsma, Brandon League and Shawn Kelley, and left-hander Mauricio Robles. Right-hander Chris Young will start for the Padres.
Mariners starter Doug Fister, who’s competing for the fifth-starter’s job, had one of those typical early spring outings. He struggled with his location in the first inning and gave up three hits and three runs to the first five hitters he faced, then dialed it in, kept the ball down and retired five straight, including all three on strikeouts in the second inning. … Giants starter Tim Lincecum was just as off-kilter, walking two and giving up two RBI singles, plus Griffey’s sacrifice fly, in the Mariners’ three-run first inning. … The Mariners tied the score 7-7 with two runs in the ninth on Dustin Ackley’s run-scoring ground-out and Jack Hannahan’s RBI single. Minor league pitcher Kenn Kasparek couldn’t get an out in the top of the 10th, walking all three batters he faced, before another youngster, 19th-round draft pick Anthony Vazquez, came on. Vazquez, a left-hander out of USC, gave up an RBI single that the Giants’ Jesus Guzman fisted into left field to break the tie before he got a popup and double play. … Mark Lowe became the king of the big boppers on the golf course, unleashing a poke of 380 yards to win the long-drive portion of Tuesday’s tournament with the San Diego Padres. “I would stroke one down the middle, about 300 yards, and then there goes Lowe’s ball flying by,” said reliever Shawn Kelley, who was in Lowe’s foursome. … Pitcher Luke French, the last of the unsigned players on the 40-man roster, has agreed to a contract for 2010.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog