Opponent: Boston Red Sox
When: 7:10 p.m.
Where: Safeco Field
Radio: ESPN 710 AM
Pitchers: Seattle left-hander Jason Vargas (6-4, 2.97 earned run average) vs. right-hander Josh Beckett (1-1, 7.29)
Mistakes and consequences
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu has been criticized about plenty in this last-place season. But this week he’s been questioned for running the same lineup onto the field game-after-game despite loss-after-loss, and Thursday he was asked why he hadn’t benched players for making repeated mistakes.
To both of those issues, Wakamatsu had the same answer. With only 11 healthy position players available to him, it’s difficult to juggle the lineup or sit anyone.
“I think every manager wants to have that luxury,” Wakamatsu said. “But when you have a two-man bench, it’s a little harder to do that.”
For the third straight game, Wakamatsu played without DH Russell Branyan (back spasms), left fielder Michael Saunders (jammed right middle finger) and catcher Rob Johnson (sore back).
It left Wakamatsu with two available backups on the bench, outfielder Ryan Langerhans and infielder Josh Wilson, who also is the team’s emergency backup catcher. Not only that, but two starters Thursday night were hurting — left fielder Milton Bradley with a sore right knee and DH Justin Smoak with sore legs after he’d fouled several pitches off himself this week.
It’s not that Wakamatsu didn’t have reason to sit someone in order to deliver a stern message. The Mariners added two more examples to their growing book of baserunning mistakes in Wednesday night’s game.
Ryan Langerhans rounded first base too far and was tagged out in a rundown after his single to right field, a mistake that Wakamatsu blamed on over-aggressiveness.
“Here’s a guy who plays sporadically, and he makes the wrong decision trying to be aggressive,” Wakamatsu said. “Do you sit that player or do you go, ‘He hasn’t been out there in a while, and he gives you 110 percent every day.’ Every case is different, and you try to deal with them accordingly.”
Then there was Jose Lopez, who was doubled off first base in the ninth inning after Milton Bradley hit a fly to shallow right field. White Sox right fielder Andruw Jones made a diving catch and easily threw out Lopez, who had bolted toward second base.
The baserunning crime there? With a runner on second base ahead of him and the score tied, Lopez shouldn’t have been a factor in the play and had no reason to venture so far from first base. After the game, Wakamatsu backed Lopez — to a degree — when he said the first-base umpire didn’t immediately give an “out” signal (Lopez, though, had sped toward second base before the ball was caught).
“I defend it maybe in a different light because I see it from the dugout here and understand what’s going on when you don’t score (the Mariners were in a streak of 27 scoreless innings),” Wakamatsu said. “That doesn’t make it any more justified. We have to get better and make better decisions, and that’s the bottom line.”
The Mariners expect to have at least two of their ailing players, Saunders and Johnson, back in the lineup tonight.
Saunders played catch Thursday afternoon and said his jammed right middle finger felt fine. Johnson had said Wednesday that he would play tonight, and Wakamatsu confirmed that Thursday.
Branyan, however, remains a few days away from playing because of back spasms he suffered during Monday night’s game. Branyan said he’s feeling better and that the soreness in his back is now confined to one small spot.
“I think I’ll be back sooner than later,” he said. “I’ve got to let this one little bit quiet down.”
Reliever Shawn Kelley said his right elbow felt fine after he pitched in the bullpen Wednesday. He’ll throw another bullpen Saturday — “throwing full-out,” he said — then a simulated game and a minor league rehab assignment.
The Mariners traded infielder Jack Hannahan, who’d spent the season at Class AAA Tacoma, to the Red Sox on Thursday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Hannahan went to spring training hoping to win a utility spot with the Mariners but suffered a hamstring injury early in camp. He batted .228 with five home runs and 33 RBI in 63 games with the Rainiers.
Wakamatsu fielded a few more questions Thursday about removing Felix Hernandez after eight innings and 93 pitches the previous night, and he responded with the same answer — that the team must be careful with Hernandez’s workload. Wakamatsu said he and Hernandez had talked about that recently, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to the right-hander. “He wasn’t happy about it then and he wasn’t happy about it last night,” Wakamatsu said. … Brandon League recorded his seventh victory Wednesday night, moving him into a tie for 13th for victories by a Mariners reliever in a season. Bill Caudill is the leader with 12 victories in 1982. … Kassidy Millar, the Marysville girl who won the 7-8 year-old national championship of the Pitch, Hit &Run competition last week at the All-Star Game, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday night’s game. She made a perfect throw to Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas.
Kirby Arnold, Herald Writer