By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The morning after the Mariners were shut out in 12 innings, and a few hours before they were held to eight singles and three runs in Saturday’s loss to the Rangers, manager Don Wakamatsu tried to explain the state of the team’s offense.
Wakamatsu said hitters were pressing and he was candid to the point of naming a few names — particularly Chone Figgins, whose 1-for-3 game Saturday gave him a .205 average.
“I see a lot of guys, like Chone, they stare at that batting average every day and try to do too much,” Wakamatsu said. “As manager you do try things that spark them. We tried a hit-and-run and fly ball to right field (Friday night, without success). So, daily you are looking at ways to get the offense going. To me, it still comes down to a lot of guys trying to get their averages up to where it’s respectable and that’s a problem in itself.”
The averages aren’t attractive — Jose Lopez .235, Milton Bradley .226, Ken Griffey Jr. .224, Mike Sweeney .179, Casey Kotchman .237, Rob Johnson .182, Jack Wilson .242.
Franklin Gutierrez is batting .319 but .154 with 14 of his 23 strikeouts in the past 10 games.
“I see a young three-hole hitter that got off to a great start,” Wakamatsu said. “Again, this is so much the mental part of trying to stay almost boring in a sense. With him, I think we’re struggling and he takes it upon himself to do more. (That’s) where you see strikeouts all of a sudden.”
Lee’s agent: No talks with M’s
One day after Cliff Lee’s first start as a Seattle Mariner, the pitcher’s agent said he hasn’t had any significant talks with the team about a contract beyond this season and that Lee appears headed toward free agency.
“We’re five months away from free agency,” agent Darek Braunecker told ESPN.com on Saturday. “I think that’s the most likely scenario at this point.
“We’ve not really had any significant discussions with Seattle. I wouldn’t anticipate a deal. The way I look at it, there will be in excess of 15-plus clubs seeking a top-end of the rotation type of guy that will have the resources.”
Simulated game for Bedard
Wakamatsu said Erik Bedard, in the final phase of his comeback from left shoulder surgery last August, may pitch a simulated game soon. He said Bedard felt good Saturday, one day after he threw 55 pitches in the bullpen.
“Right now, we’re looking at one more bullpen and maybe a sim game,” Wakamatsu said. “Things are going well.”
The Mariners believe Bedard could be ready to pitch by the end of the month.
“But until we get him out there throwing against live competition we won’t know,” Wakamatsu said.
The bunt and the bicycle
Wakamatsu spoke with Eric Byrnes about the botched squeeze bunt in the 11th inning Friday night when Byrnes pulled the bat back even though Ichiro Suzuki was sprinting home. Suzuki was tagged out.
“The ball was down and away and he didn’t think he could get to it,” Wakamatsu said. “In hindsight, he thought he should have thrown his bat at it instead of pulling it back. As the manager you want him to get it down and that’s the bottom line.”
Byrnes rode away from Safeco Field on a bicycle after that game, leaving within minutes after the final out. He didn’t speak with the media.
“He is the ultimate competitor and he was probably as disappointed as anybody,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s passionate about this club and doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to play and when he’s in there he wants to help us win. He knew that getting that (bunt) down wins us a ballgame and he didn’t do it. But I don’t question why he went out of here early. He was upset with himself.”
Wakamatsu was impressed, however, with the bike.
“He has a beach-cruiser 10-speed, or eight-speed,” the manager said. “He showed it to me the other day. He was using all eight gears yesterday.”
Felix Hernandez’s 41/3-inning outing Saturday ended his streak of 18 straight quality starts. … Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 to end his five-game hitting streak. … Figgins walked twice, giving him 19 this season and at least one walk in nine of his past 12 games.