But other players not even thinking about opponent
By KIRBY ARNOLD
SEATTLE — Oakland or New York?
The Seattle Mariners say it doesn’t matter who they play in the American League Championship Series next week.
"I just want to enjoy this for a while," center fielder Mike Cameron said late Friday afternoon, exhausted after he had partied hard with his teammates and the fans at Safeco Field following the Mariners’ 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
"I just want to sit back and see what happens," Cameron said. "We’ve got a few guys who are banged up, and we could use some time to get ourselves back together. It doesn’t matter who we play."
The only player with a firm idea of who he wants to play is shortstop Alex Rodriguez.
He’d love to face the Yankees and shortstop Derek Jeter.
"That would be a dream come true, to play my best friend," Rodriguez said. "That would be special."
The Mariners plan to enjoy the next three days before the ALCS begins on Tuesday at either Oakland or New York.
"Either way, it’s going to be a tough road," pitcher Jamie Moyer said. "Yankees or Oakland. Both are good clubs regardless of what they’ve done.
"It’s just nice to have a few days to relax."
Moyer, though, won’t have any time off.
The left-hander will throw 50-60 pitches in a simulated game this morning at Safeco Field to determine whether he’s ready to rejoin the rotation for the next series. Moyer has struggled in his last two starts and, amid reports of a shoulder problem that he emphatically denies, didn’t pitch in the series against Chicago.
With the A’s and Yankees both strong with left-handed hitting, the Mariners could use him in the next round.
"We’ll see how he throws and then decide how we’ll set up our pitching," manager Lou Piniella said.
The Mariners can set it up almost any way they wish. Only right-hander Aaron Sele, who started Friday, won’t be ready for the ALCS opener on Tuesday.
Piniella tried to recall all the elements that factored into Friday’s victory, and he gave up. There were too many.
Mark McLemore started two double plays, including one in the eighth inning when he fielded a slow grounder by Paul Konerko, tagged runner Tony Graffanino with a sweep of his glove and threw to first.
John Olerud had four unassisted putouts, including a diving stop in the fifth inning on a grounder by Chris Singleton.
David Bell lunged to his right and snagged a low liner by Ray Durham to start the sixth inning.
And the Mariners bullpen, Arthur Rhodes and Jose Paniagua were Friday’s stars, finished the series with 11 2/3scoreless innings and only three hits (all in Game 1 on Tuesday).
On a scale of 1-10, Piniella knows where the pen ranks.
"I don’t think you could give them less than a 10," he said. "They were almost pitching perfect.
"Pitching, defense and timely hitting. That’s the formula that takes you the farthest."
Friday’s game was a baseball purist’s delight, with the Mariners executing four successful bunts. Two of them were responsible for both of their runs.
Alex Rodriguez moved Raul Ibanez to second base in the fourth inning with his first sacrifice bunt since June 16, 1999, and Stan Javier pushed Rickey Henderson to third base in the decisive ninth inning with a sacrifice.
"We don’t really play small ball, but we do things that haven’t been done in Seattle," Piniella said. "It’s called baseball."
The golden glow of the Olympics still hasn’t left Ryan Franklin.
The right-handed pitcher who for the Tacoma Rainiers tied an Olympics record by winning three games for the United States team that captured the gold medal at Sydney, Australia.
"That ranked right at the top, after my kids," he said. "It was the best baseball experience I’ve ever had."
Asked by a reporter where he’s keeping his gold medal, Franklin’s face lit up.
"Right here," he said, reaching for his back pocket. "Want to see it?"
And who says baseball players don’t cry? Franklin admitted his tears flowed the moment the medal was hung around his neck during the medal ceremony.
"If that doesn’t move a person, nothing will," he said. "It was such a great experience. It’s not an individual thing. You’re out there playing for your country."
Franklin, along with the other three Rainiers who played for the U.S., threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The others were outfielders Mike Neill and Anthony Sanders and pitcher Todd Williams.
A hand-written sign spotted behind home plate: "Griffey, wish you were here … (NOT!)"
As his teammates prepared for one of the biggest games of their lives, Tom Lampkin spent five minutes on the field Friday morning getting ready for next year.
Lampkin had major elbow surgery in July and was cleared to throw a baseball only two weeks ago. He expects to be near full strength by February, when spring training begins.
As the clubhouse celebration unfolded around him, Lampkin stood back and soaked in the scene.
"What a great way to end it," he said of the ninth-inning victory. "The only bad thing about times like this is that they don’t last long enough. I’ve never been in the postseason, so this is special."
And, best of all, he got to celebrate with his teammates.
"When they clinched in Anaheim last week, I watched it on TV at home," Lampkin said. "I was hoping it would happen again because I wanted to go through it."
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