Johjima has sore thumb – or does he?

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Monday, April 24, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

Kenji Johjima says nothing is physically wrong with him. Manager Mike Hargrove believes there is.

Guess whose opinion mattered most when Monday’s lineup was posted?

Hargrove kept his starting catcher out of the lineup a second straight day, saying it’s obvious to him that Johjima’s left thumb has been hurting. Hargrove said Johjima first injured the thumb in spring training.

“It hadn’t gotten much better,” Hargrove said. “I felt these two days would give him a chance for it to get better. He says it doesn’t bother him, but I’m not sure I believe him.”

Rene Rivera, who started Sunday, also started Monday and caught Jamie Moyer.

Johjima, who caught Jarrod Washburn in a bullpen session Sunday morning, maintained Monday that he’s OK.

“Maybe I look tired to him, but I’m not tired,” Johjima said.

Johjima played the ninth inning Sunday, catching J.J. Putz after Rivera was lifted for a pinch hitter.

“According to Joh, his thumb doesn’t bother him,” Hargrove said. “That may be true, but it’s been my experience with good players who want to play that they have a tendency to minimize things that may not need to be minimized.

“When he’s catching, he looks like he’s trying to be real careful and that’ll happen when your thumb is bothering you. But let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill. He’ll be back tomorrow.”

Cruel callup: Just before the best moment of his baseball career, Bobby Livingston thought he was in deep, deep trouble.

He’d left Cheney Stadium and was washing his truck when he got a phone call ordering him back to the ballpark for a visit with Tacoma Rainiers manager Dave Brundage.

“So I went back to get another chewing out,” Livingston said.

Brundage was waiting with venom, apparently upset that the starting pitchers shirked some of their pregame duties early in the day.

“Then I asked him, ‘But Brundy, why am I the only pitcher in here? Where’s everybody else?’” Livingston said. “He said, ‘It’s because you’re going to the big leagues.’ I cried.”

Livingston became the second pitcher in two days called up from Class AAA Tacoma. He followed Clint Nageotte, who came up Sunday and walked two, gave up a home run and then was sent back down after the game.

The Mariners hope they’ll get from Livingston what they didn’t from Nageotte – strikes.

So far Livingston has done that, going 1-1 with a 2.12 earned run average in three starts with the Rainiers, walking just two in 17 innings. He becomes the Mariners’ fourth left-handed reliever – joining Eddie Guardado, Jake Woods and George Sherrill – and will pitch in long relief situations.

“You don’t see four left-handers in the bullpen very often,” Hargrove said. “It doesn’t matter if you throw left-handed or right-handed, if you throw strikes and get people out, that’s OK.”

Livingston is fine with that.

“It’s tough at any level to throw balls and be successful,” he said. “They’ve preached to us to get ahead strike one, then work your way from there. What I’ve always been able to do is throw strikes.”

Fresh start: Matt Thornton returned to Safeco Field on Monday with a new look, wearing the black jersey of the White Sox. Something else was different: Thornton’s pitching statistics.

He had a 3.60 ERA after three outings, although he has been suffering from back spasms since April 13 and may not pitch in the series against the Mariners.

Thornton, the Mariners’ first-round draft pick in 1998, struggled last year in his first full big-league season, going 0-4 with a 5.21 ERA and, despite being a hard-throwing left-hander, had problems against left-handed hitters.

The Mariners traded him to the White Sox late in spring training for outfielder Joe Borchard, who they designated for assignment on Sunday.

“Mentally, it’s been a fresh start,” Thornton said. “No expectations, they just want to see what I have and I’ve been proving to them that I can do the job.

“I wasn’t shocked when they traded me, but I was surprised in a good and bad way. I was leaving people I’d played with a long time, people I’d come up with and become friends with. But I was excited, too, for a new start.”

Of note: Several Mariners hitters took part in a mid-afternoon bunting drill, among them Ichiro Suzuki. During the last homestand, Suzuki stretched alone in the outfield while other players worked on a baserunning drill. … Pitcher Felix Hernandez, who was hit on the fingernail of his right index finger by a grounder back to the mound in Sunday’s game, said Monday he felt fine. … Entering Monday, Hernandez led the American League with 26 strikeouts, Scott Kazmir of the Devil Rays had 23. The Mariners as a team led the AL with 150 strikeouts. … The Mariners promoted left-handed pitcher Cesar Jimenez from Class AA San Antonio to replace Livingston at Tacoma.

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