Look for Moyer to pitch opening day for M’s

  • Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, February 21, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. – Seattle Mariners manager Bob Melvin isn’t saying who the opening day starting pitcher will be, but he laid a few hints Saturday.

“Until we announce where we’re going with the rotation, I won’t say anything,” Melvin said. “But you can probably figure it out.”

Someone asked if he will be old and left handed.

“Those would be some of the attributes,” Melvin said.

That’s a wink-wink, nudge-nudge indication that 41-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer will start April 6 at Safeco Field against the Anaheim Angels. Moyer went 21-7 with a 3.27 earned run average last year and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

Moyer has started just one other season opener in 16 major league seasons, in 2000 when Boston’s Pedro Martinez beat him 2-0 at Safeco Field.

Hoping Freddy is ready: Nobody will know if Freddy Garcia has truly turned himself around until the season begins, but Melvin was singing a positive tune about his right-handed pitcher Saturday.

“He’s glad he’s here, he wants to be here, and he’s going to be on a mission this year,” Melvin said.

Garcia will have to change something to avoid a repeat of last season, when he went 12-14 with a 4.51 ERA. The fans at Safeco Field booed him often during the season, and the Mariners explored trade possibilities this winter.

“I know there were rumors that they were going to trade me,” Garcia said. “But I’m here and happy to be here.”

Melvin believes ear problems that Garcia suffered last year – he suffered punctured eardrums on a flight and had them surgically repaired this offseason – contributed to his pitching problems.

“He’ll say it didn’t (have an effect), but it’s tough enough to go out there and pitch in a big-league game,” Melvin said. “The talent at the big-league level is at such a fine line that any little thing will send you the other way. I know there were times he was struggling with his ears, but he won’t use it as an excuse.”

Throwing again: Right-handed relief pitcher Aaron Taylor played a few minutes of long toss Saturday morning, an important step in his comeback from rotator cuff surgery.

Taylor, considered a potential closer, will throw again Monday and Wednesday.

“He’s a little behind the other guys, but he’s doing OK,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “We hope next week he’ll be able to throw four times, two days on and one off.”

If Taylor doesn’t have problems, he will start pitching off the bullpen mound in about two weeks, Griffin said.

Taylor had shoulder problems last season while pitching for Class AAA Tacoma and had rotator cuff surgery in September. He had 16 saves and a 2.45 ERA when he was shut down.

Weighty issues: Catcher Ben Davis abandoned the pork-out program he went on last year and reported to spring training much trimmer than he did a year ago.

Davis watched his diet this offseason and reported at 246 pounds, about 10 pounds lighter than last year when he ate every cheeseburger in sight in order to pack on the weight.

Davis, who tends to lose a considerable amount of weight during the season, weighed 228 before last game of 2003.

Garcia also showed up about 10 pounds lighter than the 240 he weighed last year.

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