Mariner notes

  • Saturday, March 3, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

Rarely is there a pitching change in the middle of an inning during spring training, and when the Mariners’ Chris Reitsma lasted just 2/3-inning Thursday, George Sherrill had to get ready in a hurry.

Sherrill was scheduled to pitch the fifth inning of that game but was hustled into the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth after Reitsma was pulled.

“It was weird, coming into a game with the bases loaded in my first appearance,” Sherrill said. “But that’s what I’ve got to be ready for in the season.”

It reminded Sherrill of his independent league days and a weird moment during an exhibition game when he pitched for Sioux Falls.

“We were playing against a Russian team and our closer was going to pitch the eighth inning and I’d get the ninth,” Sherrill said. “But he lost a contact lens while he was warming up.”

While the closer searched the bullpen dirt, Sherrill sped up his warmup. The lens was never found and Sherrill entered the game.

“It worked out pretty well,” Sherrill said. “The other team was expecting him, and then I came running out.”

Dazzling debut: With Aaron Small suffering back spasms and unable to pitch Saturday, the Mariners called left-handed pitcher Justin Thomas from their minor-league side and he opened some eyes.

Thomas, who played for the Everett AquaSox in 2005 after being drafted in the fourth round, threw two perfect innings and struck out three of the six hitters he faced.

Thomas went 9-4 last year in 17 starts with Class A Inland Empire after being promoted from Class A Wisconsin. His 14 victories led all Mariners minor leaguers.

Of note: Pitcher Felix Hernandez will make $420,000 this year after the Mariners renewed his contract Friday. … After two Cactus League games, Mariners pitchers are observing their goal of pitching aggressively. They have struck out 17 and issued just three walks. … Former Mariners Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson are expected to arrive today and work with the team as guest coaches. … Baseball America’s list of baseball’s 100 top prospects includes three Mariners, outfielder Adam Jones, catcher Jeff Clement and pitcher Brandon Morrow.

Kirby Arnold, Herald writer

By Kirby Arnold

Herald Writer

PEORIA, Ariz. – Jarrod Washburn looked at the San Diego Padres’ lineup and was delighted to see three left-handed hitters facing him Saturday.

Among the demons that plagued the Seattle Mariners’ veteran left-handed pitcher last year were lefties. They hit .317 off Washburn, one of the bigger reasons he went 8-14 with a 4.67 earned run average.

“One thing I really need to work on this year is having better success against left-handers,” Washburn said after his exhibition debut. “If I control the inside a little better against lefties, success will come.”

He held the Padres to two hits and struck out three in two innings. Both hits were by left-handers, though, a first-inning home run by former Everett AquaSox Terrmel Sledge and a second-inning broken-bat single by Russell Branyan.

“The pitch to Branyan was a fastball in and it shattered his bat,” Washburn said. “It was pretty much where I wanted to throw it and I can’t be upset by that one. It’s just that sometimes they fall for a hit.”

The ones that go much farther – like the six home runs by left-handers last year – bother Washburn more.

“I used to throw inside to lefties all the time,” he said. “For some reason, and I don’t know what it was, I got away from it last year.”

Before he went home after last season, Washburn talked at length with pitching coach Rafael Chaves about his problems with lefties.

“It’s hard to say why it happened,” Chaves said. “It’s not because he didn’t have the courage to do it. Maybe he wasn’t feeling comfortable doing it.

“There are two ways to pitch inside. You pitch inside for a strike and you have to pitch inside to protect the outside part of the plate. You have to throw inside with a purpose. It’s not to throw at people’s heads, but when you go inside it will make your breaking pitches and your stuff down and away better.”

Despite a decent first outing, Washburn said he didn’t accomplish everything he wanted to do Saturday.

“I didn’t really want to accomplish giving up a homer,” he said.

However, he threw fastballs, sliders and changeups and seemed satisfied considering it was his first game.

“My offspeed stuff is surprisingly good for this early in the season,” he said. “But just like everything else, you need to work on it and make it better each time out.”

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