Opponent: Minnesota Twins
When: 1:10 p.m.
Where: Safeco Field
Radio: ESPN 710 AM
Probable starting pitchers: Seattle left-hander Erik Bedard (4-2, 2.37 earned run average) vs. right-hander Kevin Slowey (8-1, 3.97).
ROWLAND-SMITH’S RETURN DELAYED
The Mariners had every intention of bringing left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith off the disabled list to start Thursday night’s game at Baltimore.
Then, in what was supposed to be his last rehab start for Class AAA Tacoma, Rowland-Smith produced what he called the worst outing of his professional career Friday night. He gave up 12 runs and 14 hits in 42/3 innings of what became a 21-5 loss to Reno.
Manager Don Wakamatsu said late Saturday afternoon that the Mariners have changed their plan, that Rowland-Smith would rejoin the Rainiers and remain on a five-day schedule with them. Left-hander Garrett Olson, who has started three games this season, probably will start Thursday at Baltimore.
Rowland-Smith, on the DL since April 11 because of triceps tendinitis, did push his pitch count close to the target of 100 — he threw 98 — but the Mariners must make sure he’s ready to face big-league competition again.
“We accomplished one thing, we got him to the pitch count we were talking about,” Wakamatsu said. “But going into a place like Baltimore with that lineup, is he ready to pitch in that situation?”
Rowland-Smith, who met Saturday morning with Wakamatsu and pitching coach Rick Adair, made it clear he didn’t agree with the decision.
“He feels like he’s ready to pitch up here,” Wakamatsu said. “You want to hear that from anybody.”
Betancourt remains on bench
When shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt didn’t start, Wakamatsu said his reason was more connected with the need to get Ronny Cedeno playing time.
Saturday, when Betancourt didn’t play again, it was clear the Cedeno factor wasn’t the only one. Betancourt, who has irked the team in past seasons for his lack of preparation and work ethic, apparently hasn’t changed appreciably.
“It has nothing to do with (anything) on the field,” Wakamatsu said. “It has to do with preparation.”
The Mariners have stressed to all players since the beginning of spring training the importance of physical and mental preparation needed to improve. Betancourt has been a season-long frustration. He is batting .249 with two home runs and 17 RBI, but also has a team-high nine errors.
STICKING WITH BALENTIEN
One game isn’t enough for the Mariners to give up on 24-year-old outfielder Wladimir Balentien, although they can’t afford another like Friday’s, when he misplayed two fly balls in left field that allowed the Twins to score the winning run.
“We have to prove that he can play here,” Wakamatsu said. “A lot of that is not so much the errors, but how much a guy is going to improve and work on those things so that doesn’t happen again.
“It’s unfortunate. He wants to catch that ball as much as anybody. Whether it’s mental, whether it’s physical or whether it’s preparation, those are the things we have to figure out. We have to know if he can play here or not. But as we go forward, those mistakes can’t be made.”
Balentien showed during spring training and early this season that he’s athletic enough to handle the vast left field at Safeco Field.
“This is a guy who played center field (in the minor leagues),” Wakamatsu said. “Watching him in spring training, his actions were good. It’s not like all of a sudden he got bad, but it’s highlighted more with a game like (Friday’s).”
AROUND THE HORN
Not only was catcher Rob Johnson unavailable for Saturday’s game, he spent the day wearing a boot on his tender left foot. He fouled a ball off the foot Friday, and also absorbed a hard hit in a home-plate collision with the Twins’ Matt Tolbert. Johnson isn’t hurt badly enough to warrant time on the disabled list, although the Mariners would like to avoid using him for as many as five days. Guillermo Quiroz would get the starts. … Who’s the emergency third catcher? That would be Mike Sweeney, although he has suffered back problems this season. The other choice would be Wladimir Balentien. … Former Mariner Edgar Martinez threw out the ceremonial first pitch — to Ken Griffey Jr. — as the Mariners honored Latin American baseball on Saturday. … Reliever Roy Corcoran (neck stiffness) began his minor league rehab Saturday night by pitching an inning for Class AAA Tacoma at Las Vegas. … Reliever Shawn Kelley (oblique strain) will travel with the team to Baltimore and Colorado this week and continue his throwing program. He’s still about two weeks away from pitching off a mound. … Both catcher Kenji Johjima (broken big toe) and Carlos Silva (shoulder inflammation) will stay behind and continue their recovery work in Seattle.
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