The Mariners have all but abandoned the idea of trying Jose Lopez at second base and Chone Figgins at third for a game at spring training.
Wakamatsu had said Friday that those two would work out at those positions Saturday and probably play a game that way this week.
However, when the starting infielders took ground balls in the morning workout, Lopez was at third base and Figgins at second as they’ve been since spring training began.
Change of heart?
“Those guys are pretty happy where they are,” Wakamatsu said.
While Wakamatsu said he won’t make an announcement for a couple of days, it seems certain now that Lopez will start the season at third base and Figgins at second.
Felix gets the message
Wakamatsu had been lenient — to a degree — as the Mariners played through the past week without winning a game. He looked more at individual performances than games that often were determined by the play of minor leaguers.
However, after Friday night’s loss to the Reds handed the Mariners their sixth straight defeat, Wakamatsu gathered his team in the outfield before Saturday morning’s workout and delivered a strong message.
“He told us to get serious, get more focused, because opening day is close,” pitcher Felix Hernandez said.
A few hours later, Hernandez did his part by producing the best start of any Mariner this month, allowing two hits in five innings as he dominated the Diamondbacks.
“I tried to throw good today, to set the tone,” Hernandez said. “I tried to be Felix, think strikes and keep my mechanics together. When you’ve lost six in a row, you want to step up and win a game. This is my team — we needed it.”
Hernandez will get two more exhibition starts before opening day April 5 at Oakland.
He threw 61 pitches Saturday, then 15 more in the bullpen to build his endurance, all of them out of the stretch at the insistence of pitching coach Rick Adair.
“Rick told me to work out of the stretch because I hadn’t had to all game,” Hernandez said.
The Mariners also were a much sharper club behind Hernandez.
Left fielder Eric Byrnes, who has played well in recent games and brought energy to the team, made a full-layout dive to catch Stephen Drew’s line drive toward the left-field corner on the first play of the game. On the next play, third baseman Josh Wilson back-handed Conner Jackson’s hard smash down the line.
Those plays, and the energy the Mariners showed, were what Wakamatsu asked of the team in his morning meeting.
“Six losses — you stand in front of a club when you have different lineups and minor league guys playing, and it’s not about that,” Wakamatsu said. “But there are mistakes you see on the field that are inexcusable and there were things we saw that were good. That was the gist of the meeting. If we’re going to win, we’ve got to start buckling it down even more.”
League joins pitchers in pain
After all that happened Friday — news of Cliff Lee’s abdominal strain and the line drive off Doug Fister’s pitching arm — Wakamatsu seemed thankful Saturday that the sun came up.
“What do they say? This too shall pass?” Wakamatsu said.
During a fielding drill Saturday morning, reliever Brandon League tried to dive for a ball and planted his face into the turf, suffering a cut on the bridge of his nose that took two stitches to close.
The Mariners were encouraged that X-rays on Fister’s right forearm were negative. Fister was hit on the fleshy part of the forearm and, while there’s a fair amount of swelling, Wakamatsu said he may not miss a start.
Lee returned to the spring training complex Saturday after being in Seattle on Friday to have a platelet injection that the team hopes will speed his recovery. He will spend this week undergoing ice and stimulation treatments, plus time in the pool, before being examined again on Friday.
Ken Griffey Jr. went hitless in two at-bats — he also walked once — to drop his average to .188, but he drove two balls hard to right field for the first time this month. In his first at-bat, he hit one near the top of the right-field fence but just inches foul, and in the sixth he flied out to Justin Upton, who made a running catch at the warning track in right-center field. … With starting pitchers working deeper into games, there are fewer opportunities for multiple innings and back-to-back outings that the relievers need at this time of spring training. Because of that, Wakamatsu said pitchers like Kelley and Kanekoa Texeira, who are being groomed for middle relief, probably will pitch in minor league games to get their extra work. … Closer David Aardsma may pitch an inning in a minor league game today in his first back-to-back outings of spring training. … Utility player Jack Hannahan ran Saturday for the first time since he suffered a strained right groin on March 4. Hannahan said he feels better and hopes to play in exhibition games before the end of spring training. … Saturday’s game was the quickest of the exhibition season for the Mariners — 1 hour and 58 minutes. … Weekend games against the Diamondbacks always draw huge crowds, and Saturday’s attendance of 13,444 set a Mariners record at Peoria Stadium.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog