His Fullerton, Calif., home is just 10 minutes from the ballpark and this will be a weekend for family time as well as high-pressure pitching.
“My daughter’s birthday party is Saturday,” Abbott said. “Cinderella is going to be there.”
“Will you dress up as Cinderella?” he was asked.
“No,” he responded. “Well maybe, if we win. That would be a Cinderella story.”
Abbott has endured a decade of major shoulder, elbow and knee surgeries, and tonight can win his 10th game of the season. The Mariners also can clinch a playoff spot if they win and Cleveland loses to Toronto.
“I love this, honestly,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to (tonight).”
Abbott says the key to staying calm is to maintain his daily routine, and he learned a valuable lesson the last time the Mariners played in Anaheim. Friends and former classmates emerged from everywhere to wish him well and ask for tickets when he pitched there in July.
“This time I’m turning my phone off,” he said. “The last time it got me away from my routine.”
Right-hander Jose Paniagua, who gave up a leadoff double to Royce Clayton, escaped with only one run while getting out two dangerous left-handers, Rafael Palmeiro and Ricky Ledee.
Piniella didn’t turn to Rhodes because he couldn’t.
The left-hander wasn’t available after he pitched two innings on Sunday and then warmed up twice on Tuesday without being used.
“His arm was hanging a little,” Piniella said. “He’s been in 70 games this year, and that’s a lot.”
Piniella has been careful to limit the number of times Rhodes warms up before entering a game. Rhodes complained last year that the Orioles often wore him out by getting him up and down in the pen.
Aaron Sele went on to pitch a complete game Tuesday and Rhodes’ work in the bullpen rendered him unavailable the next day.
“Sometimes you can’t avoid it,” Piniella said. “You can’t just get a guy up when there’s a problem. You’ve got to anticipate problems. You’ve got to be thinking three or four hitters ahead.”
Rodriguez entered Thursday’s game just 2-for-23 in his previous six games, including an 0-for-4 night Wednesday with three strikeouts. He went 1-for-3 Thursday with a two-run double in the third inning.
“He’ll get out of this thing,” Piniella predicted. “He’s struggling, but take a look around baseball and there’s quite a few of them struggling. Nobody’s immune. I think he’s going to get hot for us.”
Asked what he did as a player when he struggled at the plate, Piniella smiled.
“I didn’t have to do much. The manager did it for me,” he said. “I wasn’t in Alex and Edgar’s class.”
Sledge, who hit .318 with Everett and shared the team’s MVP award with outfielder Chris Snelling, had an even better season this year with Class A Lancaster. He hit .339 with 11 home runs and 75 RBI.
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