M’s give it the ol’ regular season try

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Friday, March 9, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – So, spring training records are meaningless?

It’s a time when one-run losses carry as much weight as 10-run victories, as long as the important players are getting their work in?

A manager worries about unloading his bench in an all-out effort to win on April 9, not March 9?

Well, not in Mike Hargrove’s world Friday.

The Seattle Mariners’ skipper took a look at the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth inning and saw his team trailing by a run, 5-4, to the Colorado Rockies. Then he scanned his lineup card for the hitters and pinch-runners available.

Then Hargrove did what he could to win.

By the end of what became a 6-5 loss – leaving the Mariners 1-8 with six one-run losses – Hargrove used 22 of the 26 players available for the game. Only catchers Rene Rivera and Luis Oliveros, infielder Michael Garciaparra and outfielder Wladimir Balentien didn’t play.

Chris Reitsma, the newly signed setup reliever whose regular-season job is to shut down teams in the eighth, gave up two solo home runs in the ninth. The Mariners manufactured a run in the 10th when Hargrove used Jeremy Reed and Bryan LaHair as pinch-hitters and Oswaldo Navarro as a pinch-runner.

Then the Rockies scored once in the 10th off minor league pitcher Luis Oliveros before the Mariners failed to score in the bottom of the inning.

End of game and another reason to be thankful these don’t count, despite the uncommon number of late-game changes.

“We want to win games here,” Hargrove said. “I think you saw that late in the ballgames with all the moves we made.”

Still, he didn’t waver from his camp-long refrain that the losses don’t concern him; it’s how the Mariners are playing that’s important.

Hargrove was pleased again Friday, even though there were elements to the loss that the Mariners can’t afford to have linger when the regular season begins.

* Two more baserunners were thrown out, continuing a spring-long pattern. Mike Morse ran into a double-play tag and third-base coach Carlos Garcia sent Jose Lopez home on a grounder up the middle that Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes fielded behind second base. Lopez was thrown out easily at the plate.

“I hesitate to call that a baserunning mistake but I do because it’s an out,” Hargrove said. “Carlos sent him. A third base coach really is not doing his job if he isn’t occasionally getting a runner thrown out at the plate. I think he felt like it was worth a gamble.”

* Reitsma, while sharper with most of his pitches than in his two previous outings, centered two of them that the Rockies belted for home runs in the ninth.

“He left a couple of balls out over the plate and you don’t like to see that, but it’s spring training and I thought he was a lot more firm with his pitches today,” Hargrove said. “His breaking ball was better, he had better command of it. He’s starting to come around but he has to stay away from the long ball.”

* First baseman Richie Sexson continued to have a frigid spring at the plate despite the 80-degree weather. He went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and is hitless in 14 at-bats with three walks.

Through all of that, what Hargrove continues to see is a team that is preparing itself well for the regular season, results notwithstanding.

“It’s real easy to look at the record and say this is a bad spring training,” he said. “It is not a bad spring training. It may be one of the best ones I have been involved with. Everyone understands our goal.

“There’s nothing I have seen here to back off from my statement that we want to win American League West. It is a legitimate goal, something we are serious about.

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