Pineiro’s arm passes test

  • Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, March 24, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. – With 50 crisp fastballs, sliders, curves and changeups, Joel Pineiro closed the book Wednesday on all the worries about his right arm.

Two days after he was hit near his right elbow with a line drive, Pineiro completed his usual off-day bullpen session without a problem.

“It was good. Everything was the same, it was a regular day,” he said. “I felt it a little bit on my release point, but not as bad.”

The sigh of relief was felt all the way to Tucson, where manager Bob Melvin heard the news of Pineiro’s bullpen session as he prepared for Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

“He did outstanding,” Melvin said. “In fact, he’s not going to be set back at all. He threw a pen like he never even got hit, which is pretty amazing. As of right now, there are no concerns with him.”

With Melvin and pitching coach Bryan Price in Tucson, special assignment pitching coach Jim Slaton observed Pineiro’s workout in Peoria.

“He threw great and he didn’t hold back at all. I was surprised,” Slaton said. “We told him he could have held back a little. But he threw all his pitches and he stayed with his regular routine.”

Pineiro wore a bandage on his forearm to keep the swelling down, and the only problem he had during the entire session was keeping the end of the tape from working loose.

“I told them I wanted to go through my regular routine,” Pineiro said. “They wanted me to hold back if it started bothering me, but it never did.”

Pineiro, who will be the Mariners’ No. 2 starter and pitch April 7 against the Angels, will make his next scheduled turn on the mound Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers. He’ll pitch six inning and throw about 85 pitches.

It’s the best outcome from the scariest moment of spring training, when the Diamondbacks’ Danny Bautista hit a line drive back to the mound in the second inning Monday. With the ball headed toward his face, Pineiro threw his arm up in time to deflect it.

The ball hit him just below the elbow and left the imprint of its stitches. Pineiro pitched two more innings before leaving the game, then stiffened to the point he couldn’t pick up a ball later Monday.

On Tuesday, he played catch and felt stiffness because of the swelling around the elbow.

“It could have been worse,” Pineiro said. “From the first day, I thought it was going to be worse. The day after it happened, I was really nervous wondering how it was going to turn out.”

Now pitching: Right-hander Rafael Soriano will pitch his first inning of spring training today when he faces the Texas Rangers.

Soriano, considered a key element to the bullpen, suffered a strained internal oblique muscle in his left side during the first week of camp.

Also today, Gil Meche is scheduled to pitch five innings in a minor league game.

Eyes wide open: With all of the American League West Division teams in Arizona, spring training is a perfect opportunity to watch opposing teams and players for strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

More than the front-line players are getting Melvin’s full attention.

“For the most part you know their 25-man roster,” he said. “The guys you really keep an eye on are the kids who may be coming up. If they’re going to call somebody up in the middle of the season because of an injury, you want to know what their depth chart looks like and who the first few guys are that they’ll call up. Those are the guys you have the least amount of information on as far as advance scout reports.”

Fan favorites: The Mariners are back among the top teams in home attendance at spring training.

They have averaged 9,452 in 10 home games at Peoria Stadium, third-best in baseball behind the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees.

It’s a huge improvement over the 6,888 the Mariners averaged last year, when many fans didn’t make the trip from Seattle because the team was scheduled to leave in mid-March for Japan. That trip didn’t happen and the Mariners played in Arizona the rest of the month, but the damage already had been done at the turnstiles.

The Mariners have four more home games before they break camp.

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