Wak has a team meeting, Felix gets the message

Manager Don 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 in the game today, 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.”

That includes Ken Griffey Jr., who hadn’t squared up a ball all month until today. Griffey 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 all spring training.

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.

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