Washburn stops thinking

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, March 8, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

SURPRISE, Ariz. – In Jarrod Washburn’s way of thinking, it’s not good to think.

That’s what got him in trouble last year, he says, when he went 8-14 and experienced a crummy first season with the Seattle Mariners.

“Instead of just being myself, I came in and tried to fit in and be one of the guys,” Washburn said. “It took away from who I am. I get in trouble when I think. No more thinking; just go out and throw the baseball.”

So far this month, Washburn is doing that.

He isn’t completely satisfied with his game even though the results have been good, including his outing Thursday. In his second exhibition start, Washburn gave up one hit in three shutout innings in the Mariners’ 11-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

It continued an impressive stretch of pitching by the Mariners’ starters. In their past four outings – by Washburn, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez – the starters have allowed just one run in 11 innings and have a combined 0.82 earned-run average. Opposing hitters have a .108 average against them.

Jeff Weaver, who struggled in his first outing on Sunday, gets the ball today against Colorado.

Washburn says the starters’ recent numbers may look good, but they’re just as meaningless as the Mariners’ 1-7 Cactus League record.

“It is spring training and the games don’t mean a thing right now,” he said. “But it shows what we’re capable of. We have the capability of having a real solid five-guy rotation. We’ll go out there with a chance to win every single night. That’s our main goal as starters, to give our team a chance to win.”

In his two exhibition outings, Washburn has allowed three hits and one run in five innings.

“I feel way more relaxed this year, way more at ease and comfortable,” he said. “I know what my job is, and that’s to go out and give the team a chance to win. That’s all I’m concerning myself with.”

That’s the approach Washburn took during his seven seasons with the Angels, including 2002 when he went 18-6 on Anaheim’s World Series championship team.

“For me, the biggest thing is always health,” Washburn said. “If I’m healthy, I’m successful for the most part. If I’m not healthy, I try to battle through it the best I can.”

He wouldn’t admit to being hurt last year, although there were reports of arm soreness during the season. He missed the last two weeks with a calf injury.

“Last year was a battle for me,” he said. “I had a lot of little aches and pains and nagging injuries here and there.”

Between his physical challenges and the mental strain of trying to live up to the four-year, $37.5 million contract he signed with the Mariners, Washburn admits he put too much pressure on himself.

In short, he thought too much.

“I was trying to fit in with a new team,” he said. “It was the first time ever in my career I’d been in that situation. I was learning all my new teammates and learning how the organization was run. It was my first time with a new catcher. There were a ton of things that were different for me last year.”

This year, Washburn has cleared his head of everything but the little things he must worry about on the mound. One of his prime goals is to pitch inside more effectively to left-handed hitters.

He tried that with mixed results Thursday, retiring all of the lefties he faced except Alex Gordon. Washburn grazed Gordon with a pitch, which he considered a minor victory.

“You tell yourself, ‘Don’t hit ‘em, don’t hit ‘em,’” Washburn said. “And after you leave a couple over the middle of the plate, you’re like, ‘Heck with it, hit ‘em if you have to.’ I made sure I was in with that pitch and it just got a little bit of his arm.”

Mission accomplished? Not really.

“I guess, if I’m going to hit them, I’d like to hit them square,” Washburn said. “I don’t like those cheap ones where they go to first base on a little graze.”

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