WBC-bound Pineiro ahead of the curve

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, February 21, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. – On the first day of full-squad workouts at spring training, Mariners pitchers threw to hitters for the first time in a session of live batting practice Tuesday that wasn’t exactly ringing with big bops.

The veteran hitters were both wary and wise, spending most of their time watching the pitches sail past as they regained their timing.

As for the young players hoping to make an impression in camp, they weren’t afraid to flail away but … let’s just say a few bats were splintered.

It was a procession of fastballs and changeups for the 15 pitchers who threw.

The exception was right-handed starter Joel Pineiro, who is well ahead of the others as he prepares to pitch for Puerto Rico next month in the World Baseball Classic. He is about two weeks ahead of the others in his workouts, and Tuesday’s session was a good gauge for him.

He threw fastballs, changeups and cutters, but also sliders, sinkers and curveballs.

“You can definitely tell a difference in what your pitches are doing when you get a hitter up there,” Pineiro said. “In the bullpen they might seem OK, but once you get hitters in there, you can see what your pitches are doing by how they react to them.”

After Pineiro threw to Richie Sexson, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Reed, Matt Lawton, Carl Everett and Raul Ibanez, he talked with them about what they saw.

“I wanted to know what they thought, and they’d say the slider was good, the sinker was good,” Pineiro said. “Obviously, we’re not going all-out yet, but the first time out I wanted to get their reaction.”

Pineiro will pitch a simulated game before the exhibition season begins, then a B game on March 3 before he joins the Puerto Rico team for its workouts. He will pitch Puerto Rico’s second game of the tournament on March 8.

More live batting practice is scheduled today, with the pitchers who didn’t throw Tuesday taking the mound. Among them will be 19-year-old starter Felix Hernandez.

Medical report: Relief pitcher J.J. Putz developed a stiff back while throwing batting practice Tuesday, although he finished the session before going inside for treatment.

“It just stiffened up about halfway through,” Putz said. “I pitched through it and it’s not a problem.”

Stiff backs and sore legs are common among the pitchers and catchers at this point in spring training. Tuesday was their sixth workout and players typically experience muscle aches after a few days of wearing metal spikes on the hard fields.

Catcher Andy Dominique, who sprained his right knee during a drill Sunday, will spend about a week receiving treatment on the minor-league side of the Mariners’ facility.

M’s add left-handed hitter: The Mariners signed 34-year-old first baseman/DH Roberto Petagine, a left-handed hitter who has played with the Padres, Mets, Reds and Red Sox since 1995, plus six seasons in Japan’s Central League with Yakult and Yomiuri.

Petagine has played 211 major league games with a .230 career average in 339 at-bats, 11 home runs and 52 RBI. He played 18 games last year for the Red Sox, batting .281 with one homer and nine RBI.

The 6-foot-1, 172-pound Petagine, who is expected to arrive today, will compete for a bench role.

Of note: Mariners play-by-play voice Dave Niehaus continues to wait to get into the Hall of Fame. He was one of 10 finalists for the 2006 Ford Frick award for broadcasting excellence, but lost out to former Astros broadcaster Gene Elston. … Hargrove let the Peoria Sports Complex grounds crew know of his displeasure with the field conditions before Tuesday’s workout. “The field was too wet and it hadn’t been dragged,” he said. “I did it in a nice way, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow. You get two strikes in that game, and one strike was today.” … The Mariners announced that Dr. Larry Pedegana, the team physician since the club’s first year in 1977, has decided not to return. Dr. Edward Khalfayan, who has been one of the Seattle Seahawks’ team doctors the past 10 years, will be the Mariners’ new orthopedist. The Mariners will recognize Pedegana during a pregame ceremony at the season opener on April 3.

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