Notes: Recovering relievers itch to pitch
Reitsma, Rhodes, Lowe coming off injuries, eyeing 'pen spots
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The competition for available bullpen jobs figures to intensify before long as three relievers coming off injuries move closer to seeing game action.Right-handers Chris Reitsma and Mark Lowe and left-hander Arthur Rhodes have been taking it slow during Spring Training, maintaining a similar routine. "They've had one bullpen [session] and it went very well," Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said on Saturday. "They will throw another 12-minute bullpen tomorrow and we'll re-evaluate them. Basically, they are not too far from perhaps getting into a game." Reitsma, a non-roster invitee coming off his fifth elbow surgery, is more advanced than either Rhodes or Lowe. "I am having a hard time holding him back," Stottlemyre said. "But one of the things I have found, with veterans or rookies, when a guy comes off injury and is doing well on their rehab, they are still as anxious as they can be and you have to hold them back, somewhat." Reitsma, who signed a Minor League contract on Jan. 10, was limited to 28 games last season because of ongoing problems with his right elbow. He finally shut it down for good -- after three stints on the disabled list -- in July and underwent another surgery to clean out his elbow. Rhodes, also a non-roster invitee, pitched well enough last spring to earn a spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster, but never made an appearance during the regular season because of a torn ligament in his left elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery on May 2. Lowe, the youngest pitcher of the three, started the 2007 season on the DL and eventually pitched in 15 games -- four with the Mariners, seven with Triple-A Tacoma, three with Double-A West Tennessee and one with Class A Everett. "This group has done really well so far," Stottlemyre said, "but we have to be a little careful not to push them too much." Asked if any of them has a legitimate chance to be ready by Opening Day, he said, "A lot depends on their progress from here on. But all are doing well and have a chance to be ready."
Off and running: After the first two games, including the Cactus League opener against the Giants on Friday, the Mariners showed some of the aggressive baserunning manager John McLaren has talked about this spring."I thought the difference in the game yesterday was [Charlton] Jimerson stealing second and third," he said, referring to the two steals in the sixth inning that helped Seattle score twice and slice a three-run deficit to one run in an eventual two-run win. "We like to do some things in a game, but sometimes certain situations in a game do not present themselves." There has been a lot of discussion this spring about advancing from first to third on base hits and stealing more bases. "This is not going to be a speed-merchant-type club," McLaren said, "but what we want to do is maximize what we have. Want them to try to take the extra base and see what they are capable of doing here in Spring Training. So far, I like what I have seen, but everything we do is geared for March 31." A good look: Left-hander Horacio Ramirez, who had a spot in the starting rotation virtually locked up a year ago, is competing for a long relief job this spring. "He's going to get a lot of opportunities," McLaren said. "We're going to give him every opportunity to see where he fits on the staff. We'll pitch him on a regular basis." Ramirez, along with Ryan Rowland-Smith, Cha Seung Baek and R.A. Dickey, are among the pitchers competing for a long-relief position. Hot under the collar: McLaren was still miffed about some of Friday afternoon's postgame questions concerning left-hander Erik Bedard's first start as a Mariner. Bedard allowed four hits and three runs in two innings against the Giants. "Yesterday, I was very happy with Erik. Very happy," McLaren said during his pregame media season on Saturday. "He had good stuff. There were a lot of close pitches. He had good composure. He got his pitch count in. He had a good delivery and it was something to build from." With that, McLaren changed the subject. Questions such as: "Can Bedard recover from an outing like this?" Another one suggested that Mariners fans might be concerned about Bedard, acquired from the Orioles for five players, after the outing. Spring Training statistics are basically meaningless. Last year, for example, left-handed reliever George Sherrill allowed the same number of runs in March than he did in April, May, June and July combined -- 13. He finished the season with a 2-0 record and 2.36 ERA in 73 appearances. Meanwhile, Jeff Weaver worked three superb innings in his Spring Training debut, then struggled during the season. "We're not looking for shutouts every time he piches," McLaren said of Bedard. "We're looking for him to get right for March 31. Naturally, because of the interest, we're making a bigger deal of it. He's not in shape yet. He's working his way into shape." It probably didn't help that Bedard was brief and curt with his answers following the 44-pitch outing and said there would be times during the season that he would not even talk to the media. Tongue-twister: Outfielder Bronson Sardinha may have the longest middle name in MLB history -- 20 letters! Try this one out: Kiheimahanaomauiakeo, which is tied to his Hawaiian roots. Sardinha has two brothers in professional baseball -- Dane K.A.A., a catcher in the Tigers organization, and Duke K., an infielder in the Rockies' farm system. Up next: Right-hander Carlos Silva, the first of two additions to the Mariners' revamped starting rotation, makes his Seattle debut in a Cactus League game home against the Padres at Peoria Stadium. Closer J.J. Putz, limited to two games last spring because of shoulder discomfort, will make his first appearance this spring. He's slated to pitch one inning, as is his bullpen sidekick, Brandon Morrow.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.