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Mariners notebook: Let's play two!

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – That exclamation point in the title is a weak attempt to generate some needed energy down here after another day game following a night game. This spring's schedule has been a little less friendly than what we have seen in previous years but it is what it is. As much as we enjoy the sunshine I think we all are looking forward to getting into a regular season schedule.

Today we have a double header. Actually a triple header of sorts with Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor throwing in a minor league game as well. My plan is to watch Walker and Pryor then head to Scottsdale to try and catch some of Roenis Elias' start against Colorado. The game against Oakland will be broadcast on 710 ESPN Seattle so we will be adequately covered. And with that...

Lineups

Mariners at Oakland

Chavez 8
Franklin 6
Romero 7
Morrison 3
Saunders 9
Peterson 5
Wilson DH
Bloomquist 4
Buck 2

Baker

Mariners at Colorado

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Seager 5
Zunino DH
Smoak 3
Ackley 7
Gillespie 9
Quintero 2

Elias

Interesting that Elias is pitching with the majority of what looks to be the opening day lineup. That is the game Lloyd McClendon will be managing so he definitely wants to get more of a look. The feeling is Elias is still a long shot, but two solid performances in a row this time of spring can go a long way. Miller and Franklin are both playing short today. At some point this week I would think that McClendon would want his starting shortstop to play back-to-back-to-back. DJ Peterson is starting in the Oakland game. From what we have seen down here, and it has been limited, it appears that he is better defensively than what we had been hearing coming out of the draft. Corey Hart is not in the lineup for a second straight day; we have been told this is just a day off for him.

About that play

Last night center fielder Abraham Almonte made a costly error with a wild and seemingly inexplicable throw to no man's land after a ball got by Miller. Almonte came up firing but threw the ball exactly between home plate and first base. It made absolutely no sense as there was no runner on third. It looked like he was being over-agressive and perhaps trying to throw the non-existent runner out at the plate. Turns out he was trying to get the runner at second who had made a hard cut around the bag. It was an error, but a heads-up error according to McClendon.

"I think the grass was a little wet. He just lost it," he said. "He had the right intentions. It was actually a very instinctive play on his part. He just didn't anticipate the ball coming out that way. Neither did anyone else."

No runs scored as a result of that error, but that coupled with Miller's error on the same play helped prolong an inning for a somewhat struggling James Paxton.

And on that note

Paxton did struggle last night, going just four innings, allowing three runs on two walks with four strikeouts. He threw 70 pitches, 42 for strikes.

Although he was on a pitch count of 90, McClendon pulled him at 70 because he had pitched high-stress innings. I find this interesting because Paxton was getting through those innings, or at least most of them.

In the second inning McClendon actually got Zack Minor up in the pen. I believe they got him up when Paxton was 23 pitches into the inning with just one out. As I mentioned after Beavan's last start, this is exactly what you don't want to see the first week of the season. Going to the pen that early can burn out a bullpen quickly.

Paxton was able to get out of the second but ended up throwing 30 pitches. He bounced back with a 1-2-3 third and probably should have been out of the the fourth inning sooner but Miller booted the double-play ball.

The difference between Beavan and Paxton's performances in my mind was Paxton showed some ability to bounce back and find a way to get the ball down. Beavan did not. In Beavan's case, had it been the regular season I probably would have gone to the pen very early. With Paxton, once he got past the second it looked like he could hang on a little and get the team through a couple innings. McClendon wanted him to have the opportunity to work with Waits in the bullpen so he pulled him early.

He has one more start and while I am not too disturbed by his last two outings, it would be nice to see him have one last solid performance before the season starts.

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