ARLINGTON, Texas – There was another discussion between manager Don Wakamatsu and inconsistent shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt on Wednesday, and if it covered the same ground as others, this one was a little different.
“We’d talked before, but not to this depth,” Wakamatsu said.
Betancourt has frustrated the Mariners staff – and a few of his teammates – by losing focus both at the plate and in the field. No matter how often he is told to be more selective about pitches, his only criteria seem to be that a pitch be airborne.
For one night, at least, that earned him a spot on the Seattle bench, and got Ronny Cedeño a start at shortstop.
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“From me, they need offense and defense, and I’ve got to get back to playing like I did in April,” said Cedeño, who lost much of the past two weeks to a hamstring strain. “The last time I started a game, in Kansas City, I was like ‘What am I doing here?’ I just need to relax and get comfortable again.”
And what is it Betancourt has to do?
“Play to his potential,” Wakamatsu said. “We’re not looking for one day, we’re looking at the rest of the season. We’ll give him the opportunity. He will be back out there. But Yuni has to adjust.”
By contrast, Wladimir Balentien has earned more playing time by doing precisely what Betancourt hasn’t.
“(Hitting coach) Alan Cockrell has been working with Balentien about using the whole field, and the other night he went to the opposite field,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s trying to make the adjustments. He’s worked hard, and he has power, which we lack.
“You can see his development from a year ago.”
One of the things the Mariners will try to learn this season is whether Balentien, Betancourt and others are part of the future – or the past.
Reserve catcher struggles
Backup catcher Rob Johnson is in a profound slump, having gone 0-for-18 after an earlier 0-for-20 skid.
“One of the great things about my job is if I can catch a game and help our staff give up three runs or less, I can still feel like I’m doing a good job,” Johnson said. “I expect more from myself at the plate. I’m a competitor, and it’s emotional failing.”
He’s working on changing that by correcting a pair of issues that have hurt him at the plate.
“I’m spinning off the baseball, and my hands aren’t as far back as they were in spring training, when I hit so well,” he said. “You tell yourself that, you work on it in the cages, but until you correct it in a game, what good is it? If it was as easy as seeing it and automatically doing it differently, no one would ever struggle.”
Speaking of slumping, a number of Mariners have done so on this trip. Going into Wedneseday’s game, for instance, Russell Branyan was batting .139, Balentien .182, Betancourt .111, Endy Chavez .143, Franklin Gutierrez .176 and Jose Lopez .200. Go ahead – make out a lineup with those numbers and see what kind of offense you generate. …
Ichiro Suzuki, by contrast, had a hit in every game on the trip and was hitting .385.
The Mariners complete this series and trip with a game at 11:05 a.m. today that will be broadcast on FSN and 710-AM. Probable starting pitchers: Felix Hernandez (4-2, 4.09 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (3-2, 4.79).