SURPRISE, Ariz. - There are openings in left field, in the starting rotation and the bullpen for the Seattle Mariners, who lost a game Friday when one of their candidates to close - Brandon League - was beaten.
“A little erratic,” manager Eric Wedge said, and he was right.
Inheriting a 5-4 lead against Arizona in the ninth inning, League couldn’t find his rhythm, the strike zone or a way out as the Diamondbacks used three walks, an error and one hit to score four times en route to an 8-5 win.
“I think I talked (Thursday) about being in sync on the mound,” League said, “and today was not an example of that. I felt great in the bullpen, all my pitches were good. Then I came in – ball one, ball two – and I thought ‘What happened?’ ”
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Pitching coach Carl Willis watched it unfold.
“Brandon was too focused on getting down in the strike zone and wasn’t throwing through the catcher,” Willis said. “Nobody is perfect, and he was out of sync. The good thing is he adjusted later in the inning. The thing that makes great closers special is how they recover after a game like this. It’s spring training, but I’ll try to get him in Sunday again.”
In the span of 28 pitches, League gave Seattle’s lead away. Then he forced home the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk – then wild-pitched another run in.
“It’s spring training, and we’re trying to get guys into the game in the spots they may pitch once the season starts,” Wedge said. “There are so many roles open in the bullpen, it’s going to come down to the final days.”
While the assumption has been that League will close until David Aardsma returns from hip surgery – probably around May 1 – the Mariners have another option.
Veteran Chris Ray, a 29-year-old right-hander with 51 career saves, is in camp as a nonroster invitee. He has pitched in only three games, slowed by a tender shoulder, and allowed one run.
“We’ll get him and Brandon in as many games as we can the rest of the way,” Willis said.
ICHIRO PITCHES IN
Ichiro Suzuki quietly donated $1.3 million to the Japanese Red Cross this week to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami there.
The news of the donation broke in Japan, and Ichiro declined comment Friday, choosing not to speak on that or any other topic.
The Mariners, meanwhile, announced that majority owner Nintendo will donate $3.7 million in earthquake relief, and that the organization will match all donations from its employees with a guarantee of $100,000.
When Seattle opens its season at home on April 8, fans can bring donations to Red Cross booths outside Safeco Field.
With nonroster invitees such as Ray, Ryan Langerans and Adam Kennedy pushing for jobs, the Mariners opened a spot on their 40-man roster by putting lefty Garrett Olson on waivers – where he was claimed Friday by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Garrett had strike-throwing issues and realistically wasn’t going to make our team,” Wedge said. “Roster spots are at a premium now.”
Olson, 27, had been with the Mariners in parts of the last two seasons, going 3-8 with a save a 5.26 earned run average.
Milton Bradley is batting .346 with four doubles and seven RBI, and added his first spring home run – a two-run shot – against Arizona. Against long odds, Bradley has played serviceable left field, hit all spring and stayed a) healthy and b) calm. He’s looking more and more like the opening-night left fielder. ... For those charting the candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation, Luke French went four innings in a minor league game and allowed one run. David Pauley pitched three innings and gave up an unearned run. They’re in competition with Michael Pineda for the last starting job. Doug Fister will start a minor league game today as the Mariners try to get relievers work in their game with Texas. ... Does this sound familiar? With runners in scoring position Friday, the Mariners went 1-for-9
Seattle plays Texas in Surprise, Ariz., in a 1:05 p.m. game on 710-AM. Probable starters: Fabio Castro (Mariners) vs. Tommy Hunter.