OAKLAND - Ah, rookies.
Nearly as much fun as any opening night is the reaction first-year players have to their first night in the big-leagues, and the Seattle Mariners had three men experience that Friday.
Tom Wilhelmsen, the 6-foot-6 right-hander who walked away from baseball for nearly six years, was still giddy Saturday.
“The national anthem, then the fireworks in the outfield? It was the second greatest day of my life,” he said.
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“It’s going to sound corny, but the best day was my wedding day.”
Josh Lueke sat beside his fellow rookie reliever, looking around the sold-out Coliseum.
“The stadium was packed, and it was a rush just walking out there,” Lueke said. “Luckily, there were so many people there who overshadowed you, nobody bothered me at all. It still hasn’t really sunk in, but it will.”
The best part of his first opener?
“Watching Felix (Hernandez) throw a complete game,” Lueke said. “Unbelievable. He had a presence out there you can’t really describe, but you could see it. Felix was dominant.”
The third rookie was Michael Pineda, and at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, he was noticed. He was also smiling.
“Pretty good,” said Pineda, who is still developing his English. “Watching Felix give up that first-inning home run, then say, ‘OK, I’m working now. I’m fine.’ It didn’t bother him. That was amazing.”
Manager Eric Wedge became the latest Seattle Mariners manager to field a tough question on Ichiro.
Was he surprised when, after having Jack Wilson bunt Brendan Ryan into scoring position for Ichiro on Friday, that Ichiro tried to bunt on the first pitch thrown to him. On the second pitch, Ichiro singled Ryan home.
“Some of what Ichiro does is for show, some of it for purpose,” Wedge said. “That’s part of his game. He got the infield in, and then shot one through for the RBI. I’m not going to question what he does.”
NOTHING TO SAY
A few last notes on Felix’s opening-night, complete-game victory.
It was the first American League complete-game win without a walk allowed since 1988, when Rick Rhoden opened the season for the Yankees against the Twins.
It was the Mariners’ first opening day shutout.
Over the last eight innings, Hernandez faced only 25 batters in getting the final 24 outs.
Wedge was asked if he’d helped his starting pitcher along.
“I didn’t say a word to him all night,” the manager said.
When a reporter asked Milton Bradley whether he still got excited by opening day, Bradley said, “I have no comment.” Well, OK then. Michael Saunders started in center field Saturday in large part because of his history against Oakland’s left-handed starting pitcher, Brett Anderson – three hits in eight at-bats. For those wondering, the Mariners’ rotation for the Texas series beginning Monday is Erik Bedard, Pineda and Hernandez. Mariners managers are 11-7 in their first game with the team. Limit the field to Mariners managers with previous big-league managerial experience – including Wedge – and their record is 6-1.
Seattle concludes the Oakland series today with a 1:07 p.m. game that will be televised on Root. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Doug Fister vs. Gio Gonzalez.