Seattle Mariners

M’s get gimpy first basemen back

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Just when you thought they were out of players, the Seattle Mariners got a few back Friday – and good news on a few more.

Russell Branyan and Mike Sweeney, two veteran first basemen sidelined by back issues, were both ready to play. Branyan started for the first time in a week and homered on the second pitch he saw from Angels starter Shane Loux in the top of the second inning. Sweeney didn’t start, but was available to play.

Meanwhile, catcher Kenji Johjima, eligible to come off the disabled list May 1, took live batting practice for the first time since straining his right hamstring April 16.

“I can squat without pain, hit and throw,” Johjima said, “and I’m probably able to run 80 percent or so. I’ll be ready when I’m eligible to come off.”

Left-handed pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, sidelined by triceps tendinitis, showed an increased range of motion Friday that encouraged him and his team. Unable even to play catch since the injury, the Mariners are hoping Rowland-Smith can resume baseball workouts soon and come back the first week of May.

“The biggest thing with getting anyone back is putting them in position to succeed,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “If they’re not completely healthy, you can’t do that.”

Ichiro leadoff HR a rarity

By the Numbers: When Ichiro Suzuki hit a leadoff home run for the only score of the game Thursday, it was just the 22nd time in major league history it had happened.

It was the second such game in Seattle history.

The first? Greg Briley hit a home run in 1990 to help beat the Twins, 1-0.

Add 1-0 wins: Seattle now has two in its first 17 games this season – matching the total of its previous four seasons combined.

The Mariners have won 35 1-0 games in club history, and lost 41 more.

Short hops

Wakamatsu has run up 15 different lineups already this season and moved players liberally from one slot to another. Where has he changed the lineup the most? He’s had seven Mariners bat seventh already – Wladimir Balentien, Branyan, Jamie Burke, Franklin Gutierrez, Johjima, Rob Johnson and Jose Lopez . ... With 28 leadoff home runs, Ichiro has climbed into a tie for 12th place on baseball’s all-time list. Rickey Henderson leads that list with 81 leadoff home runs, followed by Craig Biggio (53), Alfonso Soriano (51), Brady Anderson (44) and Bobby Bonds (35). ... Since walking four batters in his first appearance of the season, closer Brandon Morrow has worked six innings, saved five games and allowed only two hits. ... Nice ratio: Seattle has three shutouts this season, and Johnson – who has made just eight starts – has been behind the plate in all of them. ... When rookie right-hander Anthony Ortega pitches for the Angels tonight, he’ll become the team’s eighth starting pitcher of 2009.

On tap

Seattle plays the Angels in a 6:05 p.m. game today on FSN and 710-AM. Probable starting pitchers: Carlos Silva (0-2, 6.35) vs. Ortega (0-0, 0.00).

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

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