Sports

Mike Henderson Good news, bad news for M’s

The good news/bad news quotient for the Seattle Mariners was somewhat parallel to the Pacific Northwest climate going into the recent weekend’s three-game road series with the division-leading Los Angeles Angels. Yes, it was late April and mid-spring in Greater Seattle; yes, the forecast mentioned snow.

As for the M’s: Yes, they were poised to take first place if they somehow could sweep the Angels; yes, they would have done it with a roster diminished by injuries. The key loss: Erik Bedard, the prize pick-up of the offseason. The luckless lefty was declared disabled retroactive to April 9. If his inflamed left hip un-inflames, he’d take his regular start on April 24. Team officials hoped that shelved all-star J.J. Putz would be back in game-closing mode by then.

The good news was that a pair of M’s starters and a suddenly productive offense were rendering the closer position obsolete. Playing a pair in chilly (though not snowy) Oakland on April 16 and 17, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva yielded just one earned run each as Seattle won 4-2 and 8-1 to complete a modest three-game skein of victories. King Felix (2-0) looks consistently dominant now that he is an older man of 22. Silva (3-0) works fast and efficiently, and may prove to be among the greatest “gets” of hit-and-miss General Manager Bill Bavasi.

The offensive star has been the venerable Raul Ibanez. The left-fielder was named American League co-player of the season’s second week for offensive production that included four home runs. During the two games in Oakland, he had six hits in nine at-bats, also providing clubhouse inspiration that has some recalling the Edgar Martinez era.

Less than inspired has been the early season performance of other veterans. Richie Sexson sat out during the April 17 game with supposed muscle soreness. Certain wags wondered if the apparent strain came from Big Richie reaching for unhittable pitches on the way to fanning 18 times in 55 at-bats. Catcher Kenji Johjima finally started hitting in the third week of the season, possibly because he has been privy to the stats of Jeff Clement, catcher-in-waiting in Tacoma, where he was hitting .417 as of April 18.

Fan support during the M’s first eight home games seemed to indicate that many were staying home in front of the fireplace. Fewer than 28,000 per game showed up through April 15, with just 16-K and change April 14. Maybe potential attendees were afraid that they would have to drive home in snow.

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