Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Mateo Gambit 

No, its not another Robert Ludlum novel from beyond the grave... its the Mariners creative idea to inject some life into a moribund rotation.

Joel Pineiro has been sent to AAA Tacoma, apparently because whatever is broken with his mechanics is too subtle to work on during major league games.

And, starting in his place will be Julio Mateo, uber-reliever who has started just one game in his major AND minor league career. It is an interesting maneuver from a team not known for thinking this far outside the box, and I really like it. We know what Ron Villone would give us, and certainly replacing Pineiro is only a temporary thing, but maybe Mateo will show that he could be a starter, and would give the Mariners another good option when we need another starter.
"He throws strikes, he has good stuff, he's kept us in ballgames," said Hargrove of Mateo. "We feel that we can get him up to at least 80 pitches, which will give us five or six innings."

Mateo is 1-0 this season and has given up just one earned run in 22 innings, giving him a sparkling 0.41 ERA. The righty's last start (his only start in 304 appearances) was in 2000 with Mariners Class A affiliate Wisconsin.

Hargrove said that the reason Mateo is starting Tuesday is to separate Aaron Sele and Jamie Moyer, who have pitched in back-to-back games seven times this season. Moyer was scheduled to start Tuesday, but he will instead get an extra day of rest and pitch Wednesday in the final game of the Mariners' homestand.
Ummm, Grover, why don't we try a different approach in separating Sele and Moyer, one that involves a DFA, and, if necessary, a restraining order.

This may just be a one time start for Mateo, as Pineiro is expected to be called up on May 24th to face the Baltimore Orioles. However, Hargrove indicated than anything is possible. "Everything’s on the table,” said Hargrove, when asked if Mateo’s start could turn into a full-time spot in the rotation. “He throws strikes, he has got good stuff and he’s kept us in ballgames.”

Coming up from Tacoma
George Sherrill gets a well-deserved callup to take Mateo's slot in the rotation. And he will likely be staying when Pineiro returns, so something has gotta give. Have I mentioned that it should be time for Aaron Sele and the Mariners to part ways?

Meanwhile, adding to speculation yesterday, was the fact that Jorge Campillo was pulled from his start in the third inning, for no apparent reason. Inside the dugout, handshakes were going all around, so it appeared that Campillo hadn't gotten called up to the big leagues. But no official word yet. Maybe the M's changed their mind and decided to inexplicably give Aaron Sele one more start.

Wiki Injury May be Serious
After starting out a white hot 6-16 with 4 doubles, new catcher Wiki Gonzalez was starting to get some press and consideration as the full time starter. But yesterday, Gonzalez was running out a groundout in the 7th, when he appeared to pull his hamstring. After the game Hargrove said that the physicians "think it is a significant strain." So, where does the Wheel of Catching land this time? It will be interesting to see what the M's next play at catcher is - Ryan Christianson? Rene Rivera? Benito Santiago? I hope Wiki gets healthy, because he was contributing with the bat, and we really needed it.

This may be a second bout of bad luck (or karma depending on your opinion of Wiki's work ethic) for Gonzalez in the past year. Last year, he had gotten called back up to Tacoma and was hitting .300+, only to wake up with a stiff knee that turned out to be an ACL tear (see Wilson, Dan).

Get well soon, Wiki! Now there is a statement I did not think I'd be uttering this year. Baseball is a funny game. I hope Wiki gets more time to take advantage of this second chance.

Jose Lopez Sighting
Another interesting development in the saga that is the 2005 Mariners is that Jose Lopez returned to Tacoma yesterday, going 2 for 4 with a walk. However, before we get too excited, note that Lopez was playing second base and committed an error. With the bats starting to wake up, and a Pokey recovery on the horizon, perhaps the M's will remain committed to Plan A of working Lopez as a second baseman for 2006. I sure hope not, because I'm not counting us out of 2005 yet, and I think young Mr. Lopez could be a vital cog in the resurrection of this season.

Ichiro in the (Sporting) News
Finally, before I sign off, let me point you Ichiro! fans to this excellent article on his adjustments that have him hitting over .400 since the All-Star Break last year. Ichiro in the Sporting News.

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