A GRIP ON SPORTS
In my lifetime, relief pitchers have always been known as firemen. You know, the guys who rush into the middle of a burning building, pour water on the flames and try to save everyone? That's the usual definition, anyway. In the Mariners second game early this morning, their bullpen rushed into the burning building with a bag of Kingsford charcoal and can of Zippo. Read on.
• The M's entered the seventh inning against the A's with Jason Vargas throwing a gem, a 1-0 lead and a chance to come home from Japan with a 2-0 start. But Shawn Kelley, George Sherrill (right) and Steve Delebar each gave up home runs over the next two innings and Oakland won 4-1. Not to be a Negative Neddy or anything, but it sure seems like this scenario may play out more than once over the course of the 162-game season. If there is anywhere where the M's are trying to do it with mirrors – other than at the plate, of course, where the starting left fielder is already on the DL – it's in long relief. The closer, Brandon League, is more than competent most nights, but the bridge guys, the folks who will try to get from the starter to League, they are a group of still-unproven youngsters or past-their-prime veterans. … At least the two-game interlude in Japan is over, the M's can get back on a plane, return to Arizona and we can look forward to, well, more spring training. After all the excitement that comes from watching baseball in a foreign land – voiced-over by two guys in Bellevue – we could probably use the rest.
• About halfway through the first half of the Cougars' 57-53 CBI championship-series loss to Pittsburgh, I wondered if I had pulled an SI and had jinxed Abe Lodwick. Then I realized it was just the Panthers playing a lot better defense. And they continued to play that way until the final buzzer. Still, WSU tied the game late and had a shot to clinch the tournament title as the clock wound down. With the Pitt win, the series comes down to one game Friday evening. I won't be able to see it, however, as I'll be in the radio studio with Rick Lukens on 700 ESPN. You can bet, however, that Rick and I will be talking about it.
• Washington State: With spring football in full swing, Christian Caple wasn't in Pittsburgh either, though he did have his usual post-game blog post and the S-R had this story from a freelancer. Christian also has his usual morning post with more links from around the Pac-12, while we found these two stories from Pennsylvania. … Christian also has a video interview with linebacker/defensive end Logan Mayes, whose dad Rueben was at the Cougar basketball game the other night – he got a lot of TV time sitting in the front row. … Mike Leach was on a Seattle radio station again Wednesday and had a lot to say about macots. Yep, mascots. You can listen to the interview here.
• Gonzaga: When BYU joined the West Coast Conference last year, everyone knew nine conference members was going to be untenable. It was. The conference added a 10th school Wednesday, bringing the University of Pacific onboard. Yep, the school from Stockton, one of my least-favorite cities in the world. (And, as a guy who used to cover the PCAA back when Pacific was coached by Stan Morrison, let me tell you the trip to Stockton and its old Civic Auditorium, was about as bad as it got in that conference.) Jim Meehan had a blog post on the move yesterday and has a story in today's S-R, while John Blanchette adds his thoughts. … The change is a big deal in Stockton, located about as far south of Sacramento as Pullman is to Spokane – though down an interstate not a two-lane highway. Pacific athletic director Ted Leland made the announcement, while also saying he's going to stay at his alma mater until the transition is complete.
• Chiefs: The series is all tied after Spokane worked its way to a 3-2 overtime victory last night. Jessica Brown has the game story. … Tri-City swept Everett out of the WHL playoffs with a 4-3 win last night.
• Shock: Spokane's newest quarterback is a smart guy. Jim has all the details in this feature on Adam Froman.
• Mariners: Before we get into the Thursday loss, we want to make sure we point out Art Thiel's piece on Ichiro and his opening day heroics. … Now back to the imploded bullpen and the defeat to the A's. We have links from Seattle, of course, and from Oakland, where the big story is Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes' first career home run, the one off Kelley that gave the A's a 2-1 lead. By the way, have I mentioned how much I despise Bartolo Colon, Oakland's starter? I still haven't gotten over how he shoved it to the M's back in 2001 in the only post-season game I've ever seen in Safeco.
• Sounders: After being named the team's defender of the year last season, Jeff Parke has yet to play this year. And he's not happy about it. Unhappy enough to speak out. Is there a trade in the future?
• That's what we have for you today. Until later …