A GRIP ON SPORTS
Last night's home opener against the Angels was just so Mariners. A sell-out crowd on hand to celebrate the beginning of the Robinson Cano era. A quick deficit. Two home runs from the "other" free agent, Corey Hart. And a win. Nope, that wasn't what was so like the Mariners. No, that came midway through the game when young lefthander James Paxton, who seemed on top of his game, pulled himself out, pointing to his back as he left. Yep, he's hurt. A strained lat muscle it is said. Oh oh. Read on.
• If you have a short memory, let me refresh it. When Stephen Pryor – another young pitcher the M's were counting on – was injured last year, it was announced after the game he had a lat strain and would undergo an MRI. He did, just as Paxton (pictured) is going to. And Pryor's MRI showed a tear. Surgery was ultimately required and he's still not 100 percent. So why am I raining on the M's parade after a 5-3 comeback win? Because being an M's fan is never easy. There is never a straight-line path to happiness involved, especially not recently. Just when it looks as if the M's have bolstered their lineup enough to compete in the American League West, the pitching takes hits. By my count – and I was never very good at math – 60 percent of the starting rotation is now on the shelf. Yes, 40 percent of it is working its way back – Hisashi Iwakuma is set to throw a bullpen this week and Taijuan Walker is about to make a rehab assignment – but now the most effective left-hander is going to be sidelined a while. How long? We'll find out soon. It could be a couple weeks (glass half full) or a couple months (glass half empty). Sorry, I'm a glass half-empty type of guy when it comes to the M's. When the other shoe drops around Safeco, it usually lands on my head.
• For those of you who felt there is no way Kelly Graves could turn down the money Oregon could offer, that doesn't seem to be the reason he left. His new contract, six years (oops, I screwed this up in the first version; it is fixed now) for a little more than $3 million guaranteed (along with bonuses), is almost exactly what I've been told he's was making at Gonzaga and probably less if he were offered a raise to stay. We talked with Graves yesterday on the radio – he was en route to a spring break week in Palm Springs with the family – and he emphasized the time was right for him. He needed a change. Gonzaga had hit a ceiling, he felt, and there was more of a chance to take the next step in Eugene. He's right, of course. Oregon's resources are seemingly endless and success at a national level is expected – especially in women's sports. The track and cross country teams compete for titles every year and the softball team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country. The school wants the same for women's basketball. And Graves gets to be the guy to deliver on the hope. He met the media yesterday and the hiring was considered an instant success. It's called "winning the press conference" (pictured) and it's important to athletic directors. In Graves' case, at least, the winning will not stop there.
• WSU: The Cougars were back on the practice field yesterday with the offense winning the day – sorry, the Oregon mention above got me thinking of Chip Kelly. Anyhow, Jacob Thorpe was there and he had a story on the running backs and a blog post from the workout. Though Jacob will be in Spokane today (and there won't be a live chat), he does have a morning post to keep you informed. ... It's Wednesday, which means I can pass along a mid-week mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog. There is a Cougar question. ... Here are one man's thoughts about the NCAA tournament. And here is a nice background story on one of the new basketball assistants.
• Gonzaga: Thomas Clouse isn't looking back anymore. He's looking to the future, as in who may replace Graves at Gonzaga. His story today says the assistants might figure prominently in those plans. ... Once again the San Diego Union-Tribune columnist calls for Billy Grier's head at USD. He's not getting it.
• Shock: Yes, it's Wednesday, so Jim Meehan has his weekly notebook.
• Chiefs: Portland got a road win last night and is now up 3-1 in its series with Victoria.
• Preps: Despite spring break being upon us, Chris Derrick has a softball notebook.
• Seahawks: Want to know who got the loudest cheers last night at the M's opener? Well I'm guessing it was Corey Hart after his second home run. But the pregame honors for the Hawks must have run a close second.
• Mariners: As is his wont, John Blanchette was at the M's home opener and he has a column on all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Cano. ... Art Thiel opines about the same thing as well as the game itself. ... The Times' Jerry Brewer writes about Cano while his colleague Larry Stone focuses on Hart (pictured). ... The News Tribune's Dave Boling has a column on Lloyd McClendon. ... The game coverage? There is plenty, starting with Hart's two dingers that lifted the M's to victory over the Angels (the fourth time over them already this season), but not ignoring Paxton's injury or the stellar work once again of the bullpen.
• Sounders: Seattle's depth took a hit yesterday with the announcement of injuries to two reserves. ... Sigi Schmid addressed the injuries and other things, including the Sounders ability to score. ... One man''s power rankings are another man's weekly soccer fix. ... Everyone had a horse in the NCAA tournament, even a Sounders player.
• That's it today. If you are of the mind, new WSU men's basketball coach Ernie Kent is in town today for a meet and greet with the Cougar faithful. Jacob had a blog post on how to see the new hoops coach in person. We'll be meeting with him today as well and will have some thoughts on the blog tomorrow morning. Until then ...