Scott Sanders’ next pitch might come in relief.
Sanders’ slump as a starter deepened Friday - mainly because his pitches cured a couple of ailing Minnesota batters - in the Twins’ 10-3 win over the Seattle Mariners before 33,574 at the Kingdome.
Sanders, the only pitcher to lose on a recent 6-1 road trip, lost his fourth straight in his debut season with the Mariners. He’s given up eight home runs in less than 20 innings after allowing 10 in 144 innings with the San Diego Padres last season.
“We might change his role,” M’s manager Lou Piniella said. “We’ve got to get him going. I’m going to think about it. … That (relieving) is not a bad way to break a new guy into a new league, especially when he’s had bullpen experience already.”
Sanders, who made 30 relief appearances last season before becoming a starter in San Diego, isn’t eager for a possible move.
“For me to get out of my rut, I have to pitch,” he said. “But that’s not my call. That’s Lou’s call.”
Rich Becker, in a 1-for-23 spell, whacked a long, two-run homer off Sanders in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie. The Twins then loaded the bases and Roberto Kelly, who had one hit in his previous 10 at-bats, lifted a three-run double off the wall in right-center.
Sanders knew his appointment with a shower was sealed as he backed up home plate on Kelly’s hit, standing in disbelief and angrily slapping his thigh.
Before the game, Sanders had talked about making a small adjustment to prevent him from falling toward first base after throwing a pitch. After the game, he talked about staying with his natural motion.
“When you get in a game, you’ve got to do what comes naturally,” he said. “My last three outings I’ve let right-handed (batters) beat me and that’s not me.”
Tim Davis relieved Sanders in the fifth and fared no better, giving up a four-run sixth, three scoring on Greg Colbrunn’s homer to left.
Sanders and Davis were too generous, even for the normally potent Mariners’ offense. Seattle scored in the first, but only when Joey Cora crossed home on Ken Griffey Jr.’s double-play grounder.
Alex Rodriguez grounded into a double play to stall a promising third inning.
Minnesota pitcher Frankie Rodriguez held Seattle in check until the seventh when Jay Buhner and Paul Sorrento hit back-to-back homers.
Cora had two hits for the second straight day, an encouraging sign after an 0 for 14 streak.
Dennis Martinez (1-0), who beat Cleveland in his last outing, and Minnesota’s Bob Tewksbury (0-2) will start the middle game of the three-game set tonight at 7:05.
The Mariners retired No. 42 before Friday’s game in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the majors. Dave Henderson, who wore No. 42 during his six years as a Mariner in Robinson’s honor, was on hand… . Left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer (disabled list) threw on the side Friday. Piniella said Moyer probably will throw batting practice the next few days, but he is probably a couple of rehab assignments and 10-14 days from pitching in a game.
The Mariners’ Internet site, www.mariners.org, had an average of 85,565 “hits” per day in March. … On its 6-1 East Coast road swing, Seattle’s pitching staff had a 3.43 earned-run average. The team ERA before the trip was 7.27.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo