After some baby steps forward the past week, the Seattle Mariners about-faced into a sizeable step backward Friday.
Jeff Fassero, Rusty Meacham and Rafael Carmona got knocked around. Andy Sheets kicked it around. And the Oakland Athletics batted around and around and around in a 14-4 Cactus League pounding of the Mariners at Peoria Stadium.
The good news for the Mariners?
Lou Piniella wasn’t around to see it.
But even that turned into bad news, too. After a Friday checkup, the Seattle manager has been scheduled for follow-up surgery Monday to drain infection from the rectal abscess he had lanced prior to spring training.
Dr. Keith Peterson, a consulting physician to the Mariners, said Piniella “could miss two or three days of work, or up to a week.”
A week would carry the Mariners up to their regular season opener April 1 against the New York Yankees in Seattle. But both Peterson and team trainer Rick Griffin said it was unlikely Piniella would be out that long.
And he is still scheduled to be in uniform today, when the M’s split their squad for two away games against Oakland and San Francisco.
Peterson said Piniella had been experiencing some discomfort and fatigue the past week and “wanted to control this before he gets in a bad way.
“It’s minor surgery - until it’s performed on you,” Peterson said.
Bench coach Lee Elia managed the Mariners in Piniella’s absence Friday.
The spring bash
The Athletics are the American League’s highest-scoring team this spring and got even fatter on Seattle pitching, banging out 23 hits - three apiece by Geronimo Berroa and Scott Spezio.
Fassero was nicked for nine of those hits, including Berroa’s fourth homer of the spring, a solo shot in the fourth inning. But the M’s Opening Day starter was anything but discouraged by the outing.
“I found out some stuff about their hitters I’ll need to know during the season,” said Fassero, who after six years of pitching in the National League with Montreal is trying to acquaint himself with American League hitters.
“Berroa, for instance, will never see a fastball or a slider down and in again. I’ve got to learn their strengths and weaknesses and that’s what today was all about.”
Fassero said he would have liked to have worked six innings, but hit his pitch limit - 95 - after five.
Then Meacham took over and was rocked for six hits and six earned runs in just an inning, a severe blow to his hopes of making the 25-man roster. Carmona was touched for five hits and three runs in an inning. Paul Menhart and closer Norm Charlton each pitched a scoreless inning.
“You have to tell guys not to get discouraged,” said pitching coach Nardi Contreras. “If one of our hitters has a bad day, he gets another crack the next day. A pitcher here sits for five days. With jobs on the line, you’ve got to keep your head up.”
The same might hold true for Sheets, a late replacement at shortstop for Alex Rodriguez, who was given the afternoon off.
Sheets, in competition with Brent Gates and Dave Silvestri for a backup infielder’s job, booted two ground balls in the second inning that led to three unearned runs. He later delivered a two-run single in the third inning by way of atonement, but muffed another chance off the bat of Tony Batista to lead off the sixth. It was ruled a hit - the ball went under Sheets’ glove as he ranged to his left - and triggered the six-run inning against Meacham.
Not that Sheets stood out. Athletics third baseman Scott Brosius committed errors on consecutive hard grounders in the third that set up Sheets’ RBI single.
The Athletics turned three double plays - two off the bat of Jay Buhner, the other on an alert relay by left fielder Jason Giambi. His catch of a sinking liner by Russ Davis was ruled a trap, but he corralled the ball and threw it to third to easily beat Mike Blowers, who had hugged second in anticipation of the catch. The relay to second just nipped Dan Wilson.
The Mariners cut 16 minor league players on Friday, including Kelton Jacobson, a former Gonzaga University pitcher who had spent three years in the Seattle farm system.
Edgar Martinez went 1 for 2 - and saw his baseball-best spring average drop a percentage point, to .522. Seattle, second to Oakland in offensive production this spring, managed just six hits off Athletics pitchers Mike Mohler, Stacy Hollins and Chris Nichting.