Sports

Johnson Takes Lumps

Randy Johnson decided to let his pitching do the talking Wednesday. Alas, neither his fastball nor his breaking ball was particularly articulate.

The Seattle Mariners ace had his worst outing of the spring, walking four batters and getting nicked for six hits in four innings as the M’s lost their third straight game, a 7-1 decision to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks.

Afterward, Johnson blew out of the locker room without talking to reporters. So much for the happier Big Unit we heard about last week.

Manager Lou Piniella was asked what he took from Johnson’s performance.

“I’ll take an aspirin when I get back to the office,” he said.

He could stand to double the dosage. Closer Heathcliff Slocumb somehow managed to walk three batters and give up two hits in just an inning of work, the Mariners made two more errors and managed just a solo home run by Alex Rodriguez by way of any meaningful offense against four Diamondbacks pitchers.

“This is the part of spring training where if you’re going to lose your concentration, you’ve got to push yourself,” said Piniella. “You’ve been here about 30 days already and you’re not close to the season. You’re in limbo somewhere and you’ve got to start pushing yourself so you don’t have to come hard the last week you play. It’s hard. I went through it as a player myself.”

Left unsaid

Not that it was anything but a foregone conclusion, but the Mariners’ revolving door in left field stopped Wednesday - temporarily, in all likelihood - on Glenallen Hill.

The M’s continued the incremental trims of their roster by optioning outfielder Shane Monahan to their Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. Also reassigned from the major-league camp were two pitchers, Brent Hinchliffe and Jordan Zimmerman.

Monahan, a 23-year-old left-handed hitter, was the token competition for Hill, signed by the Mariners to a minor-league contract in January. After a slow start this spring, Monahan hit .353, with six hits in 17 at-bats - all singles.

The cuts left the Mariners with 43 players in their major-league camp. The Mariners still must make room on their 40-man major-league roster for Hill if he becomes the opening-day left fielder - and the 53rd to play alongside Ken Griffey Jr.

Great moments in scoring

In the second inning against the Diamondbacks, Mariners catcher John Marzano hit a high chopper between second and third. Matt Williams slid quickly to his left and took a swipe at the ball with his glove, but managed only to slap it toward second base - a coin-flip call.

“Base hit,” decided official scorer Tim Hevly, the M’s assistant director of media relations. “Marzy’s doing a radio show for me at 6 a.m. tomorrow. It all factors in. And these guys know it.”

You gotta love these ads

The Mariners previewed their 1998 television advertising campaign on Wednesday - another variation on the theme of “You Gotta Love These Guys” - and will unveil them on local and regional television beginning today.

In one of the seven new spots, manager Lou Piniella, hitting coach Jesse Barfield and others are apparently reviewing videotape of a batter (“Here’s his problem - his hands are too high and he’s opening up his hips too soon”). But soon it’s revealed that they are actually watching a Mariners’ fan dancing between innings to disco music. Third baseman Russ Davis gets the punchline.

Jamie Moyer’s oh-so-slow changeup, the clubhouse kangaroo court and human cloning are also topics for ads.

Notably absent from the cast of any of the commercials: Randy Johnson.

Marinade

Left-hander Jeff Fassero is scheduled to pitch two innings Friday against the San Francisco Giants after being sidelined for a week with stiffness in his elbow. Lefty reliever Tony Fossas (inflamed left elbow) began throwing on the side Monday. … The Mariners agreed to contract terms with defector Francisco Santiesteban, a 22-year-old catcher considered one of the top Cuban prospects. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Santiesteban, who defected while playing exhibition games in Colombia last July, will be assigned to Double-A Orlando of the Southern League.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo



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