SEATTLE – This was the outing Jeff Weaver promised to give the Seattle Mariners more than the two innings he lasted in his debut last week in Boston.
This was the game, both Weaver and the Mariners hoped, that would show he’s worth the $8.325 million the M’s are paying him to be their fifth starter.
Weaver tinkered with trouble through four innings, then was scorched in the fifth when the Minnesota Twins finally made him pay for leaving a flat slider over the middle of the plate.
Torii Hunter’s grand slam became the crowning blow in a five-run inning off Weaver and an 11-2 Twins victory at Safeco Field.
“Just one too many sliders,” Weaver said.
He’d used that pitch much of the night, burned only when he threw three straight to Michael Cuddyer, who hit the third off the left-field wall for an RBI triple in the Twins’ two-run first inning.
Ichiro Suzuki got one of those runs back in the bottom of the first, clubbing Ramon Ortiz’s first pitch over the center-field fence for his 23rd career home run.
Weaver kept the game close, limiting the Twins to two doubles in three scoreless innings. Then came the fifth.
Jason Bartlett singled, Luis Castillo singled and Jason Tyner drove in a run with a single, making it a 3-1 game. Joe Mauer dropped a sacrifice bunt, a rarity for a No. 3 hitter, to put runners on second and third with one out, and Weaver recorded a key strikeout when he got Cuddyer.
“He got aggressive, went after the hitters and got a big strikeout of Cuddyer,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “There were some things that Jeff did in this outing that were encouraging. That being said, he still gave up seven runs and 10 hits.”
The crusher was Hunter’s grand slam.
After he struck out Cuddyer, Weaver intentionally walked Justin Morneau, choosing to pitch to Hunter, and got two quick strikes. Then he threw a fastball that appeared to tail back over the plate. Umpire Joe West hadn’t called that pitch a strike all game, and he didn’t this time, either.
“It was borderline, could have gone either way,” Weaver said. “I could have come back with it again and might have got the call, but I figured at that time he was set up with the slider, and he made me pay.”
On a 1-2 pitch, Weaver threw a Frisbee – a 78 mph spinner over the middle that didn’t move. Hunter, a .455 career hitter against Weaver, crushed it over the left-field fence and into the Twins bullpen.
“I’ve faced Torii a bunch of times and had some success throwing my slider to him,” Weaver said. “After I’d thrown him some sinkers to get ahead, I thought he might have changed his approach to look for that sinker. He never changed.”
Looking at the bright side, Weaver lowered his earned run average in half to 15.75.
Weaver followed the five-run fifth with a 1-2-3 sixth before leaving the game, and the Twins scored four runs off rookie Sean White in the eighth.
The Mariners had no such outburst against Twins starter Ramon Ortiz, who raised his record to 3-0. Throwing a two-seam fastball that buzzed the fists of right-handed hitters and a slider that kept them honest, he gave up eight hits in seven innings, twice getting double-play grounders. Twins third baseman Luis Rodriguez finished with nine assists.
One of those two-seamers pounded M’s right fielder Jose Guillen on his right hand. He stayed in the game, but Hargrove said his status wouldn’t be known until today.
Hunter may have been hurt worse. He made a diving attempt on Jose Vidro’s sinking liner to center in the sixth inning and bruised his left shoulder. His status was listed as day to day.
More than a year after putting his baseball life on hold for all the right reasons, John Moses was back in a Mariners uniform.
The former M’s outfielder and first-base coach began work as a left-handed batting practice pitcher. He’ll be with the team during workouts before home games and also travel with the M’s throughout the season.
A year ago at this time, Moses was at home in Issaquah, Wash., spending much-needed family time. He had been with the Cincinnati Reds during the 2005 season and was supposed to be their first-base coach under manager Jerry Narron last year.
The day before spring training began, he gave up that job.
“I was about halfway to the airport the day before spring training, but something told me not to go,” he said. “I’d had enough. It wasn’t that I’d had my fill of baseball. I’d had my fill of being away from home and not really getting a chance to see the family for nine months.” That was the toughest decision I ever had to make baseball-wise. It was the right decision.”