Backup catcher Jamie Burke was hardly prepared for what Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu threw at him two hours before Thursday’s game. The manager needed Burke to play first base because three infielders – Russell Branyan, Mike Sweeney and Ronny Cedeno – were out with injuries.
Burke gamely made his first career start at first, although it was neither easy nor pretty.
The first ball hit to him was a second-inning bouncer by Ben Zobrist to his right that began as a chance to start a double play with Pat Burrell on first base. Instead, the ball glanced off the heel of Burke’s glove as he tried to back-hand it. Burke scrambled to retrieve the ball but his throw to first, where pitcher Felix Hernandez was covering, was well off the bag and sailed to the dugout railing.
“I just had that feeling I was going to have to try and turn a double play,” Burke said. “I guess you’ve got to catch the ball first.”
Later in the game, Yuniesky Betancourt made a wide throw to first, causing Burke to dive to his right without success. When Burke successfully fielded a grounder and beat Carlos Pena to the bag in the fourth, the crowd gave him a mock cheer.
“I think I was more pumped up than nervous,” said Burke, who had played parts of only six games at first base in his big league career.
Running against the book
Ichiro Suzuki stirred a lot of what-was-he-thinking comments Wednesday night when he tried to steal second base, even though the Mariners were behind by five runs. He was thrown out easily by Rays catcher Dioner Navarro.
It was a move that goes against baseball’s so-called book of strategy – there’s no need to risk running into an out when there are so many runs to make up.
So what was Ichiro thinking?
“In that situation, he has the green light,” Wakamatsu said. “It was one of those things where the pitcher was extremely slow and then he slide stepped and (Ichiro) got thrown out. I’ve always said, even in spring training, that we’ll make some mistakes aggressively.”
Rob Johnson, who started most of the homestand after catcher Kenji Johjima went on the disabled list, has the lowest catcher’s ERA in the major leagues at 2.45. “He’s done a phenomenal job,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s nice to be able to catch those arms, too.” … The FSN telecast of Thursday’s game went dark for about a half-hour because of a lightning strike at the network’s technical operations facility in Atlanta. … Pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith will continue his therapy until early next week, then begin a throwing program if there are no complications. He has been on the DL since April 15 because of triceps tendinitis.