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Sweeney finally gets swinging

PHOENIX – Mike Sweeney said his rehab officially has ended.

Sweeney, whose impact with the Seattle Mariners at spring training has been limited to strengthening his legs around heavy amounts of clubhouse leadership, played his first game Saturday.

He struck out, flied out to center field and walked as the designated hitter in the Mariners’ 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, then called it a great day.

“It was good to be out there with my teammates and good to feel like I’m really, truly part of the team,” he said. “People were ragging me that it was my opening day.

“But this is probably my 19th spring training. I don’t get butterflies anymore, but it was a joy to be on the field playing baseball.”

Sweeney, 35, had surgery on both knees last June and, after signing a minor league contract with the Mariners, has been on a methodical program at spring training designed to have him fresh by opening day. He said he’ll need only about 20 at-bats to be ready for the season.

“Overall, my swing mechanics felt great,” he said. “I played as hard as I could and I was mentally and physically ready to go. I feel good. I’m pretty in tune with my body from the workouts I’ve been doing.”

He asked manager Don Wakamatsu to play in today’s exhibition against the Diamondbacks.

“I said, ‘We’ll see about that,’ ” Wakamatsu said.

LaHair raises hopes

The Mariners saw a flash of Bryan LaHair’s home-run potential when he hit three in the 136 at-bats he got last year, although a sports hernia and turf toe limited his power potential.

Against the Dodgers, LaHair showed his true strength.

His two-run opposite-field homer with two outs in the ninth inning gave the Mariners the win and, in Wakamatsu’s mind, should have instilled a heavy dose of confidence.

“To hit a ball like that and put us ahead, it’s a good confidence boost for him rather than trying to pull the ball all the time,” Wakamatsu said. “Kids get it in their heads that they’ve got to pull the ball. The big thing with him is that he’s not afraid to go that way.”

Closers on parade

Randy Messenger got the final three outs and recorded his third save in a game that featured perfect outings by three of the Mariners’ closer candidates.

Miguel Batista and Roy Corcoran each pitched a perfect inning, both bouncing back after being hammered Wednesday night against Team Australia.


Wakamatsu said the first cuts could happen this week after the minor league camp opens. “It’s time,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where we’ve seen enough of certain players and we have an idea for them and we’ll start looking to get down to a team.” … Pitcher Brandon Morrow missed a second straight day because of the flu, which isn’t helping his chances of pitching in a game by Friday. … Left-hander Cesar Jimenez, slowed because of biceps tendinitis, threw in the bullpen and is close to being ready for games.