The effort to turn Scott Sanders’ April around continued Tuesday when the right-hander threw in the bullpen before the game - with an audience that included manager Lou Piniella and pitching coach Nardi Contreras.
Since late in spring training, when Piniella and Contreras first tried to alter his delivery, Sanders has taken to the changes well on the sidelines.
“It’s like muscle memory. He can do it in the bullpen, he does it on the mound in the game during warmups,” Piniella said. “But when he gets in a little trouble, he goes back to what he’s done in the past - and that’s why he’s given up home runs that have cost him four runs, three runs in a swing.”
The change in mechanics is relatively simple, but Sanders, 28, is trying to rebuild a delivery that was successful for him a year ago in the National League.
“He’s opening up his upper body too soon, letting hitters follow his arm and then the ball too soon,” Contreras said. “He’s landing on the outside of his foot and spinning off, and you can do that if your control is perfect. If it’s not, you’re going to get hit.”
Sanders has been hit, and when he opens the Mariners’ six-game homestand in the Kingdome on Friday against Minnesota, he’ll walk to the mound with an 0-3 record, a 10.20 earned-run average.
Seattle has toyed since spring with putting Sanders in the bullpen, both to help him work out his mechanics and because he has worked in relief before. For now, he stays in the starting rotation, and what the Mariners need badly from him is innings.
So far, in three starts, Sanders hasn’t gotten past the fifth.
“He looked good today, very good,” Piniella said. “Now if we can just get him doing it in the game, we’ll have something.”
The Seattle bench was a few men short Tuesday because the starting pitchers for the Detroit series - Randy Johnson and Jeff Fassero - had flown on ahead earlier in the day. … As Jamie Moyer continues his comeback from a strained left forearm, he might actually be able to pitch by the middle of next week - in simulated or minor-league games. … The Mariners ratings on KIRO television over the weekend were up 13 percent over viewership at the same time last year. … When Ken Griffey Jr. donned No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson, it became the third uniform number of his Mariners career. Aside from his usual 24, Griffey once wore No. 30 at a turn-back-the-clock night - in tribute to his father, Ken Griffey.
Seattle opens a two-game series in Detroit with a 4:05 p.m. (PDT) start at Tiger Stadium that will be broadcast on Fox Sports Northwest.
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