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Valuable Villone dropped from M’s rotation

Larry LaRue Tacoma News Tribune

TORONTO - Manager Bob Melvin suggested pitcher Ron Villone might be the Seattle Mariners’ staff most valuable player this season - and then sent him to the bullpen.

“Ron wants to pitch,” Melvin said. “He’s old school, and if you give him the ball he’ll pitch until you go get him. Every role we’ve asked him to fill this season, he’s filled well.”

A starter for most of the last two months, Villone came out of the bullpen Sunday and recorded his fifth win in relief.

On Tuesday, Villone was told he’ll pitch in relief and Korean rookie right-hander Cha Seung Baek will slide into the starting rotation beginning Thursday in Toronto.

In the continuing audition of minor-league talent, Baek will be the 11 pitcher and fifth rookie to start for Seattle this year.

“We want to take a look at Baek, and he’s the pitcher who has started most recently (in Triple-A Tacoma),” Melvin said. “It gives us a bit more flexibility in the bullpen, too.”

Villone joins left-handers Matt Thornton and George Sherrill and righties Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Scott Atchison and J.J. Putz in the pen.

“Ron is a great influence for our kids, the way he prepares, the way he goes about his business in the game,” Melvin said.

The Seattle rotation, starting today: Gil Meche, Baek, Bobby Madritsch, Franklin and Jamie Moyer.

Borders sent to Twins

Seattle sent Tacoma catcher Pat Borders to the Minnesota Twins in a deal that could land the veteran catcher in the postseason - and brought a Moses Lake, Wash., prospect home.

In exchange for Borders, 41, the Mariners acquired B.J. Garbe, a 23-year-old outfielder taken fifth in the 1999 draft whom has never lived up to his potential.

Garbe, batting .201 for Class AA New Britain, was assigned to Class AA San Antonio.

Melvin disputes one point

Melvin had no problem with the Sunday column in The News Tribune predicting he wouldn’t return to Seattle next year. He didn’t much like it, but he didn’t complain and wants to make one point.

Although several players said Ichiro Suzuki at times failed to run on straight steal signs, Melvin said that had never happened. “Ichiro has done everything I’ve ever asked,” Melvin said.

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