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Griffey helps make a point

By Gregg Bell Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. – Don Wakamatsu already has his first managerial “win,” two days before the Mariners’ exhibition games begin.

Wakamatsu had made wearing the practice jersey with numbers on the back a rule after the first day of camp, partly so everyone could get to know each other more easily. But the rookie manager also said the rule was a small test to the players, to see if they would comply.

Then Ken Griffey Jr. showed up for his first workout with Seattle on Sunday wearing a blue fleece pullover instead of the practice jersey every other player was wearing.

“I’ll put a 24 in tape on the back of that,” Wakamatsu said.

Monday, Griffey was on the field looking like everyone else.

“No, I didn’t mention it to him,” Wakamatsu said, laughing and inferring someone did. “I thought he was trying to hide yesterday.”

The manager clearly wasn’t at odds with his star over his wardrobe, but Wakamatsu does see a value in the subtle message Griffey sent Monday as the team tries to change the culture from a 101-loss season in 2008.

“It’s what we’re about,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s a group. It’s important.”

Beltre to WBC?

Third baseman Adrian Beltre wants to play for his native Dominican Republic in next month’s World Baseball Classic. The Mariners aren’t so sure they want him to, because of the surgery he had in September on his non-throwing shoulder and on his thumb. The thumb seems fine, but Beltre was bothered the first few days of camp by the shoulder.

Beltre considered this first week of camp a trial, to show he is ready to play in the tournament. He and Wakamatsu were to meet later Monday to perhaps decide if he will stay or leave on March 1 to join his national team.

Aumont to WBC

Wakamatsu said pitcher Phillippe Aumont, a first-round pick two years ago who made only five appearances in the minor leagues last season after June 1 because of soreness in his right elbow, will pitch for his native Canada in the WBC and Felix Hernandez will be the ace for Venezuela.

The Mariners had concerns about Aumont.

“Our concern is, is he ready to go and that everything is handled right. He assures us it will be,” Wakamatsu said.

Play at a slow pace

The first intrasquad scrimmage went five innings but seemed interminable.

“I don’t think our tempo was very good,” Wakamatsu said, adding it was what he expected for the first time out.

He said pitchers who have been making adjustments with new ideas in the bullpen were often thinking while facing hitters for the first time Monday.

“I think tempo is another pitch; it keeps everybody on their toes,” Wakamatsu said, noting part of the reason Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox is so effective is because he works so quickly. “It’s an aggressive move, in a sense, toward the hitter.”

Another reason for the pace: Miguel Batista pitched. He is one of Seattle’s slowest workers.

Batista, a candidate to be the closer, had one perfect inning. So did Carlos Silva.

Extra bases

2B Jose Lopez has a tight back. 1B Russell Branyan is coming back from the same pain. Those two, plus Griffey (arthroscopic knee surgery in October) and DH candidate Mike Sweeney (surgery on both knees last summer) may not play in the first few exhibition games. … The pitchers scheduled for the first exhibitions: LHPs Ryan Rowland-Smith and then Garrett Olson on Wednesday against San Diego; RHP Felix Hernandez and LHP Jarrod Washburn on Thursday against the Padres. … The Mariners re-signed OF Mike Wilson after he cleared waivers. Wilson, a slugger who starred in AA last season, was released to make room on the 40-man roster for Griffey.

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