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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: Revenge is a dish best served with a side of grand salami

Seattle Mariners’ Guillermo Heredia greets Taylor Motter (21) near the dugout after Motter’s grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 2, 2017, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners’ Guillermo Heredia greets Taylor Motter (21) near the dugout after Motter’s grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 2, 2017, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Ever change jobs? And then had the opportunity to poke your old boss in the eye, metaphorically? Must be nice. Read on.

••••••••••

• Taylor Motter had that chance yesterday. And the Mariner utility man took it, launching a Tampa Bay pitch into the Safeco night with the bases loaded.

Motter’s pop, as they call his home runs in Seattle, helped the M’s to a much-needed 12-4 win over the Rays.

It also gave Motter a sense of satisfaction, if his words afterward were to be taken at face value.

“There’s a lot of things that run through my head,” Motter told the Seattle media when asked how it felt to hit a grand slam against his old team. “Specifically, they got rid of me … To do it against them means more than anything.

“They gave me a chance in baseball but I’m going to succeed somewhere else. I’m glad to show them that.”

No one likes to be told they aren’t good enough. Even if it may be true.

Motter was told he wasn’t good enough for the Rays. And maybe he isn’t. He certainly isn’t a full-time player with the Mariners, who aren’t what you would call an American League power at the moment.

He’s a utility guy who has been forced into almost daily service due to injuries.

He’s hitting .211, a tick above his lifetime average of .201. Last night’s home run, his sixth of the season, was his first since April 23.

He’s not a star, but a role player. Still, when given his chance to make his former employer pay, he did just that.

And that has to feel good.

• What doesn’t feel good is Jean Segura’s right ankle.

The American League’s leading hitter will be out of the M’s lineup for a few weeks, maybe even up to two months, with a high ankle sprain suffered Thursday.

It’s just another kick in the groin in a season filled with them.

According to general manager Jerry DiPoto on Seattle radio yesterday, the M’s have used more players in their first 55 games than anyone in major league history. Some of the roster churn was by DiPoto design. But most of it was forced up the organization due to injuries.

Motter’s been given a chance due to them – and will probably be the main fill-in while Segura heals. Ben Gamel, hitting .311, has been given a chance due to them. And last night’s winning pitcher, Christian Bergman (pictured), has been given a chance due to them.

I’ve been aware of Bergman since high school. Why?

Bergman’s path to the major leagues paralleled mine – if I had made it to the bigs.

He attended the same high school, St. Francis in La Canada, Calif. He then moved on to UC Irvine, the same school I played for oh so long ago. But there the paths diverge.

He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2010 draft by the Rockies. Four years later he was in the major leagues. He appeared in 55 games with Colorado, making 15 starts.

After becoming a free agent this winter, he signed with the M’s. And now, with all the injuries to the rotation, he’s getting a chance.

You may look at his ERA of 4.36 and think he hasn’t thrown well. But in his five starts, he’s yielded just five earned runs in 25 1/3 innings over four of them. That’s a 1.78 ERA. In the other one, he took one for the bullpen, giving up 10 runs in Washington over four rain-soaked innings.

In 2007, UCI made the college world series. I got on a plane and flew to Omaha to watch.

Bergman was on that team, a freshman who didn’t pitch much. I had a chance to chat with him at an Anteater practice, sharing memories of St. Francis and the road to Irvine. He seemed a bit unimpressed. In his place, I would have been as well.

• It’s not too often anymore a local kid is offered the opportunity to play basketball at Gonzaga University. It’s about a once-or-twice-in-decade sort of thing. The Zags have ascended into a stratosphere in which most of the local high school products don’t have the talent to reach.

That’s the way of the (college hoop) world.

But occasionally there is a player who catches Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s eye.

Such is the case with Anton Watson, the Gonzaga Prep junior-to-be and last year’s Greater Spokane League MVP.

Thursday night, Watson, a 6-foot-7 forward, took to Twitter to let the world know the Zags had offered him a scholarship. It was his first Division I offer, according to the tweet. It won’t be his last.

(Full disclosure here. There is a bit of a conflict of interest in that I coached Watson in AAU basketball while he was a seventh and eighth grader. So my perceptions of his abilities have been influenced some.)

Jim Meehan has a story on the offer in today’s S-R. My guess is it won’t be the last you hear about Watson.

•••

WSU: Around the Pac-12, the baseball regionals began in earnest yesterday, though three of the four conference teams lost. UCLA and Arizona lost their openers on the road, while Stanford lost at home. Top-seeded Oregon State cruised in Corvallis, however, and look poised to continue on to the Super Regionals. … Arizona State had its worst baseball season in history. … At the softball world series in Oklahoma City, all three Pac-12 schools are in the losers’ bracket, after Washington lost a tight game to Oklahoma. UCLA and Oregon have stay-alive games today. … Utah’s basketball team is headed to Europe this summer.

Gonzaga: It’s a pretty busy June day for GU news. Besides Jim’s piece on G-Prep’s Watson, he has two other men’s basketball stories. … Few has filled the opening on his staff by hiring former walk-on Stephen Gentry as director of basketball operations. And a California transfer, who considered the Zags, is going elsewhere. … Jim Allen also has a story today, this one on Courtney Vandersloot, who is now a Hungarian citizen as well as an American. … BYU stayed alive in the NCAA baseball regional thanks to a solid pitching performance. They’ll have to defeat Stanford today to get a chance at undefeated Cal State Fullerton.

Golf: Jim Meehan’s column features answers to questions asked of local area pros.

Empire: Spokane hosts the Arizona Rattlers tonight in a seemingly must-win game if the Empire wants to win the Intense Conference crown and host the playoff game. Jim Meehan has an advance.

Mariners: We can pass along the link to Dave Nichols’ Mariner Log. There are even more links to the game coverage at the bottom of that feature.

Seahawks: Yesterday’s OTA was open to the media and players and coaches talked afterward. The theme was simple: The ESPN article about a rift in the locker room was either old news, according to Pete Carroll, or, according to Russell Wilson, not true. Wilson pointed to the team’s success as proof there is no rift. … Luke Joeckel may be facing his final chance. … Why didn’t the Hawks sign Colin Kaepernick? He’s too good. Parsing Carroll’s words, it’s obvious Kaepernick wants a place where he can earn a shot to be the starter. It’s not happening in Seattle, not with Wilson around. … Another Seattle mystery. … Russell Wilson, footwear pitchman. … So just what did come out of the OTAs?

Sounders: Portland snapped its losing streak by handling San Jose 2-0 with a pair of second-half goals.

•••       

• Enjoy the weekend. That is all – until later …

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