Hickey: Big Papi a big fan of Mariners' pitching

Hickey: Big Papi a big fan of Mariners' pitching

Hickey: Big Papi a big fan of Mariners' pitching

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by John Hickey

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on July 3, 2012 at 8:11 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 3 at 8:30 PM

The local mid-season analyses of the Mariners share a similar dour view. Sometimes it’s worthwhile, however, to take a step back and let an outsider offer a look.

It's easy to be consumed by the split between the .197 team batting average at home and the .259 batting average on the road. Does Safeco Field really matter so much? Are the Mariners really so schizophrenic? Are we schizophrenic?

Over the weekend Seattle manager Eric Wedge talked about his consuming belief that the Mariners will come out of this winners.

Does anyone else share that opinion?

Boston designated hitter David Ortiz does.

Ortiz and the Red Sox finished up four games at Safeco Sunday, a series in which a team that was 9-2 in its previous 11 games, while scoring seven-plus runs per game, ran into a brick wall of well-placed fastballs and sliders.

Boston scored nine runs and was, by the Red Sox's own admission, lucky to get out of town with a split.

Ortiz came in with 399 career homers, hoping he would be able to top his selection to the AL All-Star team by becoming the 49th player in big league history to get to 400.

Hah.

“I’m always thinking about going deep,” Ortiz said Sunday. “But I hadn’t counted on the way these guys pitch. I mean, these guys can pitch. You know against King Felix you’re not going to get anything to hit. But in four games I got one pitch to hit, and I hit it for a double.“Other than that one pitch up in the strike zone, every pitch is in or out. They don’t just throw the ball. Every pitch has movement. So I look at the standings and I wonder about that. This team isn’t that far away.”

Come again? Are we talking about the same team? The one Mariners fans have watched this year fall further out of first place (16½ games in the AL West) than any team in baseball?

This is a team that comes into Monday's start of a three=game series with Baltimore owning a 34-47 record and a .420 winning percentage that is the worst in the AL and the fourth-worst in MLB. This is a team that has played the National League team with the second-worst winning percentage in the game, San Diego, and lost five of six.This is the same team Ortiz is talking about?

Yes.

“You watch this team. They have so many good young pitchers,” Ortiz said. “They’re having trouble scoring runs. But if they put a good hitter or two in the middle of that lineup, they’re going to be contenders. And it won’t take long.”

Ortiz raises his right hand and snaps his fingers.

“I mean right now. I look at these pitchers and these kids can really bring it.”

That, according Ortiz, the one-time Mariner draftee who seems a decent bet to make it to the Hall of Fame, is the base upon which a winner is built. He is a longtime fan of Felix Hernandez, who will be an All-Star teammate next week. He also respects veteran lefty Jason Vargas. And in the last four games, he’s added relievers Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge, and starter Erasmo Ramirez, to his “like” list.

Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik have tried to keep a happy face when talking about the progress they see.

It hasn’t been easy, not when last year’s 95-loss team was close to being a .500 team (39-42) at the same point in the baseball calendar. It was July 6 last year that the Mariners embarked on a 17-game losing streak that crushed the 2011 spirit.

It hasn’t been easy, not when Wedge had to take 22 minutes out of the Mariners’ day  Saturday afternoon to dress down the troops over the lack of quality in their game.It hasn’t been easy, not when fans abandon the franchise in these dire days – even after an almost 110,000-fan boost in the last four days, the attendance is 22,267, 11th in the AL and 26th in the big leagues.

Sometime there are questions about whether the manager and general manager, the architects of the supposed rebuild, really believe what they say or if their words are just good PR spin.

Ortiz isn’t into public relations. He doesn’t have an ax to grind. It took him four days, and he’s bought into Mariners’ vision for the future.

Big time.

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