One bad pitch to Juan Castro in the fifth inning, and everything went dark. After missing way low and in with a 2-0 fastball, Bobby Madritsch jumped and grimaced, in obvious pain. He signaled for Dan Wilson after the next pitch, causing the trainers to come out, take a look, and remove him from the game. I'll say this: when Bobby has that kind of pained look on his face, you know something's wrong.
What we heard during the game was that he had a "strained left shoulder," which was confirmed by a post-game MRI. There's no word on when he'll make his next start. Ever the skeptic, I decided to do some quick background research on this kind of thing, to see what we might be looking at.
- Rafael Soriano: "sprained elbow." Would require T-J surgery.
- Gil Meche: "strained shoulder." Would require labrum and rotator cuff surgery.
- Scott Atchison: "strained elbow." Moved to the 60-day DL.
- Joel Pineiro: "strained flexor bundle." Has yet to start a game since. Developed a "strained shoulder" during the spring.
- Travis Blackley: "shoulder tendinitis." Would require labrum surgery.
- Ryan Anderson: "strained shoulder." Would require every surgical procedure known to man.
- Jeff Heaverlo: "strained shoulder." Would require labrum surgery.
- Eddie Guardado: "shoulder fatigue." Has a partially-torn rotator cuff.
Every Mariners fan in the universe has seen this before. The team medical staff seems to have a knack for understating the true extent of an injury (remember that Carlos Guillen/tuberculosis nightmare?), so them telling us that Madritsch has a "mild shoulder strain" doesn't really alleviate much concern. You never want to jump to conclusions, especially with something as important as Bobby's health, but he's had problems with that labrum before, and...well, everyone's already thinking it, so I won't continue. Suffice to say, we're all hoping for the best, which in this case would probably be a quick DL stint with no negative long-term effects.
It's a shame, too, because for the first ten batters of the game, Madritsch was reminding Mariners fans that he's the best pitcher in the rotation. He wasn't missing often, and when he did, it was off the plate (instead of right over the middle). Although he seemed to have problems keeping his fastball low in the zone, he had his changeup working perfectly from the get-go.
Minnesota would get its first baserunner of the game with one out in the fourth, when Nick Punto push-bunted for a base hit. I think it's reasonable to suggest that the bunt knocked Bobby off his game a little bit, because it was followed by a well-struck single and a homer to left that LeCroy absolutely crushed. Before the game, the Twins' announcers were talking about how both Silva and Madritsch had to stay focused on the mound without letting their emotions get the best of them; it seemed like Madritsch let the bunt get into his head, and he paid the price. There's no way that the pitch he threw to LeCroy wasn't going to get hammered.
Bobby's 33% of the way to matching his 2004 home run total.
Speaking of the home run: I understand that it was his birthday, and that Matt LeCroy promised to hit a homer for him during the game, but I'm not paying $100 for MLB.tv to watch Bert Blyleven dance around the booth like an idiot. My feelings on the Blyleven/Bremer duo aren't real different from how I feel about the Harrelson/Jackson White Sox tandem. There's just something about the AL Central that turns announcers into morons, I guess. How many times do we have to hear that it's Bert's birthday? It came up at least twice an inning. I wish I were a Hall of Fame voter so I could rescind my support for his induction on principle.
It was a special day for Bret Boone, too. Happy birthday to that guy. Too bad he didn't foul a ball into the Minnesota broadcast booth.
Juan Castro is a career .226/.269/.331 hitter. The Twins gave him a two-year contract worth more than $2m this past winter, with a third year option, presumably for his defense. In the first inning, he let a Beltre grounder bounce off his glove. That's funny.
Official Wilson Valdez Hits Past The Pitcher Meter: 5 times out of 7 opportunities. He's also tried to reach base by bunting twice in three games, so at least he's honest with himself.
In the bottom of the sixth, Ichiro hit a ground ball to short that Castro picked up and threw to first in one rapid, fluid motion. Ichiro beat it out. Seriously, try as I might, I can't think of a way to get the guy out. If you bring in the infielders, he'll slap a ball right past them. If you leave them where they usually are, he'll beat out a weakly-hit infield grounder. If you bring in the outfielders, he'll line it over their heads for an extra-base hit. If you're an opposing manager, what's your plan of attack? If your starting pitcher doesn't throw 96+ with pinpoint accuracy, you might as well just accept that fact that Ichiro's going to get his two hits.
With that said, Ichiro had an unusual start: two consecutive fly outs. This is a guy who hit more than three grounders per fly ball a year ago, going up against a slight groundball pitcher. Maybe pitching him high and away is the key. In the absence of any other strategy, it's worth investigating.
Carlos Silva came in with a game plan and executed with incredible efficiency. Part good pitching and part bad hitting, he needed just 68 pitches to get through 7 innings. No strikeouts. He was consistently pitching over the outer half of the plate, a pitch that the lineup evidently can't stand to see go to waste. So they kept swinging at it, and they kept making poor contact. Which isn't to say that they didn't have any success - they did manage to collect nine hits off the guy - but few balls were struck with any kind of authority. Adrian Beltre in particular had some problems with those low-and-away pitches. He's fanned on dirt sliders two games in a row, and that's something worth watching over the rest of the season.
A round of applause for Jeff Nelson, who made his first appearance of the season by retiring two of the three righties he faced (not counting Castro's sacrifice bunt) and walking the other one. I wonder if Nelson isn't the most predictable player in baseball.
...actually, no, I'll tell you who's more predictable. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh - a 3-1 ballgame at the time - Dan Wilson came to the plate. The following is a dialogue that took place in my head:
Me: "NO, NOT WILSON! SEND UP A FRIGGIN' PINCH-HITTER!!"
Me: thinking for a little while
Me: "WHY DOESN'T OUR BENCH HAVE A SINGLE CAPABLE PINCH-HITTER??"
I think everyone watching the game knew exactly what was coming. Now, I'm not one to talk about Greg Dobbs' incredible skills, but isn't this the reason he was kept on the team in the first place? To offer a left-handed bat off the bench? Dan Wilson has been some shade of worthless against righties for his entire career, and lefty bats have had good success against Silva in the past. It's not like Hargrove could have been saving Dobbs for a bigger opportunity later in the game - what's more important than batting with the bases loaded where a single would tie it up? Pinch-hitting him in that situation would have presented a better chance of success, and even if Gardenhire went to the bullpen for help, his only southpaw options would have been JC Romero, who threw 21 pitches the day before, and Terry Mulholland, who sucks. Truly a blown opportunity, one that even Bob Melvin probably wouldn't have let slip away without some form of managerial intervention.
Speaking of Dan Wilson, the following is an approximation of a quote from the MLB.tv broadcast:
"Wilson is in an unusual position, as he's been the Mariners' primary catcher since 1994."
That says a mouthful.
As for Dobbs, his sweet sweet swing was put on display in an eighth-inning at bat in which he flailed at one pitch and struck out looking on another. He was probably still fuming over the fact that, in Hagrove's estimation, he's a worse hitter than Wilson.
Is it me, or does it seem like Ron Gardenhire occupies a permanent state of looking like he's about to beat the crap out of a guy? Perhaps the Twins keep winning the division because they're afraid to lose.
Finally, yesterday's attendance of 25,580 was the 7th-lowest in Safeco Field's history. This comes after a 28,373 showing on Tuesday and an Opening Day game in which several seats were unoccupied. I gotta say, I hope the team starts playing some exciting baseball, because these small crowds are depressing. As a Mariners fan, you really take for granted that there're going to be at least 30-35,000 butts in the seats for any given game.
Off-day today. Aaron Sele gets the start against Chan Ho Park (we have a chance!) in tomorrow's game against Texas at 10:05pm EST.
I should mention that there's a whole diatribe here that has yet to be written about Bobby Madritsch's obscene usage pattern at the hands of Bob Melvin last season, but until/unless his shoulder takes a turn for the worse, it's not worth the trouble.