Nothing like a little game of “Backward Baseball” to change the pace of Spring Training.
That’s what the Mariners did this morning on one of the half-fields at the Peoria Sports Complex.
Two teams, one managed by Chone Figgins and the other by Milton Bradley, went at it for a few innings to determine who would get the backward bragging rights.
Right-handed batters had to hit left-handed and vice versa. The only other apparent rule was runners ran in the opposite direction, starting with third base and around the horn.
Let’s just say some players had more trouble adjusting to the rule than others and hitting rag- balls thrown by Al Wirtala, the Major League performance specialist, did not really help long-ball egos.
After taking a pitch for a strike (someone yelled ‘Draw a line”), Ichiro grounded out in his first at-bat batting right-handed and Ken Griffey Jr. was thrown out at third on a ball hit to left field.
You might recall that Ichiro was ejected from a game in Toronto late last season when he drew a line in the dirt with his bat to show the ump that the pitch was inside. He was ejected quickly — the first, and only time, a Mariner was tossed.
As you might expect in a backwards game, the first two home runs were hit by Chris Woodward and Josh Wilson, not exaclty known for their power.
The unusual game was the brainstorm of bench coach and camp co-ordinator Ty Van Burkleo.
A good time was had by all, it appeared.
I had to leave the game to trek over to Phoenix — the only regular scribe to do so by the way, those scoundrels — so missed the final innings. I asked Figgins who won and he said, “It’s under protest!” So I guess his team finished second.
In other, more regular season-related news:
— Right-hander Doug Fister pitched in a Minor League game instead of the Cactus League encounter against the Athletics in Phoenix. Manager Don Wakamatsu said it would be easier to control Fister’s pitch count in the Minor League game. What he didn’t say is that us wise old baseball writers put two and two together and come up with the idea that a healthy Fister most likely will start the four-game series finale against the Athletics and lefty Jason Vargas, the starter against Oakland today, will be the starter against the Rangers on Friday.
Fister threw 65 pitches for Triple-A Tacoma against the Double-A West Tennessee club, striking out five. Fister made one major mistake, surrendering a home run to Carlos Peguero,but otherwise looked sharp, according to one eye-witness
Relievers Shawn Kelley and Chad Cordero also pitched in the Minor League game.
— Lefty Erik Bedard stopped on top of a pitcher’s mound for the first time since last July for a brief test run on his surgically-repaired left shoulder.
How he comes out of it will determine when his work load off the mound increases.
— Ken Griffey Jr. made his first road trip of the spring, handling the DH rule against the Athletics. “His (gray) pants came in,” Wakamatsu said, smiling. “We had to have them shipped from Oakland to here.”
— Jack Hannahan flew to Philadelphia to have his groin injury checked out by a sports hernia expert. He most likely will start the season on the 15-day disabled list.
— Griffey, Figgins and Mike Sweeney spent part of their morning today with the Minor Leaguers. The trio gave some hitting advice to the organization youngsters.
— This just in: The conference call Cliff Lee was supposed to have on Monday concerning his appeal on the five-game suspension he received for throwing a pitch over Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder’s head on March 15 was postponed. No makeup date was announced.
And now for today’s lineup:
1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Milton Bradley, LF
5. Ken Griffey Jr.
6. Jose Lopez, 3B
7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Josh Wilson, SS
LHP Jason Vargas
— Jim Street