Notes: Calls not going Mariners' way
Ichiro, McLaren frustrated with rulings during disastrous trip
DETROIT -- There's no crying in baseball, but complaining every now and then is acceptable.Mariners center fielder Ichiro Suzuki reached that point on Saturday night, when he intimated that there are just far too many calls going against the team during this woeful two-week stretch of games that has put Seattle's postseason aspirations in severe jeopardy. "It's kind of to the point where I've given up [talking] about this topic," Ichiro said through his interpreter. "I don't have the words to express my feelings anymore. I thought everybody here, at the Major League level, is professional. I thought that's the reason they are at the Major League level." Although Ichiro didn't come out and say the word "umpire," it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who and what the seven-time All-Star was talking about. "I know Ichiro is frustrated," said manager John McLaren prior to Sunday's road-trip finale against the Tigers. "You never see Ichiro argue with an umpire, ever. But he's argued two or three times in the last four or five days. Because he is so fast, things happen quickly." There have been at least three instances during the past week when Ichiro was called out on plays where television replays showed that he was safe. Also, numerous borderline pitches have gone against several Seattle pitchers of late, especially the relievers. "I don't like to talk about the umpires, but it just seems like the whole trip we haven't gotten any calls," McLaren added. "I certainly don't think it's intentional. But when things are going bad, they are going bad, and this is just one phase of it. We're not crying about it. We're trying to make sense of it, I guess. We're trying to digest it and handle it like professionals, but there is a frustration point. "I don't know what else to say, to be honest. It would be easy for me to get kicked out. I could have gotten kicked out four or five times in the past four or five games, but I am trying to tough it out with the rest of [the players]." McLaren has been ejected from two games since replacing manager Mike Hargrove on July 2, and it might be just a coincidence that more calls have gone against them since his second ejection -- by third-base umpire Randy Mears in the first inning of the first game of a pivotal three-game series against the Angels at Safeco Field. Ichiro was called out on strikes on a ball that he foul tipped. The ball hit the dirt in front of catcher Jeff Mathis, and therefore should have been called foul. An official from the Major League Baseball office acknowledged the following day that the umpires missed the call. "You have an obligation to go out and pick up for your players and I try to be professional enough to let the umpires talk about it and tell me what he saw, and what it's all about. But, you know, enough is enough." High on Yuni: It takes an All-Star shortstop to know one, and former Mariner Carlos Guillen believes that Yuniesky Betancourt has almost everything he needs to reach All-Star status for the first time. "He just needs to play," Guillen said. "He has great hands and he's already a great defensive player. To me, he is one of the best shortstops in the league, defensively, and he's going to get better on offense." Guillen, who played for the Mariners from 1998 through 2003, says the Mariners made a wise move in signing the 23-year-old Cuban native to a multi-year contract earlier in the season. Betancourt received a three-year, $13.75 million contract extension on April 5 and has shown to be worth it, performing brilliantly on defense since the All-Star break and coming up with clutch hits. "I never got one of those in Seattle," Guillen said. "It's a good move on their part to sign him long-term.". Yes, the shortstop position seems to be in good hands for at least through the 2011 season. "He's still young, but I think he could be an All-Star," Guillen said. "He has great skills." Asked what it would take, the switch-hitter smiled and said, "Getting out of Seattle." He laughed and said he was only joking, but added that it's more difficult receiving national recognition playing on the West Coast than in the Midwest or on the East Coast, "Unless your name is Alex Rodriguez." Guillen's road to the Midsummer Classic opened after he was dealt to the Tigers for shortstop Ramon Santiago prior to the 2004 season. It turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in Mariners history. Guillen, batting .294 with 19 home runs and 93 RBIs going into Sunday's series finale against the Mariners, was selected to the American League All-Star team in '04 and again this season. He batted .318, .320, and .320 in his first three seasons in Detroit. Santiago played sparingly for the Mariners for two seasons, going 8-for-47, and he's now Guillen's backup in Detroit. Looking back on his six years in Seattle, Guillen still has fond memories.
"I loved Seattle when I played there," he said. "It's a beautiful city, has great fans and I played with a bunch of great players. And it was a lot of fun playing for Lou [Piniella] there."Trivia challenge: The Mariners scored one run in each of the first five innings in Saturday night's game against the Tigers. When was the last time Seattle scored at least once in the first five innings? Putz gets some work: Closer J.J. Putz "pitched" to four batters Saturday night. But it was after the game. "I needed the work, so I stayed in the bullpen after the game and pitched to four batters," he said. "I didn't give up any hits." The current streak of two weeks without even a save opportunity is reminiscent of the first three weeks of the season. Putz' first save opportunity came on April 23 against the Rangers. "The worst thing about it," he said, "is it means we aren't winning any games." Putz has worked two innings since notching his last save, also against the Rangers, on Aug. 24. That was his 37th of the season, which led the American League. His name was prominently mentioned among potential Cy Young Award candidates. "Those things only happen when the team wins," he said. The answer is: It happened on Aug. 6, 2001, at Jacobs Field when Seattle scored two runs in the first inning, one run in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth and two runs in the fifth for an 8-6 victory. Paul Abbott improved his record to 12-2. On deck: The Mariners begin a three-game series at Safeco Field on Monday night against the Athletics. Left-hander Horacio Ramirez (8-5, 6.45) opposes Athletics right-hander Joe Blanton (12-9, 3.81) in the opener. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.