OAKLAND -- When Josh Lueke gets into a game for the first time out of the Mariners bullpen, the 26-year-old will realize a dream many told him would never come true as a kid growing up in Covington, Ky.Lueke has pitched just 12 games at the Triple-A level in his pro career, but he won a job this spring with the promise of his upper-90s fastball for a franchise looking for power arms in the bullpen. "It's been a roller coaster," said Lueke, who was acquired as part of the Cliff Lee deal in July. "Getting the news from [manager Eric] Wedge and Jack [Zduriencik, GM] and Carl [Willis, pitching coach] was a real exciting day in my life and for my parents and all my friends back home. "Basically I'm going out there and proving some people wrong from when I was little, people who said you'll never amount to that because it's such a small percentage that it happens for. Then going out and actually doing it, it's 'Holy crap, I'm here.'" Lueke went to a handful of games in nearby Cincinnati to watch the Reds as a kid. He remembers catching a foul ball hit by Ron Gant as a teenager when he and his buddies were hanging out down the left-field line. "That was a pretty good rush," Lueke remembered. "It's neat going out there now and having people ask you for autographs and actually knowing who you are." Wedge understands Lueke and fellow rookie Tom Wilhelmsen could be a little star-struck in their first appearances. He'll look for the right situation to ease them in and says it's important to remain confident in the youngsters no matter what happens their first time out. Lueke looks around Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum at the three decks of seats and the years of history and relishes the chance for his first showing. "This is an older place, but it's a big league ballpark," he said. "Walking out there when it's empty gives you a little rush, but when there are fans out there is when it really sets in and all the childhood fantasies come to life, pitching in a big-league park in front of fans. "Hopefully I go out there and do my job and see what happens."
Humbled Ichiro breaks Edgar's hits mark
OAKLAND -- Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki broke Edgar Martinez's franchise record for career hits on Saturday, fittingly with a pair of infield singles that helped lift Seattle to a 5-2 victory over the A's, then he paid tribute to the man he replaced in the record book.Ichiro, just beginning his 11th season in the Major Leagues, now has 2,248 hits, one more than Martinez retired with in 2004. "Today I broke his record. When you look at his numbers, that's a fact," Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "But he is a hero back in Seattle. He's my hero as well. When you look at his existence, he's a lot bigger than I am, being a great human being as well. So that's how I look at it. "I played with Edgar for years. That's something that is important to me. That's precious. That's a treasure to me. That's what I honor as well." Ichiro's second hit of the game came in the ninth inning, scoring Jack Wilson with the go-ahead run from third when A's first baseman Daric Barton threw wide to the plate to give Seattle a 3-2 lead. "I wasn't thinking about my base hit," Ichiro said. "I wanted that run. That's what was more on my mind than my hit. I would probably be worried if that was my last at-bat of my baseball career, but this is a different story." Indeed, Ichiro at 37 is showing no signs of slowing down. The man who has averaged 224 hits per season for 10 straight years has cranked out four more in Seattle's first two games, hitting .444 with two runs, two RBIs and three stolen bases. "This is not the end. This is still the beginning. We still go from here on as well," he said. "This is not my [ultimate] goal or anything." Ichiro had just joined the Mariners on April 3, 2001, when Martinez passed Ken Griffey Jr. to move into the franchise hits lead. At the time, Ichiro had two hits after two games in the Major Leagues. He says he recalls that day. "I remember Edgar running as hard down the first-base line as I am right now," he said. Ichiro is already first in Mariners history in stolen bases (386), triples (71) and batting average (.331). He needs 425 at-bats to pass Martinez in that category. After a recent run of losing with the Mariners, he was thrilled to have this effort come in a winning cause. "A big contribution is always great for yourself," he said. "That run was big today. It was a game changer. When it was over, everyone came to say congratulations. That's another thing that hit me in my heart, so that I felt truly happy." Manager Eric Wedge said it was the perfect way for Ichiro to set the new mark. "First of all, he comes through and helps us win the ballgame," Wedge said. "But ultimately being the all-time hits leader for the Seattle Mariners is a great accomplishment by a great player. You can't say it any more simply than that."
Olivo gets early look at Felix's brilliance
OAKLAND -- Miguel Olivo had never caught Felix Hernandez in a regular-season game before Friday's opener, but the two worked so seamlessly in tandem that Hernandez said he went with what the veteran catcher called for almost the entire game without shaking him off.Olivo was given Saturday night off by Eric Wedge as the manager brings the 32-year-old catcher back cautiously from a strained groin muscle suffered early in Spring Training. Olivo will be back in the lineup in Sunday afternoon's series finale as well as Monday's first game in Texas. Olivo said catching Hernandez is no walk in the park, given his sharp breaking pitches in the dirt, but that he enjoyed getting in sync with the American League Cy Young Award winner from the get-go. "It's not easy with him," said Olivo. "When you have a Cy Young pitcher on the mound, you can't miss a second. You need to be focused for everybody, the whole staff, but especially with him. He's a pitcher that likes to go quick and you want to put down the right finger to make him feel comfortable. I'm happy for him to go the complete game." Olivo was so excited by Hernandez's game-ending strikeout of David DeJesus that he fired the ball down to third baseman Chone Figgins to throw around the infield as if the inning were still underway. "I said, 'C'mon man, I just need 27 outs, not 28," Hernandez said with a laugh. But Olivo figures maybe he's got a new tradition. "I just got so excited with that nice breaking ball," Olivo said. "I knew there were two outs, I just forgot in that moment and threw it to Figgy. Everybody laughed, but I'm going to do it every time we get a complete game."