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05/04/07 8:00 PM ET
Notes: Pair of rookies bond
Initiation tactics bring camaraderie to Morrow, White
By Caleb Breakey / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Mariners closer J.J. Putz mentors rookie right-hander Brandon Morrow in more than late-inning showdowns and toughness of mind. The real teaching starts with a pink backpack. Putz makes sure that Morrow and fellow reliever Sean White have a big-brother role model around the clubhouse. Hence the backpack, which looks like it came straight out of an 8-year-old girl's Barbie basket. "I'm not going to rat anybody out," Putz said with a grin and two thumbs pointed toward his chest, "but I don't know who did it." Morrow and White share backpack duty, switching off every day since the Mariners made a trip to Oakland on April 25. Putz said it keeps the two right-handers loose and stirs some fun between the three of them. It also reminds Morrow and White that they're still rookies, Putz said, and beats most initiations, like wearing a dress. The team has gone 6-2 since the two youngsters began donning the flashy pink bag on their backs. But walking around ballparks and airports gets lonely for Morrow. "I try not to look up, just keep my head down," he said. "It's just a little rookie hazing thing." Morrow walked over to Putz's locker before Friday's game against the Yankees, leaning on one of the white walls. Putz even grabbed him for a dual interview with radio announcer Rick Rizzs in a back room. The two of them are close. Gifted with much of the same talent -- big builds and fastballs in the high 90s -- Putz befriended Morrow last winter when the two worked out together. Since then, he's talked with the 22-year-old about pitching and being mentally strong. Morrow didn't dominate like he could in his first three outings of the season, Putz said. He nibbled around the plate and didn't challenge hitters. So Putz talked with him. "I told him, 'You have to show an attitude out on the mound. When that hitter steps into the box and looks out at you ... he [needs to] see that he's in for a little bit of a battle -- this guy is coming right after me,'" Putz said. "Now, he's coming right after guys with the heater and having some success." In his appearance after the talk, on April 23, Morrow inherited a one-out, bases-loaded jam in Texas. He struck out Ian Kinsler and Gerald Laird to get out of the inning, pitching 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and picking up his second Major League win. That night changed Morrow. He knew he had the pitches, the poise and the makeup. He was a big leaguer. "Once you start to believe in yourself, and [realize] that you belong in this place and deserve to be here," said pitching coach Rafael Chaves, "then I think the rest of the games are a litter easier." Big Ben on the bench? Mariners manager Mike Hargrove acknowledged that something always comes up when Ben Broussard is penciled into the lineup -- the game gets rained out, or sometimes he gets the flu. Having appeared in only 10 games this season, Broussard was batting .214 with one home run coming into Friday's game. That one homer, however, was a grand slam. Hargrove said that the erratic scheduling and roster shifting that comes with postponements has made it hard to find Broussard playing time. "We've got good players in [Jamie] Burke and [Jason] Ellison, and Broussard and [Willie] Bloomquist, and the way the schedule has been, we're just trying to get our regulars on a roll and get them going," Hargrove said. "And our bench has paid the price for that." Guillen heating up: In his last 19 at-bats entering Friday, Jose Guillen had five RBIs and eight hits, posting a .421 average. The recent tear is just another aspect that comes with a young season, Hargrove said. "Veteran hitters and young guys, too, are still trying to establish themselves and put their feet on the ground," Hargrove said. "He's starting to swing the bat the way we think that he can. He's done a good job for us." Cleared to go: Sean Burroughs has received medical clearance to play baseball again and will report on Sunday to the Mariners' extended Spring Training camp in Peoria, Ariz. The 26-year-old infielder signed a Minor League contract with the Mariners on Dec. 19 and was invited to Spring Training with the Major League club, but he sustained an injury to his right shoulder while fishing near San Diego about a week before camp opened. Burroughs has been rehabilitating the shoulder in San Diego and underwent an extensive physical exam on Tuesday in Seattle by team medical director Dr. Ed Khalfayan and team physician Dr. Mitch Storey. "He's good to go," said Mariners Minor League director Greg Hunter. "He'll spend a few weeks down there getting back into shape before we assign him to a team. We don't want to send him out before he's ready." Burroughs will most likely join either the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers or the Double-A West Tennesee Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League. Burroughs, the son of former American League Most Valuable Player Jeff Burroughs, was the Padres' first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. He reached the big leagues for the first time in 2003, batting .271 (52-for-192) with one home run and 11 RBIs. He followed that up with .286 and .298 seasons in 2003 and '04, respectively, but his career took a turn downward beginning in '05, when he batted .250 in 93 games. His career average is .280 with 11 home runs and 134 RBIs. On deck: The Mariners' four-game series in the Bronx will continue on Saturday, with struggling right-hander Jeff Weaver (0-4, 18.26 ERA) opposing Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (0-2, 5.84 ERA). Weaver might need a solid outing to keep his spot in the rotation.
Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.