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06/25/08 11:04 PM ET

Batista has rocky return to rotation

Righty allows eight runs -- on three homers -- in 2 2/3 innings

NEW YORK -- The Mariners' relief work on Wednesday night was practically perfect. Of the 17 batters faced, only one reached base -- on a walk -- and the final 16 were retired in order.

And then there were the first three innings.

Of the 20 batters right-handed starter Miguel Batista faced, 12 reached base and eight of them scored.

"If we had played the first three innings the way we played the last three, we would have had a better ballgame," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "They came out swinging the bats real good, and Miguel wasn't on top of his game. They took advantage of that, obviously, and we had to play catch-up the rest of the way."

The Mariners never came close to catching up and were unable to pull off a three-game series sweep for the first time this season, absorbing an 8-2 setback to the Mets in front of an announced crowd of 52,154 at Shea Stadium.

Instead, Seattle has the dubious distinction of becoming the first Major League team this season to lose 50 games.

Batista, a 16-game winner last season, is 3-10 this season.

"He's been very inconsistent with his command," Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "He's walked more people than he ever has before. We really don't know what the problem is. We work hard and try to get him to be aggressive, but we've got some work to do. He's not pitching the way he's capable of pitching."

Batista returned to the rotation following a three-week stint in the bullpen, where he was used primarily as a late-inning setup man with mixed results. He had three scoreless outings of one inning apiece, but surrendered two runs in two other appearances, including his most recent one, when he was unable to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning and lost by one run to the Braves.

Batista walked three batters in the first inning, two more in the third and also hit a batter. He also surrendered three home runs, two of them to David Wright, as the Mets raced to an eight-run lead before the Mariners knew what hit them.

"He just wasn't throwing strikes," Riggleman said. "He was behind in the count, throwing a lot of pitches. I guess some of the pitches were wide, some were low, and he was bouncing some splits, or whatever they were. He basically didn't have it tonight."

That has been the storyline all too often this season.

"His stuff is still good," Stottlemyre said, "but the command he's had in the past is not there. He made some bad pitches that were hit for home runs."

Batista, 37, says a myriad of ailments are the reason his command has been so erratic.

"It's been a health issue most of the time," the veteran said. "I was trying to get loose in the 'pen and my back started to bother me. But I got it loose and had a great warmup. I got three outs in first inning and I go, 'What the heck? My back is bothering me again.'"

He apparently didn't share that information with anyone in the visiting dugout, went back out for the second inning, surrendered a two-run home run to Wright, apparently didn't say anything after that inning, went back out in the third and surrendered four runs.

The uprising was fueled when third baseman Adrian Beltre made a throwing error, a miscue that made all four runs unearned.

"This is frustrating. It's embarrassing," Batista said. "I'm supposed to be helping the team win, but the way I'm pitching, it's not helping. I have to make sure I get myself healthy before I go out there again, because I'm the only guy trying to pitch through it. Everybody else, every time they feel pain, they go on the [disabled list], or they take a rest, and I haven't.

"I don't know. We just have to find a way to fix this, somehow. The only thing I haven't tried is rest. We've been trying every thing we can do medically, from anti-inflammatory to doing exercises in the pool. One day it's good, the next day it's bad. The next day it's OK, and it goes back again.

"I mean, it's bad. I can throw through it, but I can't pitch. I lose my location. This is a level you cannot be losing your location, because you see the results."

The Mariners aren't quite sure what to do with Batista.

Asked if it would be best for everyone involved to keep him in the rotation or send him back to the bullpen, Riggleman said, "Well, I don't know, that's a good question. It's something for Mel and I to talk about on the [plane ride to San Diego]. It could be that Batista could pitch in the bullpen and [R.A.] Dickey could get a start. We'll see. It's up in the air a little bit."

The back-and-forth could be doing more harm than good.

"It might, but Miguel is kind of a double-edged sword," Riggleman said. "He's one of those guys who can do that. With his experience in the bullpen, we have taken advantage of that, but it certainly hasn't helped him. I know he can pitch better than that. I know he's better than that."

The Mariners (28-50) were held hitless for four innings, finally breaking through in the fifth when Jeremy Reed hit a leadoff single to right field. Three more singles in the inning, and a sacrifice fly, produced two runs off Mets right-hander John Maine.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.