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03/22/10 8:39 PM ET

Snell needs to work on breaking pitches

Right-hander pleased with fastball during Monday's outing

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A little more than two weeks from now, Mariners right-hander Ian Snell makes his first regular season start, and it will be against the same team that hit for the cycle off him in the second inning Monday afternoon.

Afterward, Snell broke down his four-inning, 73-pitch stint against the Athletics.

"I thought my fastball was better today than it was the first couple of games," he said, "but I didn't have my breaking ball. When you are stuck with two pitches, you are going to get hurt. I am not Felix [Hernandez]."

The Mariners have only one Felix -- and a bunch of rotation question marks.

Snell isn't one of them. He is being counted on to provide the kind of pitching that will allow the team to overcome the probable loss of left-hander Cliff Lee for up to two weeks of the regular season because of a suspension and ensuing strained right abdominal muscle.

"Ian was up with his pitches and wasn't real sharp," manager Don Wakamatsu said after the Mariners' 7-2 Cactus League loss to their division rival and regular-season-opening opponent. "But he battled back and didn't walk anybody."

The Mariners will start the season with Felix Hernandez making his third Opening Day assignment on April 5, followed by ...

Stay tuned on that one.

It figures to be either left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith or Snell, the most veteran of the remaining rotation candidates. The 28-year-old Snell has 148 starts and 38 wins on his Major League resume, including five wins in his final six starts for Seattle last season.

None were quite like Monday's outing, which included a five-run second inning.

"I have been working on a lot of stuff and am still working on stuff," Snell said. "I am not quite where I should be, but I am almost there. I just need to keep working on my curveball [and slider]."

He said the location of his breaking pitches was "in the middle of the strike zone, so they could keep smashing it. That was the only thing that hurt me."

The Athletics took full advantage, hitting for the cycle in the second inning. The final blow was a mammoth three-run home run by Oakland designated hitter Coco Crisp. The ball cleared the right-field fence, well behind the visiting bullpen and landed on the roof of tent.

"I couldn't find a feel for my curveball and slider, but everything else was fine," Snell said. "I was down in the zone. First-pitch strikes were good. I couldn't throw the curveball or slider when I wanted.

"I was trying to do too much with them."

That being said, he added that some additional bullpen work could fix the problem.

"It can be easily corrected, and [pitching coach Rick Adair] already told me we're getting after it tomorrow," Snell said.

Snell said he wasn't holding anything back even though the Athletics are his first real-time opponent.

"No difference," he said. "I am out there competing and trying to keep the ball down in the zone. Before, I was up in the zone, so I am pleased with the ball being down as much as it was."

Wakamatsu was pleased with the way right-handed relievers Mark Lowe (one scoreless inning), David Pauley (one run in three innings) and Chad Cordero (one scoreless inning) pitched.

The manager also pointed out that left fielder Milton Bradley "planted a seed" when he attempted to reach on a bunt in the first inning.

"I was pleased just for the fact we're playing Oakland," Wakamatsu said. "Now they've got to honor that. I really liked it. [Bradley] also had the stolen base against Anaheim. He's doing some things to plant some seeds, and that's fine."

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