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Originally published Sunday, March 20, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Mariners

Notebook: M's see familiar face: Melvin's

Seeing the Mariners for the first time since they fired him, Bob Melvin said he felt no special emotion other than "the purple ponchos are...

Seattle Times staff reporter

PEORIA, Ariz. — Seeing the Mariners for the first time since they fired him, Bob Melvin said he felt no special emotion other than "the purple ponchos are a little different."

That would be the purple of the Arizona Diamondbacks' workout tops as they prepared to meet Seattle between yesterday's sporadic raindrops.

Asked how he was different taking over the Diamondbacks than he was taking over the Mariners two years ago, Melvin's response was typical of the public face he showed while he was in Seattle.

"I don't know," he responded. "I'm in a Diamondbacks uniform as opposed to a Mariner uniform."

Knowing the question begged more depth, he added, "It's easy for people to have different opinions. So I'll leave that up to you guys (reporters)."

As ever, Melvin was quick, affable, yet guarded in his comments, which was smart and sensible.

"You learn things in any job," he said. "I'm not going to go into those things. I hadn't managed before. There's a lot of things I didn't know then that I do now."

While Melvin never shied from his task with the Mariners, he had been thrown into a tougher situation than anyone realized, a rookie manager with a team largely comprised of experienced players.

After acknowledging he prefers the National League game, he was specific in one area, recalling that in 2003 Seattle had put together a good bench.

"In the National League you use those guys for substitutions, pinch-hitting. But we weren't able to use it enough in the American League to keep them ready."

As a result, the Mariners suffered the same fate as they did in 2002, Lou Piniella's last season, a big lead dwindling to a nonplayoff finish.

"There was all that talk at the trade deadline, and then nothing got done," Melvin recalled. "They tried, they just weren't able to do anything. As a team we had to get it out of our head, and we didn't."

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In discussing his situation with the Arizona club, for whom he was the bench coach before Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln picked him to manage in Seattle, Melvin was more relaxed.

"This is very comfortable for me, from Day 1. A lot of the players (he knew) are not here," Melvin said. "But there's a lot of minor-leaguers in our camp I was familiar with, and virtually all the support and office staff is the same. That makes it more comfortable my first year in."

Not that he didn't get comfortable in Seattle: "I really enjoyed my time there. Also, once you get fired you're regarded an experienced manager. There's something to be said for that."

As to facing the Mariners, Melvin said he was excited, for the best of baseball reasons. He was starting young left-hander Brad Halsey, "a candidate for our fifth starter and he'll get a good test against the lineup the Mariners have, a lot of guys who'll start the season for them."

Halsey wound up pitching well for Melvin's club, but so did Aaron Sele for Seattle. Halsey allowed a run on six hits over five innings. Sele allowed only one single, a hard shot that Adrian Beltre nearly got at third, and no runs.

Sele's outing mirrored that of Ryan Franklin the day before, two pitchers seemingly out for the same spot in the rotation.

"They both pitched well, and they aren't making our decision any easier," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said, "and that's the way you want it."

Sele has allowed only two earned runs in 12 innings (1.50 ERA). In his past two outings he has worked a combined nine shutout innings, allowing only three singles.

After Sele left, Cha Seung Baek did not fare as well. While he escaped the sixth, refusing to give up in a long at-bat against Luis Gonzalez for the third out with a runner on second, Baek got beat up in the seventh.

He had already given up two runs when Ramon Santiago muffed a throw at second. With two outs, Arizona scored four more runs, the last three on a homer by Sergio Santos.

In addition to Santiago's misplay, Jamal Strong was out between third and home for a second consecutive day.

Hernandez works minor-league game

Because the Mariners were trying to stretch out both Sele (five innings) and Baek (three innings) in the Cactus League game, Felix Hernandez, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and J.J. Putz worked in a minor-league game.

Hernandez pitched two innings against the Class AAA Tacoma team, allowing no hits, walking one and striking out one. The walk was to the first batter Hernandez faced, starting him out 3-0, then just missing with a 3-2 curveball. Putz pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Hasegawa allowed two hits and a run.

Justin Leone was the only player who had been in the major-league camp to face the big right-hander. Leone grounded out to short to end the first with a runner in scoring position.

Among the minor-leaguers, Rich Dorman pitched well, showing his good curveball, although the Medford, Ore., product gave up a run after Moses Lake's B.J. Garbe led off the third with a solid single to center.

Notes

Ichiro doubled in the third and scored the first run. He has hit in all 11 games he's played this spring and leads the AL in batting average at .529.

• Beltre has hit in 8 of 11 games, and his spring average is .394.

Ryan Franklin reported with flu and was sent home.

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