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Originally published March 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 4, 2007 at 9:07 PM

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Rituals are habitual for Mariners

One place Raul Ibanez will never look when he's stepping to the plate is the scoreboard. While some players and managers talk about not being "numbers guys" the Mariners' cleanup hitter is literally a stats-phobic...

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

PHOENIX — One place Raul Ibanez will never look when he's stepping to the plate is the scoreboard.

While some players and managers talk about not being "numbers guys" the Mariners' cleanup hitter is literally a stats-phobic. He doesn't want to see, hear or think about what he's doing numbers-wise until the season is over and he's back home in Miami.

Ibanez never considered himself superstitious until asked about any quirks he may have. After thinking it over, he decided he was, in fact, one of many players in baseball whose superstitions have become a part of their game.

"I don't ever want to talk about numbers, stats," said Ibanez, whose numbers, incidentally, included a two-run home run and a run-scoring double Sunday in Seattle's 10-6 win in 10 innings over the Oakland Athletics.

Ibanez is hitting .429 with five long balls this spring, but don't expect him to know any of those numbers.

"I don't want to look," he said. "If, during the season, I happen to glance at the scoreboard, I'm like, 'Oh, no!' "

Ibanez is one of several superstitious Mariners who have developed wacky routines. In a sport where superstition seems almost as old as the game itself, Jose Guillen won't let anyone touch his bats, and Felix Hernandez always steps on the base lines.

Ibanez isn't sure when he became so fearful of the numbers that have made him arguably the team's top hitter. He figures it began in the minor leagues.

"I was so focused on learning things about the approach to hitting, that I guess I just tried to shut everything else out," he said.

Ibanez isn't alone when it comes to being superstitious. Guillen won't allow any other players to touch — let alone use — his bats.

"If I see somebody touching my bats and stuff it's like — gone!" he said, slapping his hands for emphasis. "I won't use it again. I go through a lot of bats. I just go by the sound [of hitting]. If I know that bat is no good, if I don't hear a good sound, then I just throw that bat in the garbage, and that's it. I don't use it.

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"I don't care if it's brand new."

The sound off Guillen's bat has been sweet so far, with a .368 average, three homers, five doubles and nine RBI.

"I haven't checked my bats yet," Guillen said. "I just grabbed one from last year and that's what I'll be using. But during the season, I'll go through all my bats and see if they're good — the way I think is good.

"I don't know if the clubhouse guy is going to be very happy, seeing me throw away all my bats. Maybe I'll just give it to someone else. Otherwise, throw it in the garbage."

Mariners starter Miguel Batista, with his eighth major-league team since 1992, says he has seen it all when it comes to superstitions. The dumbest one, as far as he's concerned, was something he heard about Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez.

"He'll wear somebody's socks or shirt if a player's been hot," he said. "You'll go to your locker and go 'Where's my damned undershirt?' And guys are like: "Oh, Manny may have it.'

"If somebody's hot on the team and he's not, he'll wear their socks, their shirt, anything. He's one of those who believes the deceased is on the sheets and not on the dead body."

Batista swears he has no superstitions.

"I don't get into stuff like that," he said.

Neither does pitcher Aaron Small, though he claims to have "seen it all" during his 18 professional seasons with six major-league clubs.

"I've seen guys not wash their jocks for weeks," he said. "That was kind of gross. I won't mention any names, but I've seen guys wear women's panties when they were struggling. Like a cheetah-skin thong."

Small has no idea why superstitions become so ingrained. But he figures it has something to do with playing so many games and going through the same routine day after day.

"Like the way I dress for games, put my pants on," he said. "It's the same every single day. It's not a superstition for me. I don't think something bad is going to happen if I don't do it a certain way. But some guys just take it to extremes."

Hernandez, the Mariners' opening-day starter, does a little skip-step on the foul lines as he heads out to the mound each inning.

It's something he began doing four years ago, when he broke into pro ball. Now, he's afraid to stop.

"If I don't do it, I feel like something's wrong," he said. "I feel like something's going to happen."

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners

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