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Originally published June 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 30, 2007 at 9:08 PM

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Notebook | Mariners want Felix to slow things down

Tonight brings another chapter in Felix Hernandez's perplexing season. And as much as Mariners fans are impatient to see the Felix who dominated...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tonight brings another chapter in Felix Hernandez's perplexing season. And as much as Mariners fans are impatient to see the Felix who dominated Oakland and Boston in his first two 2007 starts, the club wants him to slow down a bit.

Entering tonight's start in the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hernandez is only 1-3 with a 5.97 ERA since returning from the disabled list May 15. His latest effort in Houston last week resulted in Hernandez allowing a career-high 12 hits in six innings to the Astros.

Hernandez and pitching coach Rafael Chaves have studied tapes of those two dominant games in April and compared them with the recent struggles. They think he has been rushing through his delivery.

"We want maybe a little bit of hesitation at the balance point instead of rushing through it," Chaves said. "Get to the balance point, spend a little bit of time in it, then explode from there."

Hernandez seemed to have little downward snap on his two-seam fastball in Houston, leading to the question of whether he is not "finishing" that pitch, either because of discomfort or tentativeness brought on by the forearm strain that sidelined him.

Mariners five-game planner

Today | vs. Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Felix Hernandez (3-4, 4.58) vs. RHP J. Van Benschoten (0-1, 3.17)

Friday | vs. Cincinnati, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Cha Seung Baek (3-3, 5.74) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (7-2, 3.88).

Saturday | vs. Cincinnati, 7:05 p.m., Ch. 11 | M's LHP J.Washburn (5-6, 4.38) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (3-9, 4.56).

Sunday | vs. Cincinnati, 1:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Miguel Batista (7-6, 4.99) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (2-8, 5.24).

Monday | vs. Boston, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Jeff Weaver (1-6, 8.56) vs. TBA.

"If we felt he was not healthy, there's no way he's pitching," Chaves said. "There's no reason he shouldn't be finishing his pitches if he's healthy. We're not concerned about him being hurt. If he was, I'd be the first to stop him."

But Chaves concedes Hernandez could be reluctant to let it fly, much like a basketball or football player coming off a knee injury.

"Hopefully, he realizes he's healthy, and stays as aggressive as he was [early] finishing his pitches," Chaves says. "Velocity-wise, he's not any less than he was at first."

Shake it up

Manager Mike Hargrove trotted out a new lineup Wednesday night and said he might ride it for a few days. It featured first baseman Richie Sexson hitting seventh and designated hitter Jose Vidro in the No. 8 hole, with catcher Kenji Johjima hitting fifth.

It's Seattle's 42nd different lineup in 68 games, and 35th in the last 44.

"I've been thinking about it the last three or four days," Hargrove said. "We've lost six in a row. Move guys around, see if they can't be a little more productive.

"We'll stick with it for a while, but I don't in August anticipate having this lineup. At least, I hope in August we don't have this lineup."

Ironically, Sexson's drop in the order came on the heels of his first back-to-back multi-hit days of the season Sunday in Houston and Tuesday night in the opener of the Pittsburgh series. Wednesday night, he added a third straight multhit game, with an infield single and a fourth-inning home run to left field.

Sexson, hitting .209, didn't have a multi-hit game until May 9. He went 8 for 39 (.205) on the 10-game trip.

Vidro had three hits Sunday before an 0-for-4 game in the Pittsburgh opener. He is batting .289 after going 1 for 3 Wednesday.

No offense

Hargrove, who skipped his postgame briefing with reporters Tuesday night, said it wasn't because of anger or frustration, but logistics.

He met with the team after the game, then had a second meeting with general manager Bill Bavasi, vice president Lee Pelekoudas, bench coach John McLaren and Chaves.

"I wasn't trying to short you or trying not to answer your questions," Hargrove said. "I wasn't upset or mad, I just got caught in a time crunch."

Notes

• Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt has 17 of Seattle's 42 errors.

• The club still has between 4,000 and 5,000 tickets for both the Saturday and Sunday games of the weekend Cincinnati series, which marks the return of Ken Griffey Jr. Friday's series opener has only scattered singles and obstructed-view seats remaining.

• LHP Horacio Ramirez said he responded well to a bullpen session Tuesday and will have another today or tomorrow in his rehab from shoulder tendinitis.

"The approach is 'smart but aggressive,' " said Ramirez. "When I come off the DL, I want this problem to be behind me the rest of the year."

• Among 21 signees the club announced from this month's draft are ex-Washington QB Johnny DuRocher (34th round) — assigned to Peoria of the Arizona League — and third-round pick Daniel Carroll, an outfielder from Moreno Valley, Calif.

The Mariners also announced the signing of two Chinese players, infielder-outfielder Yu Bing Jia, 24, and catcher Wei Wang, 28. Both members of the Chinese national team, they will report to Seattle's Australian summer-league team when not fulfilling national commitments this summer.

• Umpire Jerry Crawford, scheduled to work the current series, went home with back pains. His replacement, Ramon Armendariz, up from the Pacific Coast League, worked second base.

For the record

W-L PCT
36-32 .529

Streak: W1

Home: 18-14

Road: 18-18

vs. AL West: 12-10

vs. L.A.: 2-7

vs. Oakland: 4-1

vs. Texas: 6-2

vs. AL East: 9-7

vs. AL Central: 9-7

vs. NL: 6-8

vs. LHP: 14-6

vs. RHP: 22-26

Day: 10-11

Night: 26-21

One-run: 10-9

Extra innings: 2-0

Home attendance

Wednesday's crowd: 23,553

Season total: 925,530

Biggest crowd: 46,181 (May 13)

Smallest crowd: 16,555 (May 2)

Average (32 dates): 28,923

2006 average (32 dates): 26,496

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