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Originally published July 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 22, 2007 at 9:08 PM

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M's Notebook | Struggling Ibanez takes a seat

A slumping Raul Ibanez did not start Wednesday night's game as he tries to get his swing going. Ibanez was told after Tuesday's contest...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A slumping Raul Ibanez did not start Wednesday night's game as he tries to get his swing going.

Ibanez was told after Tuesday's contest, in which he went hitless and fell to just 3 for 22 (.136), that he would have the night off. That didn't change, even after Baltimore scratched left-handed starter Erik Bedard and replaced him with right-hander Daniel Cabrera. Ibanez pinch-hit for Jason Ellison in the eighth with one out and the bases loaded, grounding into a fielder's choice.

Ben Broussard got the start in left field in Ibanez's place and belted a solo homer off Cabrera in the fifth inning..

"Sometimes, it's really close, it can turn on a dime," Ibanez said of his search to figure out why he's struggled so much in recent weeks. "It can turn on a pitch, it can turn on a swing. And that's what I'm hoping happens. Let me rephrase, that's what I'm expecting to happen."

Ibanez had been bothered by back and hamstring troubles in the season's first half. He claims he's now free of health problems and wouldn't blame past injuries for slowing down his progress.

"I don't want to use that as an excuse," he said.

Mariners five-game planner

Friday | @ Toronto, 4:07 p.m., Ch. 11 | M's RHP Miguel Batista (9-7, 4.38) vs. RHP Jesse Litsch (2-3, 4.02).

Saturday | @ Toronto, 10:07 a.m., no TV | M's RHP Jeff Weaver (2-7, 6.82) vs. RHP Josh Towers (4-6, 5.40).

Sunday | @ Toronto, 10:07 a.m., FSN | M's LHP Horacio Ramirez (5-2, 5.89) vs. RHP Roy Halladay (10-4, 4.46).

Monday | @ Texas, 5:35 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Felix Hernandez (6-5, 3.71) vs. RHP Kevin Millwood (6-8, 5.50).

Tuesday | @ Texas, 2:05 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. | M's Washburn (8-7)/Batista (9-7) vs. Loe (5-7)/McCarthy (4-6)

But after posting a .289 batting average with 33 home runs and 123 runs batted in last season, Ibanez is now hitting .265 with six homers and 56 RBI. His slugging percentage has also dropped from .516 last season to just .409 this year.

Ibanez picked things up in June, but his July numbers have plummeted. He's hitting .196 in July with no home runs and just a .268 slugging percentage.

"I got good advice a long time ago," Ibanez said of how much work lies ahead. "You're never as close as you think, or as far as you think. So, with that being said, I don't feel that close right now. But it's not as far as you think, either."

Mariners manager John McLaren said there was never any thought of playing Ibanez once Cabrera was inserted as the starting pitcher. Ibanez is hitting .280 with all six of his home runs off right-handers compared to .235 versus southpaws.

"If he'd been something like 10 for 12 [off Cabrera] we might have given him the day off some other time," McLaren said. "But I just felt like he might be getting a little frustrated, a little tired and it might be good to give him a little break."

Ichiro's deal complex

Ichiro's new five-year, $90 million contract extension turns out to be a lot more complex than most, with $25 million deferred until after he retires. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Seattle will pay $12 million in salary each year and defer $5 million per season at 5.5 percent interest.

He'll receive the money in annual installments each Jan. 30 beginning the year after he retires from the major leagues. Under provisions of MLB's collective-bargaining agreement, the deferred money enables the value of the contract to be reduced to $16.1 million per season.

Ichiro, who had a single and a double in his first three at-bats on Wednesday, as well as three running catches in center early on, declined further comment on the deal. The AP report states that the contract also contains provisions for Ichiro to receive, among other things, a housing allowance of $32,000 next year — an increase of $1,000 from this season and rising by $1,000 each year. He also will be provided with either a new jeep or Mercedes SUV and four first-class round trip tickets from Japan each year for his family.

A team official said the deferred money partially explains the discrepancy in figures that first came out and had the contract pegged at closer to $100 million. "It just goes in the way you interpret how the money is spent," he said. "The players' association may value the deal one way, while the team may look at it as being worth less. In a sense, everybody is right. It's just in how you look at it."


• Mariners reliever Eric O'Flaherty blamed the worst outing of his career on Tuesday as the result of being too stubborn in sticking with a pitch — the two-seam fastball — that wasn't working. O'Flaherty had been 5-0 with a 0.66 earned-run average since June 4 before the Orioles tagged him for five runs in just a third of an inning.

• Forget about the M's making more adjustments to the repertoire of starting pitcher Felix Hernandez. McLaren had felt after Tuesday night's loss that Hernandez might be throwing too many breaking balls.

Upon further review, in consultation with pitching coach Rafael Chaves, that theory didn't pan out.

"Chavey and I talked about it," McLaren said. "We broke some figures down from his past five starts. There's not a great big difference between them, to be honest with you. I guess, the way it was all unfolding, the sequence, it put something in my mind that wasn't there."

For the record

53-39 .576

Streak: W1

Home: 31-18

Road: 22-21

vs. AL West: 15-11

vs. L.A.: 2-7

vs. Oakland: 7-2

vs. Texas: 6-2

vs. AL East: 17-8

vs. AL Cent.: 12-11

vs. NL: 9-9

vs. LHP: 18-7

vs. RHP: 35-32

Day: 15-12

Night: 38-27

One-run: 16-11

Extra innings: 3-1

Home attendance

Wednesday's crowd: 28,550

Season total: 1,513,721

Biggest crowd: 46,340 (June 22)

Smallest crowd: 16,555 (May 2)

Average (49 dates): 30,892

2006 average (49 dates): 28,619

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