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Originally published July 31, 2011 at 4:34 PM | Page modified August 1, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Comings and goings but same result as Mariners lose to Tampa Bay

Seattle sees Erik Bedard traded and newcomers arrive, but offense struggles in 8-1 loss to Rays

Seattle Times staff reporter

Monday

Oakland @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

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SEATTLE —

When newly acquired Mariners outfielder Casper Wells met Erik Bedard before Sunday's game, he told the left-hander how glad he was to be on the same team.

"Man, I hated seeing that curveball," Wells told Bedard.

Later in the afternoon, when Wells went into the clubhouse to get a Gatorade near game time, Bedard was packing up his locker, having been traded to the Boston Red Sox. Now it was time for Wells to bid farewell and good luck to his short-lived teammate.

"Look for the curveball the next time you face me," Bedard joked.

It was that kind of surreal day at Safeco Field — new players coming and, for the second day in a row, a prominent Mariners starter leaving.

They also squeezed in a baseball game, and like so many others, it didn't go well for Seattle. The Mariners committed three errors, were held hitless for five innings by Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson, and lost to the Rays 8-1.

The challenge for manager Eric Wedge now is to keep his team focused in the wake of 19 losses in 21 games, and the departure of Bedard, Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley in the span of about 28 hours. The Mariners are getting younger by the day, and they figure to continue to take their lumps down the stretch.

"The focus has to always be, we're coming to the ballpark to win a ballgame, first and foremost," Wedge said. "I don't give a damn how young we are, that has to be the focus. We have to expect good things to happen, expect to win. Maybe we're working toward that now, but it has to be a given, sooner rather than later."

"We still have two months left. We've got to make sure we get everything out of it, work to win as many games as we can, and keep pushing forward with all our young people and the people we're counting on, moving forward."

One of those is starter Jason Vargas, who gave up nine hits and six runs (four earned) in 5-1/3 innings. Vargas is 0-5 with a 6.84 earned-run average in his last five starts.

"It's been a rough stretch. I haven't really pitched good since coming back from the break," Vargas said. "I'm not making those big pitches when I need to, and I'm getting my pitch count up early ... I need to pitch better and keep the team in the ballgame, because right now I'm not doing that."

Vargas said of the trades, "It's too bad we lost some good teammates, but it's one of the things that comes with the territory. It's always to try to benefit this organization. You just have to keep playing. It's hard to replace a teammate like Doug and a friend like Erik. I'm going to miss them. I just wish them the best."

Vargas was included in some trade rumors, as was reliever Brandon League. Both were happy to still be here.

"I love it here. My family loves it here," Vargas said. "I'm looking forward to keep building and trying to put some wins on the board."

League said it won't be hard to regain his focus now that the deadline has passed because "the focus was always here. I don't really pay attention to minute stuff other than what I have to do out there. Whatever you may or may not hear on the Internet, it's part of the game.

"I have way too much stuff to think about besides that. I have to think if my wife has pumped up enough milk so I can stay awake to feed the (newborn) kid. I'm not worried about rumors."

The Mariners finally got their first hit Sunday on a solid single by Chone Figgins leading off the sixth. They got their first (and only) run in the seventh, driven in by Wells on a fielder's choice. Wells added his first Seattle hit, a soft single to right, in the ninth.

"To describe the feeling today, it was probably similar to the first time I got called up," said Wells, who started in left field. "Minus the nerves. It was a nervous energy feeling. It was weird, I was looking around, thinking, 'This is my home park.'

"Everyone was great, welcoming me with open arms. I'm thrilled to be here. It will be more comfortable when I assimilate with the team and guys. I'm expecting good things. ... I'm looking forward to playing here quite some time."

The other newcomer from Detroit in the Fister deal, left-hander Charlie Furbush, entered the game in the eighth — and promptly gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, Sean Rodriguez. He retired the next three, however.

"I tried to get (the pitch) in, and it wasn't in far enough," Furbush said. "Guys are going to hit that pitch. You tip your cap ...

"It's definitely been a whirlwind day, but it's been fun for sure."

For the whirlwind Mariners, there hasn't been much fun lately, but Wedge believes they're headed toward some.

"We're going to keep making tough decisions as we move forward," he said. "What we're not going to do is spin our wheels. I told you guys that when I was hired. We're going to continue to make tough decisions, work to make good decisions, and build this thing."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

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