Notes: Burke at end of long road

Mariners notes: Burke at end of long road

LAS VEGAS -- Some players have had a winding road to their first Opening Day.

Jamie Burke's path has been as straight as Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.

He's been an outfielder and a corner infielder. He's pitched and place-kicked. He's played in seven leagues since making his debut in the Minors 14 years ago.

And it took another turn Saturday in the Mariners' 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs. In the ninth inning of the final game of Spring Training, Burke was hit in the head by a breaking ball from Angel Guzman.

He was taken out of the game as a precaution, but manager Mike Hargrove said he expects Burke will be OK.

If he is, it will mark the first time Burke, at 35 years old, will wear a Major League uniform on Opening Day.

Speaking in the visiting team's dugout at Las Vegas' Triple-A ballpark, the moment seemed to catch up with him.

"It's extra sweet because I'm sitting here at a Triple-A field," Burke said. "For the first time, I don't have to worry about starting the season at a Triple-A field."

Burke has spent time in Triple-A in every season since 1996, making his Major League debut with the Angels in 2001 and playing 120 games with the White Sox in 2004.

At an age when so many baseball players don't feel like they have the game in them any more, Burke feels like he's just coming into his own.

"There's a lot of guys that play that started hitting their potential at a later age," Burke said. "I think guys stick around longer because they take care of themselves. I think I can play until, I don't know, I guess when I can't get out of bed."

Meanwhile, Burke is working with the Mariners' coaching staff to improve his style and technique, adjusting his stance to take pressure off his legs. At the same time, Burke is working with pitchers so he can be prepared to work the battery with them. He has no expectations of seeing action frequently, but wants to be ready for Opening Day -- and every day after that.

"I feel pretty good," Burke said before the Mariners' 2-1 win over the Cubs on Saturday. "I'll feel even that much better when I'm in Seattle on Monday."

Burke was 1-for-1 before he was pulled Saturday.

Rey waiting for Sunday: The Mariners won't make any final roster decisions until Sunday, but non-roster invitee Rey Ordonez was hopeful for news before Saturday's game.

"Have you heard something?" he asked a reporter. "My whole career with the Mets and Tampa Bay and the Cubs, it's my first time I've had to wait for the last day."

A nine-year big-league veteran who sat out the last two seasons, Ordonez said he's still not in top shape, but is ready to contribute -- particularly defensively -- should the call come.

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"I'm a little bit late on the swing and a little bit slow on the bat, but I feel that I've had a good spring, especially on defense," he said.

Game-winning Gookie: If Gookie Dawkins never comes back to Cashman Field again, he might not be disappointed -- and he'll go out on a good note.

Dawkins, a one-time Reds prospect who will enter his 11th Minor League season as he starts 2007 as a Triple-A Tacoma Rainier, played for the Dodgers' Triple-A Las Vegas 51s through the first two months of the 2003 season. His record was abysmal, hitting .165 before being sent down to Double-A and ultimately getting traded to Kansas City.

His afternoon in Las Vegas on Saturday went much better. Dawkins went 2-for-3 with a stolen base, and drove in Adam Jones in the sixth inning to score the go-ahead run for Seattle.

Now it's off to the Rainiers, where he'll try to get back in the flow of things after getting 31 at-bats in March, including eight in the last week.

"They gave me a good look in spring," Dawkins said of his March with the Mariners. "Something about this group keeps me going and keeps me continuing to work hard.

"Unfortunately, I won't make this team out of [Spring Training], but I feel like I can help these guys get to the postseason, and hopefully to the World Series."

Healing in Vegas: Reliever J.J. Putz reported no stiffness in his right elbow after pitching in his second game on Friday. Putz had been sidelined with a sore elbow that had bothered him through much of March.

"I probably could pitch again if I had to," he said.

Pitcher Brandon Morrow, who was scratched from Friday's start after food poisoning, was back in the dugout Saturday, preparing for a bullpen session after enjoying a meal of toast. He said he woke up early Friday morning feeling ill. A club sandwich at the hotel was the likely culprit.

He expects to be ready for Monday's season opener.

General manager Bill Bavasi said everything looked fine after X-rays were taken on outfielder Jose Guillen, who suffered a mild heel sprain Friday night.

Nick Christensen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.