Notes: Pitchers prepping for NL action

Notes: Pitchers prep for NL action

SEATTLE -- American League pitchers aren't used to standing in the batter's box, but with a nine-game Interleague road trip coming up, the Mariners pitching staff has started to take batting practice.

The staff primarily practiced bunts prior to Friday's game against Texas, but as Seattle's trip comes closer, pitchers will more than likely be taking more cuts in the cage.

The practice is more for starters than relievers, but everyone gets a turn.

"I probably will never have an at-bat in my career," said reliever George Sherrill, who said he was a career .311 hitter in high school.

"That transfers to about .150 here," he joked.

Reliever Sean White, on the other hand, likes the thought of a potential at-bat, although the focus isn't on getting a hit, as much as it is to advance the runner.

"If I get a chance, it's always fun," White said. "It's important, mostly when you get up and there's less than two outs and anyone is on base, to get them over."

Batting practice shouldn't detract from their performance on the mound, especially considering how well the bullpen has performed lately.

The combination of Brandon Morrow, Sherrill and closer J.J. Putz has dominated late in games, going 3-0 with 12 holds and 12 saves. The Mariners are 24-0 when holding a lead after seven innings and have the fewest blown saves in the Majors with two.

Combine that with a bullpen ERA of 3.31, third best in the Majors, and the Mariners certainly seem to have things going for them late in the game.

"I think we're a pretty good unit down there," Sherrill said. "Everyone does their job and gets along pretty well."

Sherrill said he doesn't focus on ERA as much as he does on inherited runners, but either way, he's been a huge reason for the bullpen's recent success. In 22 games, he's posted seven holds and has allowed a run in just one of those appearances.

Morrow has pitched 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, and Putz has yet to blow a save.

Whether it's a rookie or a veteran on the mound, the Mariners have put together a strong bullpen.

"We had some guys that needed to come in and show that they belonged here and they can stay here," Sherrill said. "For the most part, as a whole, we knew it would be pretty good. We just have to prove to people that we can get the ball to J.J. and win some ballgames."

Empty nest: Manager Mike Hargrove said prior to Friday's game that he would leave the game early for his daughter's high school graduation in Ohio.

Shelly, Hargrove's youngest daughter, graduates this weekend and will be receiving a thoughtful gift from her father.

"I'm going to get her a laptop," Hargrove said. "I can't believe I'm doing that."

McLaren steps in: Hargrove will not return until Monday's series opener against Baltimore, and bench coach John McLaren will manage the team until he returns.

Hargrove said he isn't nervous about leaving the team, and he may even catch a few of the games away from home.

"I understand you can get the games on the computer," Hargrove said. "I'm sure I'll be glued to the computer watching the game."

Rhodes in Seattle: Pitcher Arthur Rhodes was back in Seattle on Thursday, almost a month after having Tommy John surgery.

Rhodes elected to have the surgery after learning he had a torn ligament in his elbow. Despite missing the entire season, he said he hopes to return next year.

"I want to pitch next year," he said. "I'm going to get there and work hard, and get back into shape."

Ramirez, Reitsma updates: Hargrove said starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez has no set timetable for his return and said Ramirez is still feeling "a little tightness, a little discomfort" in his left shoulder. Ramirez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis.

Hargrove also said injured reliever Chris Reitsma may start throwing as early as Saturday and will throw in Triple-A Tacoma if his bullpen sessions go well. Reitsma was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow inflammation.

Up next: Miguel Batista (5-4, 5.72 ERA) will go for his third straight win when he faces the Rangers at 7:05 PT on Saturday night at Safeco Field. Edgar Martinez will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in a ceremony before the game.

Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.