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Notes: McLaren to raise pitch counts?

Notes: McLaren to raise pitch counts?

SEATTLE -- The Mariners want more innings from their starting pitchers next season, and that might require higher pitch counts.

"I am an old-school guy and would like to see our pitchers go 120 to 125 pitches," manager John McLaren said. "Among other things, that would save our bullpen."

Rarely have starters been allowed to reach the 125-pitch level, let alone exceed it.

Going into Sunday afternoon's regular-season finale against the Rangers, right-hander Felix Hernandez, the baby of the rotation at 21 years of age, had thrown at least 120 pitches only once all season -- against the Athletics on July 27 -- topped the 110-pitch ceiling only five other times in his 29 starts, and tossed one complete game.

Right-hander Miguel Batista was the rotation leader in wins with 16 and second in innings pitched with 193. He came close to the 125-pitch count level once -- throwing 124 pitches Saturday night in his final start of the season. He reached the 110-pitch level nine times in his 32 starts and never pitched a complete game.

And veteran left-hander Jarrod Washburn threw at least 120 pitches twice during the season -- 122 pitches in 5 2/3 innings on Sept. 11 against the Athletics, and 121 pitches against the White Sox on Aug. 10. He exceeded 110 pitches five other times in 32 his starts and also had one complete game.

"It seems like pitchers are satisfied with six innings," McLaren said. "We're doing a lot of talking trying to come up with ways to get our [starters] deeper into the games if we can. It would help save our bullpen."

Pitching coach Rafael Chaves believes pitch counts will come down if the pitchers "are more aggressive in the strike zone, work ahead in the count, pitch to contact and find a way to put hitters away."

"Another way would be to increase the pitch count, but for me that would be the second way."

Chaves said high salaries and multiyear contracts make organizations cautious about anyone throwing too many pitches.

"I don't think we'll ever see anyone get up to 150 pitches," he said. "Maybe once in a blue moon, but not in my lifetime, anyway."

McLaren grew up in Houston and watched Nolan Ryan throw upwards of 170 pitches a game.

"So I guess I'm spoiled," McLaren said. "I know he was special, just like Roger [Clemens], but we program these guys to throw 100 pitches. We used to come out of Spring Training wondering about whether it was best to go with a nine-man or 10-man pitching staff and now it's 12 or 13. That's where the game has changed the most.

"We need to re-evaluate our thinking and get our pitchers thinking about going deeper in the game."

Trivia challenge: Adrian Beltre went into the regular-season finale with 99 RBIs. Only one third baseman in franchise history has driven in at least 100 runs in a season. Who is it?

G'day, mates: Left-handed reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith entertained the Australian National Junior team before and after Saturday night's game.

The Aussie team from Queensland was in Vancouver, British Columbia, for a tournament.

"I received an e-mail from the coach a couple of weeks ago," Rowland-Smith said. "He said the team was coming down to watch a Mariners game and wondered if I could talk to them. There were about 20 kids, 16 to 17 years old, and I spent about an hour with them after batting practice."

One of the coaches of the team happened to be in attendance and Rowland-Smith got in a good-natured jab.

"He was one of the coaches on the team I was trying to make as a 17-year-old and he cut me," the lefty said. "I sort of threw him under the bus and told the kids about it."

Rowland-Smith said that coach actually "is a good guy" and it was the head coach of the team that cut him.

"He didn't like me and I heard that he told people I was lazy," Rowland-Smith said. "I always used that as incentive to get where I am."

Rowland-Smith fielded some questions from the teenagers, who wondered what the clubhouse was like and several about Ichiro Suzuki.

"Some of these guys are pretty close to signing contracts, so they asked me what the Minor Leagues are like," Rowland-Smith said.

After the game, Rowland-Smith talked with security guards and the grounds crew for permission to take the Aussie players onto the field.

"That was cool," he said.

Waiting game: The coaching staff planned to go in different directions after Sunday's game, not yet knowing if they would meet up again in Spring Training.

"I know they are walking on [eggshells], but we need to step back a little bit," McLaren said. "I have been there, done that, and it's not a good feeling. I apologized to them."

McLaren said general manager Bill Bavasi would be going to Arizona later this week and the coaching staff decisions could be made by the weekend.

Expect some changes to be made.

The answer is: Jim Presley is the lone man of the hot corner to drive in 100 or more runs in a season, plating 107 in 1986.

Take a break: A season that first baseman Richie Sexson can't erase from his mind soon enough finally ended on Sunday.

His final numbers: .205 batting average, 21 home runs and 63 RBIs.

"Richie needs to go home, recharge his battery, clear his head and get on a good winter program," McLaren said. "Everyone is entitled to a bad year, but now it's over with and he can go home, have a nice offseason and get ready for '08."

McLaren said he's considering giving Sexson more at-bats than usual during Spring Training if that's what it takes to get him back to normal, even if those extra at-bats are in Minor League games during camp.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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