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Ex-Mariner Balentien leads Dutch past Seattle

Ex-Mariner Balentien leads Dutch past Seattle

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Former Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien led an early barrage against Jon Garland on Friday night as The Kingdom of the Netherlands' World Baseball Classic squad rolled to an 8-1 victory over Seattle at Peoria Stadium.

Balentien, now a power-hitting star for the Yakult Swallows in Japan, slugged a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run single in the second on a 3-for-4 night with five RBIs.

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Balentien, 28, came up in the Mariners organization and played for Seattle from 2007-09. He recently signed a three-year deal with Yakult after leading Japan's Central League with 31 home runs in 106 games last season.

Garland, fighting to earn a rotation spot as he comes back from a 20-month layoff following shoulder surgery, allowed five runs on six hits in three innings in his first rough outing of the spring.

The 33-year-old had allowed just one run and five hits in six innings in his first three Cactus League outings, but surrendered three runs on four hits and a walk in the first frame against a Dutch squad making its final tuneup before heading to San Francisco to start the final round of the Classic on Monday.

"I was just rushing to the plate, and my front side was coming way out and exposing the ball," said Garland. "It gives them a little longer to see it and a lot of things were definitely being elevated."

The Netherlands also beat the Padres in an exhibition on Thursday and now heads to AT&T Park, where the squad will face the winner of Saturday's Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic game on Monday in a semifinal matchup.

"The way they played these two games means they're ready to go," said Dutch manager Hensley Meulens. "They showed that they're not intimidated by any club or any situation. They're playing hard. This is a good team."

"They're an aggressive swinging team and they came out swinging the bats well," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge.

Balentien did the bulk of the damage against Garland, who walked two and struck out seven while throwing 70 pitches in his three innings. The veteran is competing with youngsters Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer as well as fellow comeback candidate Jeremy Bonderman for the Mariners final two rotation spots.

Garland said he feels fine and will continue giving it everything he's got as he returns from rotator cuff surgery.

"To be honest, as far as the arm goes and letting it go and worrying about the surgery and all that, the position I'm in, I've pitched a career," he said. "So it's not the end of the world for me. I'm basically going out there and letting everything go as hard as I can. If it goes, it goes. If it holds up, that's what I'm hoping for. But it's going to do what it's going to do."

Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, MLB.com's No.1 ranked prospect who just joined The Netherlands squad this week, went 1-for-3 in the leadoff spot. Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina doubled and scored in the second and finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Right-hander Kevin Heijstek, who has pitched in the Dutch League the past eight years, got the victory as he held the Mariners to three hits and one run in his three-inning start.

The Mariners' lone run against Heijstek came on Dustin Ackley's RBI double in the first after Jason Bay led off with a walk.

Tom Stuifbergen, who pitches in the Twins organization, followed Heijstek and threw 1 2/3 innings before bending over in pain following a 2-0 pitch to Ackley in the fifth. Stuifbergen was replaced by David Bergman, who allowed just one hit over the next 2 1/3 innings.

Ackley was 2-for-4 for the Mariners. None of the statistics from Friday's exhibition game will count in the official Cactus League results.

Up next: Erasmo Ramirez gets the start on Saturday as the Mariners face the Rockies at 1:05 p.m. PT at Salt River Fields. Ramirez, one of several pitchers competing for the final spots in the rotation, has yet to allow a run and has given up just four hits and one walk over six innings in three Cactus League outings. Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez are among the relievers also scheduled to appear in the game, which will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle as well as Gameday Audio on MLB.com.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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