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Lowe becomes higher-priority reliever

Lowe becomes higher-priority reliever

SEATTLE -- With the Mariners' closer situation so up in the air at the moment, the role of game-ender could occasionally land in right-hander Mark Lowe's lap.

Lowe reported to Spring Training determined to win the job outright, but he did not convince the Mariners that he should be the one protecting leads in the final inning. He has been trying to find the "right stuff" that would put him in that role.

To be at his best, Lowe needs to be relaxed and have a consistent delivery, something he's been working on.

Now that Brandon Morrow has been taken out of the closer role to work on his command, and right-hander David Aardsma has taken his place, Lowe's late-game status also has changed, and he will pitch a little later in games.

Lowe pitched a scoreless eighth inning and scored some points in Friday night's 5-4 victory over the Red Sox.

"[Bullpen coach] John Wetteland has been a huge influence on him down there and one of his staunch supporters as far as what this guy could end up being," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "[Friday night] was a good indication of how good he could be."

It came on the heels of a rocky stint against the Rangers four nights earlier, when Lowe surrendered six runs in two-thirds of an inning.

"This guy came into Spring Training as a closer candidate, and we realized there were a lot of things he still needed to work on," Wakamatsu said. "He's really buying into that and his routine is getting better.

"A lot of things we talked about in Spring Training involve his delivery. When he's 1.5 or 1.6 [seconds] with a big turn with his front leg, he tends to lose his command. [Friday night], along with the stuff, the command was there."

Wakamatsu said, "We might look at him" in certain closing situations.

Pitching matchup
SEA: LHP Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.04 ERA)
Vargas made a good impression in his first start for the Mariners, and his first in the Major Leagues since July 3, 2007. He held the Rangers to one run over five innings, a solo home run to Chris Davis in the fifth, and that was enough to cost him any chance of winning his debut start. Vargas, who was working on a pitch-count limit of 75 to 80, was lifted after 73 pitches, 43 of them for strikes.

BOS: RHP Justin Masterson (2-2, 4.89 ERA)
The lanky sinkerballer struggled with his command in his last start, but made it work anyway, allowing just two runs over six innings. Masterson walked four and struck out three, throwing 105 pitches in a no-decision against the Angels. This will likely be his final start in the rotation before Daisuke Matsuzaka returns from the disabled list. In five starts, Masterson is 2-2 with a 4.97 ERA. Masterson has pitched twice against the Mariners in his career, going 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA.

Tidbits
The next time Ichiro Suzuki hits a double, he'll become the eighth player since 2001 with at least 200 doubles and 200 stolen bases. He has 300 career steals, and he would become the only active 200-300 player. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has 313 doubles and 294 stolen bases. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ichiro became the first left-handed batter to hit two home runs off Red Sox lefty Jon Lester in the same game. Furthermore, on only one other occasion have two left-handed hitters hit a home run off Lester in the same game. ... Ryan Rowland-Smith, currently on the disabled list with triceps tendinitis, threw 28 pitches over two innings in an extended spring game in Peoria on Saturday. He surrendered one hit, walked one and struck out one. He will throw another two innings on Tuesday, return to Seattle for a bullpen session and then report to Triple-A Tacoma on a rehab assignment.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN

On radio
• 710 ESPN, FSN-SAP (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Mariners (Jarrod Washburn, 3-2, 3.11) vs. Angels (Matt Palmer, 4-0, 3.38), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Tuesday: Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 4-2, 3.53) vs. Angels (Ervin Santana, 0-0, 5.40), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Mariners (Chris Jakubauskas, 2-4, 7.13) vs. Angels (Joe Saunders, 5-2, 3.59), 7:10 p.m. PT

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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