Notes: Johjima heating up behind plate
Catcher throwing out basestealers at improving rate
ST. PETERSBURG -- It has been much more difficult for Mariners opponents to steal bases in May than it was in April.The Mariners were 0-for-8 as a team in April when throwing out would-be thieves, but when catcher Kenji Johjima nailed Devil Rays speedster Carl Crawford in the third inning of Wednesday night's game, it was the sixth time in 12 stolen-base attempts this month that ended with a caught-stealing. "I have seen Crawford play for more than three years now, and I haven't seen him caught by that much," marveled Mariners bench coach John McLaren. "And that's a credit to Joh, not a discredit to Carl, who is about the best in the game stealing bases." Catching Crawford by at least two feet was a big feather in Johjima's cap. The Devil Rays left fielder has been one of the top basestealers in the American League the past five seasons, swiping 238 bags in the past four-plus seasons and getting caught 51 times. "Everything you are supposed to do, Joh did on that play," McLaren said. "He had good footwork, he had good quickness and he had good arm strength." The result was a big out at second base. Johjima has been a work in progress since the beginning of Spring Training. "We have been working on getting on top of the ball more, and he's gotten a lot better at that," McLaren said. "That enables him to utilize his arm strength, and Joh has a strong arm." McLaren explained that when a catcher tries to get rid of the ball quickly, it breaks down the rest of the body parts needed to make strong, accurate throws. "He wasn't getting a good foundation when he was throwing," McLaren said, "but now he has his feet underneath him. He has a strong arm and he's using it." Just ask Crawford. One more day: Left fielder Raul Ibanez will return to the starting lineup on Friday, when the Mariners open a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City. "Raul feels better today and should be ready to tomorrow," manager Mike Hargrove said prior to Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Devil Rays. "He says he feels good, but we're going to give him another day." Ibanez, who missed only three games all of last season -- and played all 162 games in 2005 -- has missed the last six with back spasms. Changing times: Ichiro played in his 1,000th Major League game on Thursday, becoming the seventh player in franchise history to reach that plateau. It's a significant milestone, for sure, and one that received plenty of media attention in two countries. Hargrove, who played in 1,666 big-league games, was asked if it was a big deal when he reached 1,000. "Nope"," he said. This 'n that: Second baseman Jose Lopez went into Thursday's series finale as one of four MLB players at his position that haven't made an error this season. Lopez handled his first 194 chances without miscue and ranked third among AL second basemen in turning double plays with 32. ... The first inning continues to cause the team some agony. Seattle has allowed 40 first-inning runs, tied with the Reds for the most in the Majors. Opponents are batting .371 in the first inning with five home runs. ... Third baseman Adrian Beltre, hitless in three consecutive games for only the second time this season, was given the day off on Thursday. On deck: The four-city, 10-day road trip reaches the halfway point as the Mariners open a three-game weekend series against the Royals in Kansas City. The 5 p.m. PT opener features a potential pitching duel with right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-2, 2.77) opposing Royals ace, and former Mariners rotation mainstay, Gil Meche (3-2, 2.44).
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.