SEATTLE (AP) -- With their playoff hopes all but virtually gone,
the Seattle Mariners are releasing some of their veterans to give
some of their prospects a chance to play.
Justin Leone is making the most of the opportunity.Leone hit his first major league homer -- a two-run shot -- to
back eight strong innings by Joel Pineiro and help the Mariners end
a nine-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland
Indians on Thursday night."Leo got into one pretty good," manager Bob Melvin said. "He
got it in the upper deck. That's the kind of things we're looking
to see. He's a guy that's got some power."Pineiro (5-10) allowed one run and four hits in eight innings
for Seattle, which last won on July 1 against Texas.Eddie Guardado pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 21
opportunities.Leone, who hit 21 homers in 68 games at Triple-A Tacoma before
being called up by the Mariners on July 1, hit his first in the
majors off All-Star Jake Westbrook (6-5) in the seventh to give the
Mariners a 2-1 lead.The Mariners are last in the American League with 66 homers."It's nice to see anybody doing something," Melvin said.
"What we've been going through and then making some changes today.
You know, it hurts to lose John Olerud, not to have a John Olerud
here."Westbrook, who lost his third straight decision, hit Miguel
Olivo with a pitch with two outs before Leone homered 437 feet off
the facing of the second deck in left field at Safeco Field.Leone will get a chance to play on a regular basis after the
Mariners designated veteran first baseman Olerud for assignment
before the game.A 13th-round draft selection in 1999 from Las Vegas, the
27-year-old Leone had a breakthrough season in 2003 at Double-A San
Antonio when he was the Texas League's player of the year. He hit
.288 with 21 homers and 92 RBI in 135 games."I was just hoping it would come some time eventually, you
know," he said of his first homer in his seventh big league game.
"For it to be like this, it's good to see you all (reporters)
standing here like this. And it's obviously good for the team."Leone wasn't sure he'd be with the Mariners after the All-Star
break. He's not making any predictions about how he'll play the
second half of the season."We'll just see how I can do," he said. "We'll just wait and
see how it goes. If I produce, I'm sure I'll stick around and we'll
go from there."Pineiro, a 16-game winner last season, won for the first time
since June 29. He lost twice on the Mariners' 0-9 road trip -- to
St. Louis and the Chicago White Sox. He deliberately stayed away
from baseball during the All-Star break."I thought I might feel weird out there," Pineiro said. "I
didn't play catch for the whole three days. I just wanted to
relax."Westbrook, an injury replacement for Curt Schilling in Tuesday
night's All-Star game in Houston, hasn't won since June 14. He's
0-3 in six starts since.In eight innings, Westbrook gave up two runs on four hits, one
walk, one hit batter and eight strikeouts.With two outs, he hit Olivo in the shoulder with a 1-0 changeup
in the seventh before giving up his homer to Leone on the first
pitch."A two-run homer right there is big for them," Westbrook said.
"I made a couple of bad pitches."Manager Eric Wedge thought Westbrook deserved a better fate."He threw fantastic tonight," Wedge said. "He was in command
the whole ballgame. One bad pitch cost us."Jody Gerut ended an 0-for-19 slump with one out in the second,
when he hit a 397-foot shot to center for his eighth homer.
The Mariners' nine-game losing streak was their longest
since their club-record 14-game losing skid Sept. 2-18, 1992. ...
Olerud, recognized as one of the classiest players in the majors
because of his low-key demeanor, played the last five seasons with
his hometown Mariners. He said he wasn't mad at the Mariners for
taking him off their roster. He blamed himself for not playing well
offensively this season and putting the team in the position of
having to get rid of him. ... With Olerud gone, Scott Spiezio moved
to 1B from 3B. Spiezio made a diving stop of Matt Lawton's hard
grounder for an unassisted out in the sixth.