PEORIA, Ariz. -- Jason Vargas is doing everything he can to win a spot in Seattle's rotation.
Vargas pitched into the fourth inning in the Mariners' 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, putting together another impressive outing.Vargas, one of four candidates for the No. 5 starter role, allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. The 27-year-old left-hander threw 49 pitches while becoming the first Mariners pitcher to get into the fourth.Vargas has allowed three hits in 5 2/3 shutout innings this spring."I think if you're worrying about the big picture and what's going on behind closed doors and who's making decisions, that just puts added stress when you are out there," Vargas said. "To do that, you're not doing yourself any favors."That's been one of my strong points is being able to put that in the back of my mind. Were the results always there? No. But being able to keep that in the back of my mind and focus on the task at hand, I been all right at that."Vargas went 3-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 23 games, 14 starts, with Seattle last year. He is competing with Doug Fister, Luke French and Garrett Olson for the open job in the rotation."He is throwing good and giving us a good look at another starter," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said of Vargas. "What I like is that he's in better shape than last year and his mechanics are better. He also looks confident."Aaron Laffey pitched two scoreless innings, strengthening his case to make Cleveland's opening-day roster. The lefty is vying with three other candidates for the final two spots in the Indians' rotation.Laffey went 7-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 25 games, 19 starts, last year, when he didn't make Cleveland's roster out of training camp."Last year, I just tried to get ready for the season and that didn't work out in my favor," he said. "This year, I am trying to get outs. If that means throwing sliders in the first inning, I'm going to do it."Wes Hodges had a pair of two-run doubles for the Indians.Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-out, two-run triple in the fourth for Seattle.
Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez threw 35 pitches against nine minor leaguers during a simulated game. "I feel great. Down. On the corners. Mix in breaking balls and changeup," Hernandez said. "I throw all my pitches, changeup, slider, curve, sinker, four-seamer." Hernandez is expected to throw a bullpen session Friday and make his first spring start Monday against Colorado. ... Mariners LHP Cliff Lee is scheduled to make his spring debut on Wednesday against the Rangers. He is slated to throw between 40 and 50 pitches.