ISHINOMAKI, Japan — Awkward as the thing was, Eric Wedge caught a glimpse.
"The best thing was to see the looks on the kids' faces, and even some of the adults," said the Mariners manager of his brief afternoon stop in Downtown Bleakness. "It was probably the most enjoyable day they’ve had since the devastation. It was worth our time and then some."
Time has become an issue of the moment for the Mariners. There's not enough of it. Not on this season-opening trip, not with the 30 hours of round-trip travel time, four ballgames, various events, ceremonies, invites, and the perpetuity and ubiquitousness of the always-polite, always gargantuan Japanese media.
By Friday afternoon (March 30), they will have returned to Peoria, Arizona, where they resume spring training, then resume the regular season on the road before finally opening at home April 13. If the Mariners want an excuse to start 2012 poorly, Major League Baseball has given them a big, fat greasy one.
And truth be told, it's kinda exhausting to stay up on your niceness to keep pace with the mega-niceness of your hosts.
Certainly time was sparse Tuesday in this town blasted a year ago by an earthquake and tsunami. Wedge and three players of international heritage — Italian Alex Liddi, Japanese Hisashi Iwakuma, and Dominican Hector Noesi — spent six hours on buses and trains to give less than 90 minutes of hope to some people who forgot what it looked like.
As much as their effort on a blustery afternoon seemed to be appreciated by the hundred or so Little Leaguers, their coaches, parents, and other community leaders, the "clinic" seemed a little too much for media and MLB and not enough for the kids.
"I felt a little guilty about getting in and out," said Wedge on the bullet train back to Tokyo. "It was all we could do. I wish we could have spent more time there."
Turns out that even that time was too much. Slowed by traffic, the bus from Ishinomaki to the train station in Sendai arrived just six minutes before scheduled departure. That meant that a traveling party of about 30, packing gear, had to go on a near sprint through the station, led by a travel host bearing one of those tourists-in-tow flags.
The train actually held for an extra couple of minutes, almost unheard of in Japan. And it wasn't enough. Three in the party didn't make it — the Mariners players.
Although no one was sure why they didn't make it, there's always the possibility they're used to things being held for them. Nevertheless, accompanied by MLB security, the three were aboard the next train in 20 minutes. None of the players were scheduled to play in the regular season openers at the Tokyo Dome.
Wedge was finally able to smile about it, but having three players stranded, however temporarily, in a foreign country, didn't help his blood pressure, already elevated from the station sprint.
"We were pressed," he said, "to the very end."
Mariners' Roster at 28: Because of the early start to their season, the Mariners and A's were permitted to carry 30 players for the two exhibition games in Tokyo, but had to cut to 28 prior to the Wednesday opener against Oakland. Game time is 3:10 a.m. PDT.
The Mariners optioned outfielder Carlos Peguero and right-handed pitcher Chance Ruffin to AAA Tacoma and catcher Guillermo Quiroz was re-assigned to minor league camp.
Infielder Munenori Kawasaki and pitchers Kevin Millwood (still in Arizona) and Erasmo Ramirez were selected from Tacoma. That also fills the major league 40-man roster to the max.
The roster includes 14 pitchers (three of whom are ineligible to play against Oakland), three catchers, seven infielders and four outfielders. The youngest player on the team is RHP Erasmo Ramirez at 21 years, 10 months. The oldest is Ichiro at 38 years, 5 months.
Seattle Mariners 2012 Opening Day Roster (Noesi, Millwood, and Iwakuma are ineligible to play in the two games in Japan)# Pitchers B/T Ht Wt DOB Hometown 49 Blake Beavan R-R 6-7 240 17-Jan-89 Irving, TX. 35 Steve Delabar R-R 6-5 220 17-Jul-83 Fort Knox, KY 41 Charlie Furbush L-L: 6-5 215 11-Apr-86 Portland, ME 34 Felix Hernandez R-R 6-3 230 8-Apr-86 Valenciz, VZ 18 Hisashi Iwakuma R-R 6-3 190 12-Apr-81 Tokyo, Japan 23 Shawn Kelley R-R 6-2 220 26-Apr-84 Louisville, KY 43 Brandon League R-R 6-2 210 16-Mar-83 Sacramento, CA. 25 Kevin Millwood R-R 6-2 210 16-Mar-83 Sacramento, CA. 44 Lucas Luetge L-L 6-4 205 24-Mar-87 Brenham, TX. 45 Hector Noesi R-R 6-3 200 26-Jan-87 Valverde, DR 50 Erasmo Ramirez R-R 6-0 180 29-Apr-76 Santa Ana, CA. 52 George Sherrill L-L 6-0 225 19-Apr-77 Memphis, TN. 38 Jason Vargas L-L 6-0 215 2-Feb-83 Apple Valley, CA. 54 Tom Wilhelmsen R-R 6-6 230 16-Dec-83 Tucson, AZ. # Catchers B/T Ht Wt DOB Hometown 27 John Jaso L-R 6-2 205 19-Sep-83 Chula Vista, CA. 63 Jesus Montero R-R 6-3 235 28-Nov-89 Carabob, VZ 30 Miguel Olivo R-R 6-3 230 15-Jul-78 Villa Vasquez, DR # Infielders B/T Ht Wt DOB Hometown 13 Dustin Ackley L-R 6-1 190 26-Feb-88 Winston-Salem, N.C. 9 Chone Figgins S-R 5-9 180 22-Jan-78 Leary, GA. 61 Munenori Kawasaki S-R 5-10 165 3-Jun-81 Kagoshima, JP 16 Alex Liddi R-R 6-4 230 14-Aug-88 San Remo, Italy 26 Brendan Ryan R-R 6-2 195 26-Mar-82 Los Angeles, CA. 15 Kyle Seager L-R 6-0 195 3-Nov-87 Charlotte, N.C. 17 Justin Smoak S-L 6-4 230 5-Dec-86 Goose Creek, SC. # Outfielders B/T Ht Wt DOB Hometown 20 Mike Carp L-R 6-2 210 30-Jun-86 Long Beach, CA. 55 Michael Saunders L-R 6-4 215 19-Nov-86 Victoria, B.C. 51 Ichiro Suzuki L-R 5-11 170 22-Oct-73 Kobe, Japan 33 Casper Wells R-R 6-2 210 11-Nov-84 Grand Rapids, MI