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Thursday, May 18, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mariners' Lone Lefty Is All Right -- Guetterman Gives Pen Whiff Of Success

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - If nothing else, his 14 seasons as a professional baseball player have made Mariner pitcher Lee Guetterman a Solomon in his industry.

He knows what to do and how to do it when it comes to keeping his career alive. For him, it's simple.

"My role is to get lefties out. The more I do it, the longer I stay," said Guetterman, who watched three left-handed-pitching teammates - Ron Villone, Kevin King and John Cummings - dispatched to the minors this week.

"Success is the name of the game here."

Guetterman defined success by seven pitches last night in Seattle's 4-0 victory over Kansas City. Guetterman threw that many to left-handed-hitting Bob Hamelin, striking him out in the seventh inning to end a final Kansas City rally.

Mariner Manager Lou Piniella has just one left-handed card to play in the bullpen until erstwhile starter Dave Fleming assumes his bullpen spot this weekend.

Guetterman filled that role, but wasn't alone among Seattle role-players last night. Reserve infielder Doug Strange had a career-high four hits in his rare third-base start. And reliever Bob Wells filled in adequately for starter Randy Johnson, who left in the fourth inning when his shoulder stiffened.

Johnson, bothered by a one-hour rain delay, is not injured. He is expected to make his next start.

"I know my role. I come to the park and have to be ready to play anytime to help us win," Strange said. "I'm sure Wellsy didn't

expect to be in the game. But he came in and threw strikes.

"Lee got the left-hander out. That's what it takes to win. If you get the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it," added Strange, who raised his battomg average 150 points to .350 with his 4-for-5 evening. His four hits tied his career high set June 17, 1993, when he was with Texas.

It was a timely effort for Strange, because Piniella is debating whether to keep the pitching staff at 11 or expand to 12 when Tim Belcher is activated Wednesday.

If it's 12, a position player must be moved. Left-fielder Darren Bragg, hitless in his past 15 at-bats, seems more vulnerable than Strange, who can play several positions.

Strange drove in the first run in Seattle's four-run fifth inning with a single to right field. Back-to-back doubles by Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez sent home the three other runs.

The victory moved the Mariners back into first place in the American League West by percentage points.

The game started 20 minutes late because of rain, then was delayed another hour and eight minutes by a storm in the bottom of the second. When the teams returned to the field, Kansas City's Gary Gaetti, who had doubled just as the rains hit, was on second base with none out.

Plate umpire John Shulock told Johnson to let the ump know if the conditions were not right.

"I told him the conditions aren't right now; I've got a guy on second and no outs," Johnson said.

Johnson then struck out Pat Borders, induced Joe Randa to ground out, and struck out Joe Vitiello.

Johnson got the first out in the fourth before Piniella and trainer Rick Griffin went to the mound. "We noticed that he was stretching a little more and could see he was a little tight," Piniella said.

Johnson said the stiffness grew with each inning. "I felt like I was pushing the ball. There's no doubt I could have gone further, but the circumstances were not in my favor."

Johnson pitched just 3 1/3 innings, not enough to qualify for a victory. But he lowered his earned-run average to 0.92, second best in the major leagues behind the 0.72 of former Mariner Erik Hanson, who pitches for Boston.

Johnson threw just 37 pitches. Piniella might consider bringing him back one day ahead of schedule to pitch Sunday in Minnesota.

Wells, called to replace Johnson, took nearly 10 minutes to warm up. Wells (1-2) then retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, allowing just one hit in his 3 1/3 innings.

"I do what I'm asked to do," said Wells, who has had two starts and two relief appearances. "With all the rain here, it was nice getting a chance to throw."

Reliever Bill Risley worked the scoreless eighth to set up Seattle closer Bobby Ayala, who never allowed the ball out of the infield in his efficient seven-pitch ninth.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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