Ramirez, Franklin sent down; Gillespie coming up

Franklin-ErasmoRight-hander Erasmo Ramirez was optioned to Class-A High Desert and infielder Nick Franklin was sent to Triple-A Tacoma as the Mariners made a couple roster adjustments on their Thursday offday.

With another day off coming Monday, Ramirez will be skipped in the rotation and given a chance to stay on schedule to rejoin the Mariners if needed when the club opens a nine-day, 10-game road trip at the conclusion of this weekend’s home series with the Rangers.

General manager Jack Zduriencik said Ramirez will start for High Desert in Stockton, Calif., on Sunday, which is the same day Hisashi Iwakuma is making a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma. Ramirez will then join Tacoma in Sacramento and accompany the Rainiers back to Tacoma for his next start May 2 against Las Vegas.

“We didn’t want to send him to Double-A Jackson in Mobile, Ala., for one start,” Zduriencik said. “This works out timing wise and keeps him on the West Coast instead of flying all over the country.”

Seattle faces the A’s in a doubleheader in Oakland on May 7 and Ramirez would remain on schedule to pitch that day if needed.

Zduriencik said the club is looking for Ramirez to get some work and regain the form he showed earlier this spring.

“We just want him to be consistent, that’s all,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve always liked Erasmo and think he’s a pretty good pitcher. He’s had some struggles here, but pitchers and players go through that. He just needs to get back on track. He pitched pretty good after the second inning the other day and that was encouraging. That was a good step.”

Ramirez, 23, won his season debut with a seven-inning, two-run effort in Anaheim, but has gone 0-3 with an 8.47 ERA over his last four starts to put him at 1-3, 6.75 for the season.

The Mariners rotation could have some more options in the near future with Iwakuma close to rejoining the club after missing all spring with a sprained tendon in his right middle finger.

James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have also been cleared to begin throwing in the next few days as they attempt to return from injuries. For now, the club tentatively is lined up to start Roenis Elias, Felix Hernandez and Brandon Maurer this weekend against the Rangers, then come back with Chris Young, Elias and Hernandez in New York following Monday’s off day.

Gillespie, 29, gives the Mariners a more-experienced backup outfield option. Franklin made his first start in right field in Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the Astros, but he’s been an infielder his entire professional career since being drafted in the first round in 2009.

Gillespie was hitting .362 with five doubles, one triple, five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games for Tacoma. The former Oregon State standout will join the team Friday and be available for the opening game of the Rangers series at 7:10 p.m. at Safeco Field.

Gillespie has batted .225 in 78 Major League games with the Diamondbacks (2010-11), Giants (2013) and Cubs (2013). He was originally selected by the Brewers in the third round of the 2006 Draft after leading Oregon State to the College World Series title.

“He’s been doing a nice job down there and is a very steady player,” Zduriencik said. “We’ll give him a shot.”

The Mariners’ 25-man roster is currently at 24, so one more player will be added prior to Friday’s game. That addition likely will be a reliever to help out an overtaxed bullpen. One possibility is left-hander Lucas Luetge, who wouldn’t be eligible to be recalled until Friday, which would be the required 10 days after he was optioned to Tacoma after opening the season with the Mariners.

Franklin is headed to Las Vegas to rejoin the Rainiers after hitting .125 (2-for-16) in seven games for Seattle after being recalled on April 16. He started four games at four different positions (second base, third base, right field and designated hitter).

Zduriencik said that move was simply to get Franklin regular playing time.

“We wanted to make sure Nick is getting at-bats every day,” he said. “He’s a young player who is very talented. We can move him around down there, but primarily he’s a middle infielder and will play some other positions, too.

“More than anything else, we just want him playing seven days a week. He’s very inexperienced as an outfielder, so we couldn’t commit to that every day.”

Franklin hit .395 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games for Tacoma to start the season before being brought up to Seattle when outfielder Logan Morrison went on the 15-day disabled list.

Nick Franklin headed back to Triple-A

Franklin, Nick

Nick Franklin’s return to the Mariners turned out to be brief as the young infielder was told after Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over the Astros that he’s been optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma.

Franklin broke the news himself on Twitter, writing “Las Vegas here I come!”

Tacoma opens a four-game series in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Franklin hit .125 (2-for-13) with a triple in six games for the Mariners after being called up on April 16.

After seeing one start at second, one at shortstop and one at designated hitter, he started his first game in right field on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 with an infield single. He made one routine catch in right field, but threw wildly and missed the cutoff man on a two-run double into the corner earlier in the game.

The 23-year-old hit .395 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games for Tacoma to start the season after losing out on the starting shortstop battle with Brad Miller in Spring Training. The 2009 first-round Draft pick played 102 games last year as a rookie second baseman, but lost that job when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano.

The Mariners haven’t announced the move yet, but a source indicated that Cole Gillespie, a more-experienced outfielder who is hitting .362 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games for Tacoma, will likely get the call up.

Gillespie has played 78 games in the Majors with the D-backs, Giants and Cubs over the past four years with a .225 average in 169 at-bats.

He signed as a Minor League free agent with the Mariners over the offseason and had an extremely productive spring in the Major League camp before continuing that with the Rainiers.

Iwakuma moving closer to return after sim game

Iwakuma, Hisashi

All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma threw 58 pitches in a four-inning simulated game against Mariners teammates on Tuesday afternoon as he moved a step closer to rejoining Seattle’s rotation.

The 33-year-old originally had planned to make his first Minor League rehab start Tuesday night for Triple-A Tacoma, but the threat of rain led the Mariners to keep him at Safeco Field and throw under the roof prior to Tuesday night’s game with the Astros.

Iwakuma said he felt much sharper than in his first simulated outing last Friday in Miami and there’s some chance he could be ready to join the Mariners after a rehab start in Las Vegas this Sunday for Tacoma.

If all goes well, he could be in line to return at some point during Seattle’s nine-day, 10-game trek to New York, Houston and Oakland from April 29-May 7.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said Iwakuma will throw about 75 pitches in the Las Vegas outing, but continued to stress caution as the Japanese standout builds his arm strength up after missing all of Spring Training with a sprained tendon in his right middle finger.

“We’ll see how it goes,” McClendon said. “You have to be patient because we’re talking about a guy that isn’t a one-year wonder. I plan on this guy being around a long time because I plan on being around a long time. I want to make sure I take care of him.”

Iwakuma looked strong pitching to Stefen Romero, Willie Bloomquist, Nick Franklin and Logan Morrison as he worked all his pitches, including his trademark splitter and what pitching coach Rick Waits said was a surprisingly sharp curveball.

“Nasty,” said catcher John Buck after working the four innings behind the plate.

“It felt a lot better,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “The feel for the game is coming back gradually. I felt a lot better than the last time we did the sim game in Miami. Everything is moving forward. The ball jumped out of my hand pretty well. I feel pretty close now to the regular season.”

Waits said the 33-year-old continues to have no problems with his finger and the focus now is strictly on building up his arm strength and conditioning.

“The main thing is he’s getting better each time, from each bullpen to each sim game,” said Waits. “The thing I was most impressed with today was in his fourth inning he still had great arm strength. That’s what I was looking for. He wasn’t tiring. He probably needs to work a little more from his full windup to get his timing, but all four pitches were working.”

Iwakuma finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last year after going 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts and would be a welcome boost for a Seattle rotation that also has James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan on the disabled list.

Hart getting first start in right field

Hart throw2With Robinson Cano lined up to play designated hitter against the Rangers in today’s 11:05 a.m. PT game for the Mariners, Corey Hart went to manager Lloyd McClendon and said he was ready to play right field.

Hart hadn’t played in the outfield since July 21, 2012, while with the Brewers, prior to his two microfracture knee surgeries that wiped out all of 2013. But Hart worked in the outfield this spring and told McClendon he was ready to give it a run after starting at DH in 10 of Seattle’s first 14 games.

“He told me he’s feeling good and his knees are fine,” said McClendon, who had indicated earlier in the week that it would be a while before he played Hart in the outfield. “I’ve got to go with my player, too, he said he’s feeling pretty good. But we’ll watch him. We’ll keep an eye on him.”

Hart is no stranger to the outfield, with 793 career starts there while with the Brewers. Only in the past few years was he shifted more to first base. The Mariners hoped to play him there after signing him to a one-year deal in free agency, but a sore biceps in spring limited his work and McClendon doesn’t want to push his knees too quickly either.

“I’d much rather play in the field then not play in the field,” Hart said. “My arm hasn’t helped that issue, but you’ve got to start somewhere. So I’ll go out there and give Robbie a break and hopefully not have any issues.

“I’ve just been doing regular BP stuff in the outfield. Other than that, not a ton. But I’ve been out there before. I don’t think he’s expecting me to win any awards out there right now. He just wants me to catch it when it’s hit my direction.”

McClendon said Hart definitely wouldn’t play the outfield in the more-spacious right field in Miami this weekend, but there is a possibility he could play a game at first base when the Mariners lose the designated hitter in the interleague series.

Walker shut down; Beavan goes on DL

TaijuanBulllpen

With fill-in starter Blake Beavan going on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and top prospect Taijuan Walker shut down for at least two weeks after tests showed a “shoulder impingement” on Wednesday, the Mariners are searching again for a starter for Sunday’s upcoming interleague series finale at Miami.

Beavan started in place of injured left-hander James Paxton on Tuesday, but lasted just four innings in a 5-0 loss to the Rangers after his shoulder wouldn’t loosen up in a 63-pitch outing.

Walker, the No. 6 rated prospect in baseball by MLB.com, was a consideration to return from his own shoulder issues by Sunday, but he had his own rehab start with Triple-A Tacoma wiped out Tuesday when his shoulder felt tight before he even began throwing.

General manager Jack Zduriencik said Walker had an MRI on Wednesday in Seattle that showed the impingement.

“We’re going to back him off for two weeks and treat it and eventually work him back to the mound and start the progression again,” Zduriencik said.

Walker was slowed at the start of spring by shoulder soreness and was shut down completely for a week in early March before working his way back through a pair of Minor League rehab starts. He was scheduled to throw Tuesday in Tacoma, but never started warming up after feeling some tightness in his shoulder.

“I think it is the same general area,” Zduriencik said. “He just wasn’t comfortable. So we sent him for tests and now we’ll back him off and treat it and see where we’re at.”

The Mariners have been hit with a series of pitching issues, with Danny Hultzen, another premier prospect, already lost for the year following rotator cuff surgery and All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma still a couple weeks from returning from a sprained tendon in his finger.

“It’s amazing,” Zduriencik said. “Everybody in baseball seems to be going through the same type of things, but ours is a little more severe than most. Nevertheless, this will give others an opportunity.”

Among the current Tacoma pitchers, left-hander Anthony Fernandez, 23, is the one healthy starter who is on the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Brandon Maurer is another possibility and he has Major League experience, but Maurer is just returning from back problems and hasn’t pitched more than 3 1/3 innings this season.

Beavan also is going to be out at least two weeks now, which is a frustrating situation for the 25-year-old right-hander after he’d just been recalled after Paxton strained his left oblique muscle in his third start of the year.

Beavan said he essentially has “dead arm” from a knot in his shoulder that isn’t allowing him to throw freely.

“I just had no life on my ball,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I had a great opportunity to help these guys and fill the void of other guys being down. Now I’m in the same situation, but hopefully it’s something where in the next 10 days we can get out of there and slide back into the action and help us win some ballgames.”

Beavan is flying back to Seattle on Thursday to begin rehab treatment with trainers in Seattle.

Nick Franklin being called up

Franklin, NickLooking to bolster an offense that has totaled just seven runs over their last five games, the Mariners are recalling young infielder Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma in time to join the team for its Wednesday night game with the Rangers.

The Mariners have not confirmed the move, but Franklin was taken out of Tuesday’s game in Tacoma in the eighth inning and a source confirmed the youngster is enroute to Arlington as of Wednesday morning.

Franklin himself tweeted a message Wednesday morning indicating he was flying to Texas, with the letters TEX separated by airplane symbols.

FranklinTextFranklin, 23, was Seattle’s starting second baseman for the final four months of the season last year, but lost that job when the club signed Robinson Cano. He competed with Brad Miller for the shortstop position in Spring Training, but was sent to Tacoma after Miller had an outstanding spring.

The 2009 first-round Draft pick out of Orlando, Fla., hit .225 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 102 games for the Mariners last year.

Franklin, a switch hitter, was off to a torrid start in Tacoma, batting .395 with three doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games. He’d played six games at second base and five games at shortstop for the Rainiers, but it’s not clear where the Mariners intend to use him.

Miller is hitting .214 with three home runs and six RBIs in 13 games at shortstop, but the bigger need appears to be right field, where Logan Morrison, Stefen Romero and Michael Saunders have been splitting time so far this year.

Morrison has missed the past two games with a tight hamstring and could be a candidate for the 15-day disabled list, which would open up a roster spot and potential playing time for Franklin.

Franklin played a few innings in right field late in Spring Training and played some outfield while growing up in Florida, but didn’t see any action there in Tacoma and has been strictly at second base and shortstop in his six years in the Mariners farm system.

After getting off to a nice start offensively, the Mariners (7-6) have been shut out three times in their past five games and have fallen to 13th among the 15 American League teams in batting average (.230) and OPS (.663).

Their right fielders have combined to hit .200 with no home runs, three RBIs and a .506 OPS in 50 at-bats.

Beavan tonight, then Felix vs. Yu on Wednesday

Felix sim

The Mariners face Texas tonight with Blake Beavan taking on Robbie Ross as Seattle looks to continue it’s nice road start this season, having won five of their first seven games away from Seattle.

But yeah, it’s hard not to peek ahead just a little to Wednesday, when Felix Hernandez is lined up to face Yu Darvish in a battle of two of the American League’s premier hurlers.

Not surprisingly, Hernandez is downplaying the matchup with Darvish, whom he beat twice in their only previous meetings Seattle in 2012 while posting a 0.53 ERA (one earned run in 17 innings).

“Is that a big deal?” Hernandez said when asked Tuesday about the impending battle of American League aces. “I just have to do my job. That’s all I’ve got to do. If he throws good, I’ve got to put up zeroes, too.”

Hernandez is more wary of facing the Rangers’ offense after going 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against the AL West rivals last year.

“Throwing against Texas pumps me up a little bit, yeah,” he said. “They’ve got me a couple times. I’ve got to do better.”

This will be a somewhat different Rangers lineup, however, particularly with former teammate and long-time friend Adrian Beltre on the 15-day disabled list.

“He said now you’re safe because I’m not playing,” Hernandez said. “It’ll still be fun. It’s kind of weird seeing him on the DL though because he doesn’t like to be on the DL. It’s the best for him, but I’ve known him for a long time and he doesn’t like to do that.”

As for tonight’s game? This is a big opportunity for Beavan, who could get another start Sunday in Miami if all goes well. Taijuan Walker is pitching tonight in a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma and could also slide into that Sunday game if he’s ready. But Beavan is already on this road trip and it’s conceivable the Mariners could wait a little longer for Walker’s debut and open him at home next week rather than fly him all the way to Miami for one start.

“As we speak now, I would say I’d probably go another start with [Beavan],” manager Lloyd McClendon said prior to Tuesday’s game. “But we’ll see how it goes tonight.”

McClendon saw both the good and bad Beavan this spring and knows what the youngster needs to do well.

“His stuff is plenty good,” said the skipper. “It’s not overpowering, but it’s Major League stuff. It’s just a matter of command, commanding the strike zone, working the four quadrants of the strike zone. When he threw well, that’s what he did. When he didn’t throw good, he just didn’t have that command and everything was elevated.”

 

 

Noesi traded to Rangers for future considerations

Cleveland Indians v Seattle Mariners

Right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi was traded by the Mariners to the Rangers on Saturday for a player to be named or cash.

Noesi, 27, was designated for assignment by the Mariners on April 4, one day after giving up a walkoff home run to the A’s Coco Crisp on his second pitch in the 12th inning in Oakland.

Noesi pitched in two games for Seattle this year, giving up two hits and three runs in one inning. Over the past three seasons with Seattle, he combined to go 2-14 with a 6.13 ERA in 36 games, including 19 starts.

Noesi spent most of last season in Triple-A Tacoma, where he posted a 3-3 record with 5.83 ERA in 15 appearances (11 starts).

Noesi was acquired by Seattle along with Jesus Montero from the Yankees in exchange for right-hander Michael Pineda on Jan. 23, 2012.

Noesi is out of Minor League options. To make room on their 40-man roster, the Rangers transferred infielder Jurickson Profar from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. Profar is sidelined by a torn muscle in his right shoulder.

The Rangers will need to make a 25-man roster move when Noesi joins the club in Arlington, where Seattle opens a four-game series on Monday after wrapping up this weekend’s series with the A’s at Safeco Field.

Mariners still waiting for first Cano blast

Cano RobbieNew second baseman Robinson Cano has yet to hit a home run for the Mariners in 18 Cactus League games and the first eight regular-season outings. But that isn’t a concern to manager Lloyd McClendon or to Cano, who has said from the start that he’s not a home-run hitter, he’s a line-drive hitter.

Cano has averaged 28.4 homers a year over the past five seasons, which is excellent power for a second baseman. But indeed, even with the Yankees he hit just one home run in Spring Training last year and only had one spring with more than two homers in the Grapefruit League (he hit four in ’09).

As for the regular season, Cano hit his first bomb in his seventh game last year en route to a 27-homer season. He didn’t hit his first blast until his 12th game in 2012, then went on to a career-high 33.

“I’m not the least bit concerned about Robbie’s first home run,” McClendon said. “Check the book. They’ll be there. When it’s all said and done, his numbers will be right where they’re supposed to be. That’s a question we probably need to address so I don’t have to have this question anymore. Robinson Cano is one of the top arguably five hitters in all of baseball. He has been for the last nine years and that’s not going to change just because he put on a Seattle Mariners uniform.

“What I’d like to see Robbie do is lead the league in doubles,” said McClendon. “I don’t worry about home runs. His home runs will be there. I know we’re all waiting on it and I’m sure he is, too, but that’s not a concern.”

Cano is hitting .300 with two doubles and six walks in his first eight games with a team-leading .417 on-base percentage. For his career, Cano carries a .309 batting average and .355 on-base percentage.

He had the highest batting average and most hits, doubles and RBIs for any second baseman in the Majors since his debut in 2005. He’s second to Dan Uggla in home runs by a second baseman in that span (231 to 204).

40,000 expected for tonight’s Supreme Court, plus lots of pitching news from McClendon

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners

It’s “Supreme Court” tonight at Safeco Field and the Mariners are expecting a crowd of 40,000, which should make for a fun spectacle when Felix Hernandez takes the mound for his first home start of the year.

The first 25,000 fans through the gates will receive a yellow Supreme Court T-shirt and K-card to wave every time Hernandez gets a two-strike count, as normally happens in the special King’s Court section down the left field line.

It’s always an event when The King is on the mound and he’s been outstanding this season with a 2-0 start and 1.88 ERA in wins at Anaheim and Oakland. Hernandez has never gone 3-0 in his first three starts of the season. If he does, the Mariners will equal their third-best start in franchise history at 6-3.

Manager Lloyd McClendon has never witnessed a King’s Court, but he knows the score.

 “I hope they’re holding up a lot of strikeout signs,” he said. “I’m excited to see Felix pitch. He’s throwing the ball extremely well. I couldn’t be happier. And hopefully it’ll continue tonight.”

McClendon takes nothing for granted though.

“Obviously when you’ve got your guy on the mound, you feel good about the matchup going in,” he said. “But you still have to go out and perform. We all know that Felix is very good, but we also know he’s not going to win it by himself. We’ve got to go out and perform, but we feel good about it.”

Erasmo Ramirez will pitch Saturday, Chris Young starts Sunday and Roenis Elias is slated for Monday’s series opener in Texas as Seattle opens a seven-game road trip. McClendon said the team still hasn’t determined who will start Tuesday with James Paxton now on the DL.

McClendon said both Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan threw well in Minor League starts on Wednesday. He said a decision would likely come in the next 24 hours. Reading between the lines, it sounded like McClendon was leaning toward bringing Beavan up for at least one start to give Walker a little more time to prepare.

“One thing we have to be careful about with this process, when we do decide if it’s Walker or somebody else is, we want to be cautious with Taijuan and make sure he’s ready to compete at this level,” McClendon said. “When I talk about competing, the game is a little bit more stressful at this level than at the Minor League level in the number of pitches that you throw, the outs that you get at this level are harder to get. We have to take all that into account when we decide whether or not we’re going to bring him or somebody else. We’re still talking about all of that.

“It has nothing to do with his lack of big-league experience. I think it has everything to do with the lack of work in Spring Training and the amount of innings he had because of the injury in Spring Training. We have to make sure that if he’s the guy we’re going to bring, then he’s got to be ready to compete at this level and there are no bars or limitations.”

On the injury front, Paxton had an injection Thursday and McClendon said it’ll now be “another 7-8 days before they re-evaluate and start a rehab program with him.”

Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session on Saturday – an expected 50 pitches — and is still “a couple bullpens away from live action. We need to build his pitches up before we get him out and doing that.”

McClendon said Brandon Maurer ideally will be moved into the starting rotation for Triple-A Tacoma after striking out nine in 3 1/3 innings of relief on Thursday, with the goal of building his innings up as well after missing much of spring with a back injury.

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