February 2011

Mariners walk it off again … this time to clubhouse

No walkoff dramatics on Monday after the Mariners won Sunday’s opener with a bases-loaded single by Josh Bard. This time the Mariners simply walked off the field and headed to their Peoria clubhouse with a 6-6 tie after the same two teams dueled again to a tight finish.

Since the Mariners only had six pitchers lined up to throw, they called the game a draw rather than have Chris Seddon throw til his arm fell off.

Seddon pitched the final two innings as it was, while Doug Fister and David Pauley opened the game with two frames apiece.

The highlight Monday was a pair of home runs by young outfield prospects Greg Halman and Johermyn Chavez. Halman could be a legitimate contender for a roster spot, given his defensive abilities in center field where the Mariners are looking for someone who can spell Franklin Gutierrez at times.

Gutierrez has yet to play, but will be in the lineup Tuesday against the Rangers. Manager Eric Wedge said he still didn’t have any medical update on Gutierrez’s stomach tests, but the club feels good enough about things to let him play.

Chavez is a 22-year-old who played Class A ball last year, so he’s a ways from being Major League ready. But he and massive Carlos Peguero are certainly showing why the future could be interesting.

You never want to read too much into late-inning heroics against pitchers who normally have little chance of making it, but it’s worth nothing that Chavez’s first-pitch bomb came against Ernest Frieri, who went 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 31 2/3 innings last year for the Padres after getting called up from Triple A Portland in mid-July.

 

Lineup for Padres, Take 2

The Mariners take on the Padres again today in Day 2 of Cactus League action and only three starters are the same as Sunday.

Justin Smoak again starts at first base, this time batting third. Gabe Gross is in right field in place of Ichiro after starting in left yesterday as the club gets a good early look at the veteran backup outfield contender.

And Michael Saunders, after filling in for center fielder Franklin Gutierrez on Sunday, has shifted back to his normal left-field role.

Otherwise, it’s a new slate of characters as Eric Wedge plans to rotate most of his players on alternate days initially. Today’s first pitch is 12:05 p.m. PT and you can listen live on 710 ESPN Seattle and the Mariners Radio Network.

Today’s lineup:

Josh Wilson 2B
Brendan Ryan SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Jack Cust DH
Gabe Gross RF
Michael Saunders LF
Matt Tuiasosopo 3B
Adam Moore C
Greg Halman CF

Doug Fister P

Jody Gerut abruptly retires from baseball

GerutJodyRetire.JPGVeteran outfielder Jody Gerut, one of several players fighting for a backup role with the Mariners, instead made the surprising announcement Sunday morning that he’s retiring from baseball at age 33.

Gerut delivered an eloquent impromptu news conference in the team’s press room about three hours before the club’s opening game of Spring Training after informing the Mariners of his decision.

“Physically, I’m fine,” he said. “But mentally my reasons for wanting to be in uniform have become so thin and narrow that I refuse to disrespect the game that has provided so generously for my family by playing it in a half-hearted way.

“It was very clear that my capacity as a player was done, empty, finished.”

Gerut said he came to camp 11 days ago with every intention of competing for a job, but realized in the last 3-4 days that his competitive juices were gone.

“There was a sense of apathy that hadn’t been there,” he said. “And there souldn’t be apathy because there is opportunity here. … The last three days have been hollow. I’ve had a very clear voice in my head saying in this situation, you shouldn’t be out there in the capacity of a player who is representing a team and a city.”

Gerut was in his first training camp with the Mariners after signing as a non-roster invitee. He previously played for manager Eric Wedge in Cleveland from 2003-05 and said he was glad Wedge and his staff were in place at the end of his career as well.

The Mariners told him if he had a change of heart the door remained open, but he said he didn’t think that was going to happen.

“I’m human,” he said. “It’s possible I could have a change of heart. But I highly doubt it. To me, this is it.”

Gerut has a .262 career batting average with 59 home runs and 226 RBIs in 574 games with the Indians, Cubs, Pirates, Padres and Brewers. Gerut, who graduated from Stanford with a history degree, choked up when reading a prepared statement and then spoke from the heart for a very interesting 15 minutes in the impromptu session.

Here’s Gerut’s full statement:

(more…)

Opening lineup is out … and Smoak is hitting cleanup

Manager Eric Wedge posted his first lineup card this morning in the Mariners clubhouse. And the most interesting thing to me is the guy in the No. 4 spot … young Justin Smoak batting cleanup right out of the gate.

It’s clear that Smoak is needed this season to hit in the middle of the lineup, but Wedge has said he’s reluctant to say he’ll throw the 24-year-old in there from the start. He talked specifically about that in this story I wrote previewing today’s opener here on Mariners.com.

Of course, the charity spring game lineup isn’t the same as the regular-season opener, but obviously Wedge wants to see what the big first baseman can do.

He also wants to get a good look at Milton Bradley in the heart of the order. Bradley will DH today and bat third. If Bradley hits well this spring, he’ll earn a spot on this team without question because the Mariners would like to get something out of his $12 million contract and could certainly use his bat as well if he returns to his old form.

Worth noting as well, no Franklin Gutierrez in the lineup today, which puts Michael Saunders in CF.

Game time is 12:05 p.m. PT (1:05 p.m. in Arizona), with Rick Rizzs and Dave Sims calling the action on 710 ESPN Seattle. And while forecasts called for rain and cool temperatures today, the bad weather appeared to blow through last night and as of this morning it’s sunny and blue skies everywhere.

Play ball!

Here’s the full lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Adam Kennedy 2B
Miguel Olivo C
Michael Saunders CF
Gabe Gross LF
Jack Wilson SS

Erik Bedard LHP

The day in pictures at Mariners camp …

Caught lots of stuff I liked today with my camera at Mariners Spring Training in Peoria. Most of the team went to Peoria Stadium to sign autographs, which makes for some great candid shots.

Love this one of veteran reliever Denny Bautista with a little hat-head, working the crowd.

BautistaHatHead2.JPG.

The most popular autographs, as you’d expect, were Ichiro and Felix. Here’s the Cy Young winner dealing with the masses before he headed off to throw his first live batting practice of the spring on a back field with a handful of coaches and two reporters watching.

FelixAutograf.JPG

Milton Bradley, bless his soul, was literally the last of the Mariners still working the autograph line. He and Erik Bedard — two guys you’d probably never suspect — had to be pulled away by a team official and told it was time to start the workout.

BradleySign.JPG

And here’s a young fan eagerly awaiting his Moose autograph, though I have no idea how the furry fellow signs his name.

NewMoose.JPG

Wedge announces pitching plans for first three games

Manager Eric Wedge has set his pitching rotation for the Mariners first three Spring Training games, with Erik Bedard getting the ball to start Sunday’s charity game against the Padres.

TIm Stauffer will be on the mound first for San Diego.

Bedard will be followed by Luke French, Manny Delcarmen, Denny Bautista, Justin Miller, Cesar Jimenez, Yusmeiro Petit and Chris Smith.

Doug Fister will start Monday’s official Cactus League opener against the Padres, followed by David Pauley, Brandon League, Chris Ray, Chaz Roe, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon and Fabio Castro.

Then it’ll be Nate Robertson opening Tuesday against the Rangers, followed by Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Royce Ring, Tom Wilhelmsen, Jose Flores and Edward Paredes.

All three of those games are at Peoria Stadium starting at 12:05 p.m. PT.

Gutierrez says diet likely cause of stomach problems

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was back in camp in Peoria on Saturday after having a series of medical tests on a lingering stomach issue in Seattle, but said he still has no answers.

GutierrezFranklinMug.jpgGutierrez said he began having problems for the first time in the middle of last season and lost weight as he ate less because of the issues. When he began feeling the same problem during Spring Training, the Mariners had him undergo more tests.

“Obviously I don’t want to go through the same thing I went through last year,” he said.”They just want to make sure eveyrthing is fine. … Last year there were days I was feeling good, other days not. I realize something’s not right. It’s more related to the food probably, but I’m still waiting for the results.”

What did the doctors learn?

“Nothing yet,” Gutierrez said. “It was a long day. We’re still waiting for the results. But now I feel good.”

Gutierrez got off to a fast start last season, but trailed off noticeably. He hit .256 with a .717 OPS in the first half, .230 with a .601 OPS in the second.

Mariners interim manager Daren Brown noted at the end of last season that he believed the center fielder’s stomach problems had affected his play, something Gutierrez acknowledged on Saturday.

“When I feel those days that it doesn’t feel right, obviously you don’t eat like you’re supposed to eat and you don’t get the same energy,” he said. “I’m not going to blame it on that, but I guess it’s a little bit part of that. You need to get energy to play your game. And you get that energy with food.”

Gutierrez hasn’t been told to change his diet yet, but has tried eliminating some foods on his own with mixed results.

What does he probably need to eliminate completely?

“Probably ice creams, I guess,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know.”

So for now, the Gold Glove outfielder will just await suggestions from the doctors and go on with Spring Training. He says he’s not worried. At least he’s not going to admit it.

“I’m fine right now because I’m just gonig to see if the tests find something. Probably not. But I’m fine right now,” he said. “I’m trying not to think about it and be optimistic. I’m fine now and that’s the most important thing.”

And they’re off and running …

IchiroCust.jpgIchiro Suzuki talks to Jack Cust during Friday’s intrasquad game. (Photo by Greg Johns/MLB.com)

The Mariners got things going on Friday with their only intrasquad game of the spring. And, yeah, we saw some things you’d expect. Like Ichiro getting a pair of hits on a single through the hole at shortstop off Blake Beavan and an infield shot off Josh Lueke’s glove.

There was also the predictable wildness of youngsters Lueke and Dan Cortes, who were amped up in their spring debuts. And there was some unexpected base-running aggression with Milton Bradley and Michael Saunders each stealing two bases and catcher Miguel Olivo swiping third after hitting a double off Lueke.

Saunders and Bradley both got caught stealing once each as well, something Eric Wedge said he could live with as long as players were smart about when to take chances.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he noted. “Guys aren’t going to be perfect.”

Nobody hit one over the fence at the Mariners main practice field, though Matt Tuiasosopo and Johermyn Chavez both drove balls to the warning track in the deepest part of center field.

Justin Smoak, Luis Rodriguez, Adam Moore and Olivo all doubled as the Mariners totaled 10 hits in the five-inning game.

Starters Michael Pineda and Blake Beavan both looked good in their one inning of work, with Beavan striking out two. Tom Wilhelmsen also finished things off with a pair of strikeouts in the fifth.

Besides Cortes and Lueke, the other pitcher who struggled was 24-year-old lefty Edward Paredes, who gave up a number of well-hit balls, including Moore’s run-scoring double and sharp singles by Bradley and Jody Gerut, as well as Tuiasosopo’s deep shot that got hauled in at the wall by Gabe Gross.

Nothing spectacular, just a necessary first step on the way toward Sunday’s Spring Training debut. Wedge said the pitching rotation for the first few games will be announced on Saturday and he’s still penciling out the lineup as well, wanting to talk to a few more of the veterans about how much they like to play in the early going.

So we’ll see how things roll soon enough. In the meantime, I talked to DH Jack Cust this morning about his outfield play, which is something that raised some hoots and hollers from his teammates during drills earlier this week.

Cust has a pretty good arm in left field and says he can play the position, though admits he’s not quite on par with Gold Glovers like Gutierrez and Ichiro. He’s a fun guy and I enjoyed that story, which you can read here.

And as living proof, I got a picture of Cust with his glove this morning. He really does do outfield drills and get himself ready, just in case, even though I doubt we’ll see much of him out there this season.

CustJack.JPG

Today’s intrasquad lineups … minus Gutierrez

Here’s the drama we’ve all been waiting for, the starting lineups for today’s Mariners intrasquad game at 1 p.m. in Peoria. Don’t read too much into these, but it is interesting to see who falls where right out of the gate.

The nature of playing against your own squad makes for some interesting choices. Adam Kennedy, for instance, has been playing second base in camp, but will be at first base today

Worth noting that Franklin Gutierrez is not in either lineup. He is not yet back in Peoria after flying to Seattle to have his stomach checked out by doctors on Thursday. I’ll update as soon as we learn anything more on that.

Team 1

Ichiro Suzuki RF

Chone Figgins 3B

Milton Bradley DH

Adam Kennedy 1B

Miguel Olivo C

Jody Gerut CF

Ryan Langerhans RF

Brendan Ryan SS

Luis Rodriguez 2B

Michael Pineda P

 

Team 2

Jack Wilson SS

Dustin Ackley 2B

Justin Smoak 1B

Jack Cust DH

Michael Saunders LF

Gabe Gross CF

Greg Halman RF

Josh Bard

Josh Wilson 3B

Blake Beavan P

Everybody watches when the King is throwing

WatchingFelix.JPGYup, everybody pays attention when Felix Hernandez takes the mound, as he did for the first time this spring on Thursday with some almost-live batting practice.

Among the most attentive Thursday were the guys pictured above — Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan and Chone Figgins — since they were waiting their turns to get in the batter’s box.

But as good as Felix looked — and he looked as sharp as you’d possibly expect at this juncture — it was impossible to get a true read since batters were instructed to only track his pitches with their eyes and not swing away on this first outing.

You can read my full story on Felix’s thoughts about his first step back on the mound since last season, as well as his upcoming schedule by clicking here. He told me the plans call for him to throw an actual live batting practice session Saturday.

Here’s a shot I got of him throwing today.

FelixBP.JPGTomorrow brings the intrasquad game at 1 p.m. (MT). It’ll be five innings on Field 1 at the Mariners facility and Eric Wedge said he’s going to try to get all his position players at least one at-bat and an inning or two of work.

Michael Pineda and Blake Beavan are the starting pitchers, which doesn’t mean a whole lot, but will be fun to see two of the big 22-year-old hosses in camp. We’ve talked a lot about Pineda, but I wrote this story today on Beavan, one of the players obtained in the Cliff Lee deal.

Interesting kid who throws a lot harder than I’d been led to believe, with excellent command. Could turn into a nice rotation piece down the road.

The big news today was Franklin Gutierrez’s absence as he flew back to Seattle to have his stomach problems checked out. Don’t expect that to be a huge issue, more of a precaution at this point, but definitely something they want to clear up after he lost weight during last season and struggled in the second half because he wasn’t able to eat well.

We should learn more about that tomorrow when Gutierrez is expected to return. You can get the news on that on Mariners.com and here on my blog, or follow me on Twitter at @GregJohnsMLB.

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