February 2011

Add Manny Delcarmen to the bullpen battle

The growing list of relievers competing for jobs in the Mariners bullpen added an interesting name Thursday with the signing of veteran right-hander Manny Delcarmen to a Minor League contract with an invite to Major League camp.

DelcarmenAction.jpgDelcarmen, who’ll turn 29 next week, was a valued member of the Red Sox bullpen a few years ago and though he’s struggled a bit the past two years, brings a career 3.97 ERA in 298 appearances over six seasons.

Several teams were in pursuit of the free agent, who was released by Colorado in December after being acquired from the Red Sox in an Aug. 31 trade for young pitching prospect Chris-Balcom Miller.

Before that, Delcarmen had spent his entire career with his hometown Red Sox, who drafted him in the second round in 2000.

He was promoted to the Major Leagues in ’05 and went 11-6 with a 3.89 ERA over the next 5 1/2 seasons, including an outstanding ’07 season when he posted a 2.05 ERA while giving up just 28 hits in 44 innings.

In the two-year span of 2007-08, Delcarmen had a 2.81 ERA in 118 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .197 batting average while racking up 29 holds.

Last season, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder was 3-4 with a 4.99 ERA in 57 games with the Red Sox and Rockies.

Mariners pitchers and catchers report to camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Sunday and Delcarmen join the growing cast of characters competing for bullpen jobs. If he returns to his form of several years ago, he could be a valuable addition to a team looking at quite a few youngsters to fill middle-relief roles.

The Mariners already signed former Orioles closer Chris Ray on a similar Minor League deal to compete with returners David Aardsma and Brandon League and hard-throwing youngsters Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke among others for the late-inning roles.

Delcarmen becomes the 23rd non-roster invitee.to the Major League camp, including 13 pitchers.

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Felix Hernandez’s brother signs Minor League deal

The Mariners have signed Moises Hernandez, older brother of Felix, to a Minor League contract.

This one likely won’t be much more than an interesting human interest story and welcome news for King Felix as Moises, 26, isn’t a highly regarded prospect. He’s not being extended an invitation to the Major League camp, but will be part of the large group that reports to the club’s Minor League camp in Peoria, Ariz., on March 6.

But it will be interesting to watch another Hernandez on the mound in a Mariners uniform and see where he winds up.

The older Hernandez isn’t nearly as big as Felix at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds. He spent three years in the Orioles organization from 2003-05 pitching in Rookie and Low-A ball.

He then was in the Braves system from 2006-09, again spending most of his time in the low Minors. He did go 10-3 with a 3.66 ERA with Class-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League in ’07 at age 23, then was promoted to Double A Mississippi for 10 starts (2-2, 5.94 ERA) and one start in Triple A Richmond (0-1, 7.73).

After missing all of ’08, he was back in Rookie League and A ball for the Braves in ’09 and didn’t pitch in the Minor Leagues at all last season.

This isn’t the first time the Mariners offered a shot to one of their star’s siblings. Shawn Buhner was in the club’s Minor League system from 1994-99 and Craig Griffey did the same from 1991-97 and both reached as high as Triple-A Tacoma.

Matt Woodward, the son of then-GM Woody Woodward, played in the Mariners’ system in 1998-99 but never advanced above A-ball.

Who all is invited to the party (non-roster additions)

I have a story on the website today on veteran reliever Chris Ray, the former Orioles closer who could play an important role in the Mariners bullpen this season and will be given every chance to earn a spot on the roster, according to Jack Zduriencik.

Ray is one of 22 non-roster invitees who’ll be at Spring Training when the full squad arrives on Feb. 19. Ray, of course, will be with the initial group when pitchers and catchers report this Sunday.

The non-roster invitees could provide some interesting storylines this spring. Ray, second baseman Adam Kennedy and starting pitcher Nate Robertson all would seem to have strong shots of landing a job.

Several veteran outfielders — Jody Gerut, Gabe Gross and Ryan Langerhans — will get a good look as will the dozen pitchers on the list. Heck, all these guys agreed to Minor League contracts for one reason … the hope of landing a Major League job.

Last year the Mariners had a number of non-roster invitees eventually play some role with the big league club: infielders Josh Wilson and Chris Woodward, catchers Josh Bard, Guillermo Quiroz and Eliezer Alfonzo, relievers Chad Cordero and Chris Seddon and starter David Pauley.

You just never know when a guy like Mike Sweeney will force his way onto the Opening Day roster with a huge spring. It’s a great way to take a look at guys and improve depth in a low-risk fashion.

Here is the Mariners full list of non-roster invitees, including a couple youngsters who have been invited ahead of the Minor League camp.

Pitchers:Denny Bautista, Blake Beavan, Fabio Castro, Charlie Haeger, Justin Miller, Yusmeiro Petit, Chris Ray, Royce Ring, Nate Robertson, Chris Seddon, Chris Smith, Jamey Wright.

Catchers: Josh Bard, Steve Baron, Chris Gimenez.

Infielders: Sean Kazmar, Adam Kennedy, Luis Rodriguez.

Outfielders: Jody Gerut, Gabe Gross, Ryan Langerhans, Mike Wilson.

You can also take a look at the full 40-man roster by clicking here.

Gabe Gross joins growing list of outfield candidates

GrossGabe.jpg

Veteran outfielder Gabe Gross hits against the Mariners last year at Safeco Field. (Photo by Getty Images/Otto Gruele Jr.)

The Mariners added Gabe Gross, another veteran outfielder, to the large group of contenders being stockpiled at that position heading toward Spring Training.

Gross, 31, is a seven-year vet that Jack Zduriencik knows well from his two-plus seasons with the Brewers in 2006-08.

Gross was signed to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite, so this is another of the low- or no-risk signees being brought in to see what he might bring to the table, much like Jody Gerut.

The club also has outfielders Ryan Langerhans and Mike Wilson on non-roster invitations, along with the seven outfielders on their 40-man roster: Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Milton Bradley and Michael Saunders, plus top prospects Greg Halman, Johermyn Chavez and Carlos Peguero.

Gross, 31, is a lefty hitter who batted .239 with one home run and 25 RBIs in 105 games with Oakland last year. His career numbers are .239/.330/.385 with 40 home runs and 186 RBIs.

Gross was a starting quarterback for seven games at Auburn University before deciding to focus on baseball only after losing his starting job midway through his sophomore season. He went on to become a No. 1 draft pick, 15th overall, of the Blue Jays in 2001.

He’s regarded as an excellent clubhouse guy and leader type, though he’s been mostly a part-time role player through his seven seasons in the Majors and it remains to be seen how he’ll fit into the crowded competition with the Mariners.

Sure sign of spring: Mariners truck headed to Peoria

BagsPacked.jpgBags of gear await loading onto the Mariners truck that departed for Peoria, Ariz., on Friday morning (below). Photos by Jeff Evans/Mariners.

Indeed, it was only 35 degrees in Peoria, Ariz., on Friday morning, but any doubts about spring’s impending arrival were dismissed 1,100 miles to the north when the Mariners dispatched their massive truck filled with gear for Spring Training.

The Mariners truck rolled out of Safeco Field at 11:30 a.m. and headed south on I-5, with the plan to reach Ashland, Ore., by Friday night, then to Blythe, Ariz., on Saturday before reaching Peoria on Sunday.

TruckLeaving.jpgWeather forecasters are promising temperatures will return to the mid-70s by Monday when the Mariners movers begin unloading the boxes filled with uniforms, training equipment, office materials and everything else needed to run a baseball club during its seven-week stay.

By the time pitchers and catchers report a week from Sunday (Feb. 13), all the gear will be in place at the team’s Peoria Sports Complex.

The first workout for pitchers and catchers will be Monday, Feb. 14. Position players will begin trickling in after that, with the rest of the squad due to report on Friday, Feb. 18 and the first full-squad workout under new manager Eric Wedge set for Feb. 19.

The annual Charity Game against the Padres kicks off the 32-game Spring Training schedule on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 12:05 p.m. PT (1:05 p.m. local time in Arizona).

You can get the Mariners full Spring schedule at this handy page that also includes sortable schedules for any day or any team in the Cactus League.

I’ll be heading down on Feb. 11, so you can catch my updates every day throughout Spring Training on Mariners.com as well as this blog. And be sure to follow me on Twitter at @gregjohns1 for the latest breaking news.

Felix/Cy Young bobblehead kicks off 2011 promotions

A Felix Hernandez/Cy Young bobblehead, tributes to the former Sonics franchise as well as the Mariners’ 116-win season in 2001 and, yes, a Franklin Gutierrez fly swatter highlight the giveaways and promotional events upcoming this season, as announced by the club Wednesday.

Felix Cy Young Bobblehead.jpgA celebration of the 10th anniversary of the franchise’s record-setting ’01 season will take place Saturday, July 16 when the Mariners face the Rangers. Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, John Olerud, Mark McLemore, Jeff Nelson, Bret Boone, Jamie Moyer and other members of the 116-win team will be on hand for a pregame ceremony. GM Pat Gillick, who will go into the Hall of Fame the following weekend, will also be on hand.

Additionally, the first 20,000 fans will receive a T-shirt with the 10th Anniversary logo of the 116-win campaign.

Then on July 29, the Mariners will salute the Sonics’ history with former players from the NBA franchise gathering pregame before the opening game of a series against Tampa Bay.

As for the always-popular giveaways, the first 20,000 fans at the season’s second home game (Saturday, April 9 against Cleveland) will receive a Felix bobblehead with the pitcher holding his Cy Young trophy.

There will also be an Ichiro bobblehead night on Friday, May 6, when the first 25,000 fans receive a replica of the All-Star right fielder atop a mini-tote board that fans can reset each day to keep track of his hits as he pursues a record 11th straight 200-hit season.

The Mariners are also promoting their return to the Northwest Green alternate jerseys, which will be worn on Monday and Friday home games this season. In that vein, the first 20,000 fans on Friday, June 3, will receive a “Go Green” train car.

On Friday, June 17, the first 20,000 fans will take home a green Ichiro T-shirt and on Friday, Aug. 26, the first 15,000 fans ages 21 and older will receive a green Mariners fleece blanket. The club is also encouraging fans to go green by wearing that color to Monday and Friday games.

As for the Gutierrez fly swatter? That one comes as a tribute to Dave Niehaus’ nickname of “Death to Flying Things” for the Gold Glove center fielder. Thus on Thursday, May 19, the first 20,000 fans will get a Gutierrez-shaped flyswatter.

Other highlights of the season’s promotional giveaways:

– Saturday, April 23: Salute to Armed Forces Night.

– Friday, May 27: Viva Las Vargas Night in tribute to pitcher Jason Vargas, with the first 10,000 fans receiving Elvis-style shades. Also includes prize giveaways that include a trip to Vegas.

– Saturday, June 18: King Felix Knit Cap Night for first 20,000 fans.

– Friday, July 1: Turn Back the Clock/’80s Night with Mariners and Padres wearing 1983 uniforms.

– Friday, Aug. 12: First 20,000 fans receive a T-shirt designed by Ichiro.

– Saturday, Sept. 17: Fan Appreciation Night with lots of prize giveaways including Holland America Lines cruises.

The full schedule of events for the upcoming season can be seen at www.mariners.com/promotions.

Single-game tickets for these and all games go on sale Saturday, March 12 at 10 a.m.

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