March 2011

Edgar back in uniform … for a couple days anyway

MartinezEdgar.JPGYup, that is Edgar Martinez wearing the Mariners blues again on Monday as he arrived in camp to help work with hitters who might want to pick the brain of the best right-handed hitter in club history.

Martinez watched batting practice and was talking to infielder Brendan Ryan as he walked off. He’ll also be on the Minor League fields during his four days in Peoria.

Dan Wilson is also here working with catchers and Jay Buhner is expected some point soon as well. No word yet on Ken Griffey Jr., though he’ll likely pop up at some point unannounced in typical Junior fashion.

Edgar said he’ll answer whatever questions come up from hitters looking for help, while his main points of emphasis will be on the mental approach to the game.

Always good to see the former stars in camp. Some guys just look good in a Mariners uniform and Edgar is at the top of that list.

Nate Robertson to undergo elbow surgery

The Mariners starting pitching race just was reduced by one with news that veteran lefty Nate Robertson will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his elbow Wednesday and be out for at least four weeks.

Robertson looked good in his first outing this spring, then struggled his past two appearances. Turns out he had some loose particles in his elbow that need to be cleaned out.

As a non-roster invitee, that’s a tough blow for the former Detroit Tigers starter. He obviously won’t be in the mix for the Opening Day roster and his future remains to be seen.

For the present, that leaves rookie Michael Pineda and veteran returners Luke French and David Pauley as the primary candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation. This assuming Erik Bedard stays on track as the No. 4 man behind Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister.

French and Pauley have both been good this spring, but it’s going to be hard to keep Pineda out of that spot unless the Mariners just really want to start him in Tacoma this year. 

Today’s lineups — ‘A’ and ‘B’ versions

Two games today for the Mariners as they’ve lined up a bonus “B” squad contest this morning against the Padres over on San Diego’s side of the Peoria Sports Complex in order to give more innings to the 30 pitchers still in camp.

Eric Wedge is going with a lineup that again looks like something close to what we’ll see on Opening Day in the 1:05 p.m. Cactus League game against the Cubs at Peoria Stadium.

He’s continuing to give Brendan Ryan a good look at second base. So even though Jack Wilson has the day off to rest his red-hot bat (he’s hitting .476 this spring), Ryan is at second today with Josh Wilson at short.

The versatile Adam Kennedy, making a good push to land a utility role, will play left field today in place of Milton Bradley, who also is hitting well and appears to be locking in on the starting job there. Michael Saunders gets a B start today as he’s working on an adjustment to his swing after getting off to a slow start this spring.

Also, Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner are expected to arrive today to help tutor in the Minor League camp, which is now fully underway. Dan Wilson was here yesterday. No word still on Ken Griffey Jr., who likely will just pop in at some point unannounced, as is his style.

The team is off tomorrow, though Erik Bedard will pitch in a Minor League contest on the backfields in order to stay in his regular turn. Then it’s Michael Pineda on Wednesday in a night game against the Brewers.

Here’s today’s lineups:

Cactus League vs. Cubs
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jack Cust DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Adam Kennedy LF
Brendan Ryan 2B
Josh Wilson SS
Adam Moore C
Doug Fister P

‘B’ game vs. Padres
Dustin Ackley 2B
Chris Gimenez 3B
Michael Saunders DH
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Mike Carp LF
Luis Rodriguez SS
Mike Wilson RF
Greg Halman CF
Steve Baron C
Aaron Laffey P

Doctors explain Gutierrez’s stomach issues

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who underwent tests two weeks ago on a lingering stomach problem, has been diagnosed with a “slow digestive tract” and should be fine now with medication and some dietary changes, team physician Mitch Storey said Sunday.

Gutierrez was bothered by stomach pains much of the second half of last season and when the problem returned last month, the Mariners sent him to Seattle for a battery of tests.

“We think we’ve made some definitive answers,” Storey said. “The bottom line is Franklin doesn’t have a fast digestive system and as a result would get stomach cramps and get bloated. As a result of the tests and conclusions we’ve made working with specialists, dieticians and Franklin on other dietary measures, he’s doing much better.

“We think we have the problem solved for now.”

Storey said tests for other more-significant problems came back negative.

“This is great news,” Storey said. “There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s not sick. This is just a simple thing.”

The Gold Glove outfielder will mostly need to monitor when and what he eats to control the problem.

“Some of it is food and how much he eats at one time,” Storey said. “In the past, because his digestion was slow, things would back up into his stomach and he’d get cramps that would sometimes last for a couple days. We fought that all year last year.

“With the combination of medication and dietary changes, he is doing much better. Since he’s back from Seattle and we’ve made these strategy changes, he has felt extremely good.”

Mariners hand out championship rings

ZduriencikMLs.JPGMore than 100 Minor League players from the Mariners system gathered on a back field in the team’s Peoria complex Sunday morning for the annual introductions from general manager Jack Zduriencik and staff.

This year’s gathering included a bonus, with everyone who played on the Tacoma Rainiers and Everett AquaSox last year receiving championship rings.

Tacoma captured the Pacific Coast League title, while Everett took the Northwest League championships.

Zduriencik spoke to the whole gathering and emphasized to the players that they’ll only be young once and to take advantage of this opportunity. He noted that last year’s Minor League group had very few off-field incidents and let the players they were all in this together.

Having a couple championship teams certainly helped reinforce the notion that the franchise is building from the ground up and good things are ahead.

Former catcher Dan Wilson is in camp today to help work with the Minor Leaguers. Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez will arrive Monday. And no word yet on that other guy, Ken Griffey Jr., who is expected to pop in at some point this spring as well.

Here’s a photo of pitcher Michael Pineda receiving his ring from Pedro Grifol, the director of minor league operations.

RingMLs.JPG

 

Medina, Beavan sent to Minor League camp

Right-handed pitchers Yoervis Medina and Blake Beavan were sent to the Minor League camp this morning, reducing the Mariners roster to 56 players.

Medina was optioned to Class A High Desert. Beavan, who is not on the 40-man roster, was re-assigned to the Minor League camp without a specific club destination.

Beavan, 22, pitched well in his first Cactus League start on Saturday, but is likely destined for Tacoma, where he finished up last season after being acquired in the Cliff Lee deal.

He was 1-0 with a 6.43 ERA in seven innings over three games this spring.

Medina, 22, pitched primarily for Class A Everett and Clinton last season. He’s thrown in just one inning of Cactus League action, giving up three hits and two runs.

 

Sunday lineups and how the pitching is lining up

After playing a lineup that looked pretty close to what we might see on Opening Day in Saturday’s 10-2 victory over the A’s, manager Eric Wedge will roll out more of the reserves today in Tempe against the Angels.

Wedge is taking a look again at Jack Wilson at shortstop paired with Brendan Ryan at second base, a combination I suspect we’ll see stick going forward. And Milton Bradley, swinging a good bat all spring, gets the start at DH today.

Thanks to the clocks being pushed ahead everywhere except Arizona, we’re back on the same time schedule as Seattle now. Which means today’s 1:05 p.m. game here actually starts at 1:05 p.m. in the Pacific Northwest as well.

The Mariners have their lone off day of the month tomorrow, though Erik Bedard will pitch a simulated game against Minor Leaguers — as Felix Hernandez did Saturday — in order to stay on schedule for what would put him in line to be the club’s fourth starter as the regular season opens.

And if you want to read the tea leaves — and remember, others can easily be substituted into this scenario — Michael Pineda is currently lined up to pitch on the season’s fifth day.

For this week, Jason Vargas pitches today against the Angels, Doug Fister goes Monday in Peoria against the Cubs, Bedard throws Tuesday, Pineda pitches Wednesday night against the Brewers in Peoria and Felix follows on Thursday night against Kansas City in Surprise.

Here is today’s full lineup against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana:

Jack Wilson SS
Brendan Ryan 2B
Milton Bradley DH
Ryan Langerhans RF
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Gabe Gross LF
Michael Saunders CF
Josh Wilson 3B
Adam Moore C
Jason Vargas P

On Felix, Baron, Liddi and other news of the day

BaronGim.JPGSteven Baron (right) talks to catcher Chris Gimenez as he comes to the plate the first time to face Felix Hernandez in Saturday’s Minor League game. (Photo by Greg Johns/MLB.com)

Interesting day in Peoria as we watched Felix Hernandez throw against a collection of young prospects and Minor League players in a morning tuneup on a practice field at the Mariners complex, then saw some of the young prospects come through nicely in a 10-2 win over the A’s at the stadium.

Justin Smoak got untracked with a 2-for-2 day with a home run, four RBIs and two walks, which is welcome news for a team that needs him to help out as a run producer.

Blake Beavan, one of four players acquired along with Smoak in the Cliff Lee deal, also showed well in his first Cactus League start. Dustin Ackley continued his recent surge with a triple in his only at-bat.

And, yeah, Milton Bradley is definitely swinging a hot bat as he went 2-for-2 with a hard-hit double down the first base line to raise his spring average to .389. Michael Saunders clearly has fallen behind in that competition for the starting left-field role and was playing in Felix’s simulated game, looking to find his stroke.

Steven Baron, the 20-year-old catcher in camp just to get experience, laced a pair of well-stroked doubles off Felix to the delight of onlookers. Baron is a bright youngster with a developing future, but he’s also Example A of how fans shouldn’t overreact to a couple hits in late-inning spring games or the Felix tuneup.

No, Baron won’t make the Major League club just because he touched up Felix twice. He was playing for the Everett AquaSox last year and is just figuring out the game. It would destroy him to move him up too quickly.

Same holds true with a guy like Alex Liddi. I’ve heard questions about how the Mariners could possibly have sent him down to the Minor League camp on Saturday as part of the first six cuts after he’d hit grand slams in back-to-back games earlier in the week.

The answer is that Liddi wasn’t going to make the big-league club this spring, he was in camp to help prepare for his future. He’s 22 years old and was playing Double A ball last year. He’s a nice-looking prospect, a big kid who is developing at third base and is certainly one to watch.

But the fact he cranked out a couple home runs in the late innings of Cactus League action doesn’t mean he’s ready to succeed at the Major League level on a daily basis. Give it time. Having him sit on the bench in Seattle wouldn’t be good for him this season and he’s not ready to be a starting third baseman in the big leagues.

It’s great to have these kind of prospects coming up. But rushing them to the big leagues to get overmatched too soon isn’t a recipe for success.

Smoak, 24, was one of the better prospects in baseball and he’s still struggling to adapt. He’ll get a chance to prove himself over the long haul this season. And Liddi will get the opportunity to take the next step at Tacoma this season and just be a phone call away.

Baron? He’s a couple phone calls. But you’ve got to like what you see.

On the news front this afternoon, the Mariners said Erik Bedard will throw a similar Minor League start to Felix’s on Tuesday, which is the team’s only off day this spring. That will keep him on schedule to be the club’s No. 4 starter if you want to project it out.

Franklin Gutierrez was also back in the lineup today after returning from Florida, where he visited his father-in-law, Luis Salazar, the Braves coach who was hit in the face with the wicked line drive while standing on the dugout rail earlier in the week.

And tomorrow brings a road trip to Tempe to face the Angels, with Jason Vargas getting his second spring start and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger making his first appearance after battling some back issues.

Speaking of relief, Chris Ray looked fine pitching an inning and a third in the Minor League game. He could be the primary challenger to Brandon League for the interim closer’s role, so it’ll be worth watching how he bounces back in his next few appearances.

That’s all for now. Time to go enjoy a gorgeous Peoria evening.

Liddi among six sent to Minor League camp

The Mariners made their first roster cuts of camp on Saturday, sending six players down to their Minor League camp.

Among the early departures are infielder Alex Liddi, who hit grand slams in back-to-back games this week. He and left-handed pitcher Mauricio Robles and outfielder Carlos Peguero were optioned to Triple A Tacoma.

Johermyn Chavez, another of the club’s promising outfield prospects, was optioned to Double A Jackson.

James Paxton, the left-handed pitcher just signed a week earlier, was re-assigned to the Minor League camp along with right-handed pitcher Yesmeiro Petit. Paxton and Petit were non-roster invitees to Major League camp, while the other four are on the 40-man roster.

Liddi hit .385 with eight RBIs, thanks to his pair of slams, in 13 at-bats. Peguero and Chavez each hit a home run. Chavez was batting .250 with one RBI in 16 at-bats and displayed a strong throwing arm in the outfield. Peguero hit .176 with two RBIs in 17 at-bats.

Robles pitched just once in Cactus League action, walking two in an adventurous inning that he escaped with no runs.

Petit gave up one run and three hits in 1 2/3 innings in two appearances, while Paxton just began throwing with his first bullpen session Friday after ending a nearly two-year holdout from professional ball.

The moves leave the Mariners with 58 players in Major League camp, 38 on the 40-man roster and 20 non-roster invitees.

Also this morning, Felix Hernandez will throw four innings against Minor League hitters at 10:15 a.m. PT on a practice field, with Yoervis Medina throwing three innings and Chris Ray one on the other team.

Here’s today’s lineup for the 12:05 p.m. game against Oakland at Peoria Stadium, which is about as close to a regular order as we’ve seen this regular season:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley LF
Jack Cust DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Adam Kennedy 2B
Jack Wilson SS
Josh Bard C
Blake Beavan P

Ichi

The latest news from Peoria on a busy Friday

PaxtonJames.JPGJames Paxton throws under the watchful eye of pitching coach Carl Willis on Friday. (Photo by Greg Johns/MLB.com)

Lots of things going on at Mariners camp today, including the debut of young James Paxton, the 6-foot-4 lefty who threw his first bullpen session since ending nearly a two-year holdout from pro ball.

Everyone from Jack Zduriencik on down gathered at the bullpen area adjacent to the team’s main practice field to watch the kid from Ladner, B.C.

Understandably, he bounced a few in the dirt — saying later he was still trying to iron out his release point on his changeup and breaking pitches. But Zduriencik and pitching coach Carl Willis both said they were duly impressed with his fastball location and general poise under the microscope.

Willis said there’ll likely be another bullpen session or two before any decision is made on when to toss Paxton out in a live batting practice or simulated game. Ultimately Paxton will end up in Minor League camp, which opens this weekend with the first full-squad workouts.

Manager Eric Wedge said after Friday afternoon’s 5-5 tie with the Indians that cuts from the Major League camp would be coming “sooner than later,” so you can figure the current 64 will begin getting whittled down in the next few days.

Lots of youngsters got long looks Friday as the Mariners went with mostly a “B” squad in the 10-inning tie. Matt Tuiasosopo, who doesn’t seem to have a logical fit on the big club at this point, continued making his usual Spring push with a 2-for-3 day that raised his average to .462 (6 for 13).

One of his hits was a ringing double off the base of the center-field wall. Tuiasosopo is now focusing strictly on first base and left field, with his action Friday coming in left.

Dustin Ackley also got a good run, making his third start of the spring and playing all 10 innings. He wound up 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs scored and a stolen base.

Odd line  of the day went to Johermyn Chavez, who was 1-for-2 … while getting hit by pitches three different times.

Bad blood somewhere?

“Just one of those fluke days,” Wedge said. “The last one was a breaking ball and he got clipped. A couple other balls ran up and in on him. It was just one of those days. It’s one of the reasons you love the game. You just never know what the hell is going to happen out there.”

The Mariners will be back at it Saturday in Peoria against the A’s with Blake Beavan on the mound. The 6-7 Beavan is another of the interesting young — and large — prospects.

Felix Hernandez will throw four innings against Minor League hitters earlier in the morning on one of the practice fields, with reliever Chris Ray — testing a sore calf — also getting an inning in that practice game.

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