March 2011

Ichiro says he hasn’t heard yet from family in Japan

Ichiro Suzuki declined to speak with reporters Friday morning about the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Thursday night, saying through interpreter Antony Suzuki that he doesn’t have enough information to comment at this time.

Ichiro said he has not been able to contact his family or ascertain their situation.

“We don’t know yet because cell phones and power are down. There are 4 million people without power in Tokyo,” Ichiro said through Suzuki. “I have not got hold of my family yet.”

Antony Suzuki’s wife is currently traveling in Japan, but she is OK.

Hide Sueyoshi, the Mariners director of Minor League and International Administration, is a native of Osaka, Japan. He was shaken by the overnight news from his homeland.

“I’ve talked to my mother and friends in Tokyo,” Sueyoshi said. “I tried to reach my friend in the Sendai area who works for the Rakuten Eagles, but I could not reach him at all. The phone lines are just too busy, so I hope they are OK.”

Sueyoshi said he went through a big earthquake while living in Osaka in ’95, while Ichiro was in Kobe at the same time.

“I experienced that earthquake, so anytime it happens it’s tough for me to see,” he said. “I just hope all the people are OK. I know it’s a lot of confusion.”

Sueyoshi said the Rakuten Eagles are in Spring Training in the area of the quake.

“They have started exhibition games though, so I don’t know where they are,” he said. “They were playing yesterday, but I could not reach them. The phones are just too busy.”

Friday a.m. news and lineups from Peoria

Mostly a backup lineup going today for the Mariners when they travel to Goodyear to face the Indians in a 12:05 p.m. game.

Michael Pineda is on the mound and will pitch three innings today, which will make things interesting. But manager Eric Wedge is giving most of his regulars the day off, with Jack Cust and Michael Saunders the only normal starters, though you might toss Adam Kennedy into the mix since he’s battling for the starting second base job.

Kennedy is playing first today, however, as Dustin Ackley gets his third start of the spring.

In other news today, we’re waiting for Ichiro’s arrival to see if everything is OK with his family in Japan following last night’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Hide Sueyoshi, the team’s director of minor league and international administration, said his own family is OK but he was shaken by the sights of the damage in his homeland, where he went through a similar quake in ’95.

Ichiro is one of many veterans not scheduled to make the trip to Goodyear today, but he will take part in this morning’s workout.

In other baseball news, pitching coach Carl Willis said Saturday’s minor-league game with Felix Hernandez will go four innings on the Mariners main practice field. Hernandez will pitch all four for one team, while Yoervis Medina will go three innings and closer candidate Chris Ray — working back from a slight calf strain — will get the other inning.

Here’s today’s lineup against the Indians:

Josh Wilson SS
Luis Rodriguez 3B
Adam Kennedy 1B
Jack Cust DH
Matt Tuiasosopo LF
Michael Saunders CF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Chris Gimenez C
Johermyn Chavez RF
Michael Pineda P

Thoughts from Peoria as Mariners make it four straight

Lots to like today for Mariners fans at Peoria Stadium as Erik Bedard backed up his first two impressive starts with another solid outing and young Alex Liddi smoked a grand slam for the second straight day as Seattle won its fourth straight with a 10-5 win over the Angels.

A couple asterisks, as always, in a Cactus League game. The Angels had a split-squad day and didn’t send their “A” team. And Liddi’s blast came against Ryan Chaffee, a 22-year-old prospect who was playing High A ball last season.

LiddiAlexMug.jpgBut Liddi himself is a 22-year-old who was in Double A last year. He’s looked good this camp, good enough that the Mariners moved Matt Tuiasosopo out of the third-base position and have him focused on first base and left field.

That leaves Liddi as the primary backup to Chone Figgins in most of these spring games, though in the regular season that role likely will fall to Adam Kennedy or Brendan Ryan in a utility role.

Liddi definitely is emerging as one of the up-and-comers to watch, however, and at 6-4, 220, he’s an imposing figure at third base.

Bedard, meanwhile, is more of a factor for this season. A huge factor, indeed, if he continues building on what he’s done so far this spring. The veteran lefty acknowledged Thursday that he feels like he did back in 2006-07 before his shoulder problems began.

And how good was he then?

“He was one of the best left-handers in the league when he was at his best in Baltimore,” said manager Eric Wedge. “The only thing that’s gotten in his way the last couple years were the injuries..He feels good and we’re hoping he can stay there.”

Another guy making a strong case for himself is Ryan Langerhans, who is fighting for the fourth outfield spot. Langerhans ripped a double off the high batter’s eye wall in center field for the second time this week on Thursday. His 2-for-3 day puts him at .375 for the spring.

Gabe Gross, another candidate for that role, has struggled at the plate so far, but emerged Thursday with a two-run home run off starter Matt Palmer.

Jack Wilson, getting his third start this week at second base, didn’t see a lot of action in the field but continued swinging a hot bat with a double and walk in three at-bats. His average stands at a healthy .467.

Brendan Ryan hasn’t hit as well (.158), but in fairness he’s ripped some hard-hit balls right at people and been robbed of hits at least a few times by nice defensive plays. Ryan himself clearly is an excellent shortstop and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next three weeks.

Now comes Friday and another chance to see big Michael Pineda pitch. The Mariners let it be known today that their official height-weight of the 22-year-old has been amended from an original 6-5, 245 pounds to the now correct 6-7, 260.

Yeah, he’s big. And he’ll be going against the Indians tomorrow at 12:05 p.m. at Goodyear in another opportunity to see just how ready he is to make the jump to the big leagues.

Gutierrez flies to Florida to be with injured father-in-law

GutierrezFranklinMug.jpgMariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez flew to Florida on Thursday with his wife, Vivian, to visit her father in the hospital after he was struck in the face by a line drive while coaching for the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

 Gutierrez’s father-in-law is Luis Salazar, a former Major League infielder who suffered multiple facial fractures when a ball hit by Brian McCann caught him flush in the face while standing on the top step in the first-base dugout.

Salazar, 54, was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center. He is a Minor League coach for the Braves.

Gutierrez will miss the next two Mariners games, but is expected to rejoin the club Friday night. The Gold Glove outfielder missed several days of camp earlier when he flew to Seattle to have a lingering stomach issue checked out, but has been playing regularly ever since and has hit .308 in 13 at-bats.

Here’s the latest on Salazar’s situation from Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

Thursday morning news from Peoria

As expected, manager Eric Wedge will give Jack Wilson another look at second base today — this time in combination with shortstop Brendan Ryan — when the Mariners host the Angels at 12:05 p.m. PT in Peoria.

Wilson said Wednesday he’d get another game at second and then be flopped back to shortstop for about three games as Wedge continues seeing what he likes in the middle infield.

Milton Bradley is back in the lineup today, batting third and playing left field. Bradley was originally scheduled to make an appearance with the Los Angeles city attorney on Wednesday in regard to the offseason incident involving an alleged verbal threat against his wife, but that has been rescheduled for March 30 when the Mariners are in L.A. to face the Dodgers in an exhibition game.

Erik Bedard makes his third start of the spring today and go three innings. He’s yet to give up a hit or run in three innings, with just one walk and six strikeouts, so today is another chance to see how well he’s throwing as he continues his comeback.

Bedard is wisely low-keying things at the moment. He knows as well as anyone that spring games are just spring games. But there’s no question that the Mariners — and Bedard — have to be pleased with the way he’s throwing so far.

Also set to throw today are Josh Lueke, Aaron Laffey, Jose Flores, Denny Batista, Edward Paredes and Chris Smith.

Michael Pineda will be on the hill Friday when the Mariners travel to Goodyear to face the Indians, while fellow rookie Blake Beavan makes his first start Saturday in Peoria against the A’s.

Felix Hernandez is also set to go Saturday, but he’ll pitch a Minor League game on the Mariners practice field in order to avoid pitching again against the AL West rival A’s, who he’ll start the season against on April 1 on Opening Night in Oakland.

Yoervis Medina will also throw in the Minor League game.

That’s about all the news I’ve got this morning. Today’s outing is not being broadcast, but you can catch Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s games on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki DH
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Ryan Langerhans CF
Gabe Gross RF
Jack Wilson 2B
Brendan Ryan SS
Adam Moore C
Erik Bedard P

Back-to-back Jack, sort of, in Mariners power display

WilsonJackHR.jpgJack Wilson celebrates with Michael Saunders after hitting a home run Wednesday against the Dodgers. Jack Cust (below) followed suit with his first blast two innings later. (AP Photos/Nam Y. Huh)

No home runs for a week? No worries Wednesday for the Mariners as Jack Wilson and Jack Cust both muscled up and then young third baseman Alex Liddi cranked a grand slam in a 9-4 victory over the Dodgers in Glendale.

As fun as it was to see Wilson whack one over the fence and young Liddi to deliver, the one that mattered most was Cust’s blast off Wilkin De La Rose. Cust is a guy the Mariners are going to need to deliver in the middle of the lineup this season to take some pressure off everyone, particularly youngsters like Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders.

CustHRDodgers.jpgThe long ball was Cust’s first and he went into the inning with one RBI in his first 19 Cactus League at-bats. The dry-humored designated hitter noted that his first bomb came after Wilson — who has six home runs in the past three seasons — had already cleared the fence.

“If I hit as many home runs as Jack, we’ll have a great year,” Cust said, trying not to roll his eyes as his teammate stood nearby.

Cust, who hit 97 home runs over the last four years in Oakland, acknowledged it felt good to bust one. The Mariners had gone a week without a long ball and while it’s early, those things tend to make one wonder about a team that struggled to score runs last year as well.

“You’re constantly searching for that rhythm and timing,” he said. “The last couple games I haven’t felt great. Usually I need a lot of at-bats to get into a groove. Playing two games in a row is nice, to know where your feet and hands are at and where you need to be.

“Any day you hit a home run is a good day,” Cust said.

The burly DH said he caught a fastball up and in. He also caught some grief from teammate Adam Kennedy, who noted that all of the left-handers hits have come off lefties this spring. According to Kennedy’s reasoning, left-handers can’t locate the ball as well early and that allows batters to pull off their pitches and still hit the fastball.

“That made me feel good, like I really accomplished something,” Cust said with his wry style. “I guess you have to be a good hitter to hit righties in spring, so I’ll just keep trying. But, yeah, a home run off anybody is good. Whether they throw with their feet or whatever, if you hit it out, it feels good.”

Today’s lineup for Dodgers game and other news

The Mariners head to Glendale to face the Dodgers today at 12:05 p.m. PT and will bring a lineup featuring most of their starters.

Manager Eric Wedge is giving Justin Smoak the day off, with Adam Kennedy playing first, and Josh Wilson is filling in at shortstop while Jack Wilson gets his second start of the spring at second base.

Wedge has watched Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan battle it out at short and now wants to see how the second base situation plays out, with Kennedy also a prime contender there.

The Mariners would like to start seeing some offensive production from somewhere as the bats have been quiet much of the spring. They’ll take on Dodgers right-hander Jon Garland today.

Doug Fister makes his third start for the Mariners, with David Pauley to follow. Brandon League is also scheduled for an inning today and it’ll be interesting to see how he does as the interim closer’s competition starts to play out.

Chris Ray, one of the candidates for that role, will throw an inning in a brief simulated game this morning on the practice field.

Erik Bedard goes tomorrow against the Angels in Peoria, with Michael Pineda and Nate Robertson set for Friday against the Indians in Goodyear.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jack Cust DH
Adam Kennedy 1B
Jack Wilson 2B
Michael Saunders LF
Josh Bard C
Josh Wilson SS
Doug Fister P

A near pitching-perfect afternoon in Peoria

CustBatLose.jpgJack Cust loses the grip on his bat before it sailed way back in the stands during the second inning of Tuesday’s game against the Giants. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

If you like pitching and a nice tidy 2 hour, 28 minute ballgame, Tuesday had everything for Mariners fans at Peoria Stadium as Seattle beat San Francisco 1-0.

OK, we won’t talk about the offense on a day the Marines scratched out three hits against a trio of Giants pitchers who weren’t named Lincecum, Cain or Bumgarner. Ryan Vogelsong, a non-roster invitee likely destined for Triple A, pitched 3 2/3 innings of two-hit ball as the Giants’ starter.

This wasn’t exactly the World Champion offensive lineup for the Giants either, but San Francisco did have Buster Posey, Miguel Tejeda and Aubrey Huff in action and still got shut out by seven Mariners hurlers.

Jason Vargas was impressive in his first Cactus League action of the spring, facing just 10 batters over his three innings of work.

You also had to like the perfect sixth by Tom Wilhelmsen with a pair of strikeouts and a 1-2-3 eighth by Manny Delcarmen, who looked better than he had in previous outings.

The only pitcher to struggle for Seattle was 21-year-old lefty Mauricio Robles, who gave up a two-out double to Nate Schierholtz in the seventh and then couldn’t throw strikes. But after walking the bases loaded and falling behind 2-0 on third baseman Ryan Rohlinger, he regrouped and struck Rohlinger out on a full-count fastball.

Offensively this day boiled down to a fourth-inning walk by Justin Smoak, followed by a run-scoring triple high off the batter’s eye in center field by Ryan Langerhans off Vogelsong.

About the only other action on the day was when Jack Cust lost the grip on his bat, sending it arcing about 125 feet in the air into the stands well behind the visiting dugout in Peoria Stadium in the second inning (see photo above).

Ichiro and Chone Figgins didn’t play Tuesday and Milton Bradley took part in a B game in Glendale against the Dodgers in which he hit a home run, as did Dustin Ackley and Alex Liddi. But the Mariners have now gone seven straight games without a long ball in Cactus League play.

Is that a concern? For a team that couldn’t score runs last year, yeah, it’s a troublesome trend even this early in spring. But on Tuesday, a 1-0 win improved the Mariners to 5-4-1 in Cactus League action and they’ll take that for now.

Look who’s in center field in ‘B’ game today

Today’s lineups are out and lots of names with a “B” game going against the Dodgers this morning at 9 a.m. PT in Glendale as well as the Cactus League contest against the Giants at 12:05 p.m. at Peoria Stadium.

Here’s an interesting ‘B” squad that includes Milton Bradley in center field.

B game

Dustin Ackley 2B
Adam Kennedy LF
Milton Bradley CF
Mike Carp DH
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Mike Wilson RF
Alex Liddi 3B
Luis Rodriguez SS
Alex Baron C
Luke French P

A game

Josh Wilson SS
Brendan Ryan 2B
Justin Smoak 1B
Jack Cust LF
Ryan Langerhans CF
Michael Saunders DH
Gabe Gross RF
Matt Mangini 3B
Adam Moore C
Jason Vargas P

Dynamic duo make their lone spring showing

It was fun seeing Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda pitch back-to-back today in Phoenix as the present and the future were on display in the Mariners’ 6-3 win over the A’s at Municipal Stadium.

But don’t plan on that double dip happening again as Eric Wedge says Pineda will be brought back Friday on three day’s rest this week in order to get the two hard-throwing right handers pitching on different days the rest of spring.

Felix will follow on Saturday, though I suspect the Mariners will put him in a “B” game that day rather than face the A’s again … given they don’t want their AL West rivals getting too comfortable against him prior to an Opening Day rematch on April 1.

But Pineda needs to get on an every-fifth-day schedule as well, so he was limited to two innings today so he can be brought back against the Indians Friday and then begin his own five-day format.

Hernandez gave up five hits, including some pretty well-stroked balls, in 2 2/3 innings and threw enough pitches (53) that Wedge took him out before his planned three frames. But given it was his first Cactus League game, none of that should be unexpected.

Pineda wasn’t perfect this time either, giving up his first hit and two walks of the spring. So he is human. But he’s a very large human and his four scoreless innings thus far would indicate he’s fitting in fairly well.

The only pitching downside Monday was Rule 5 guy Jose Flores giving up a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Andy LaRoche on an absolute blast to deep center. But the Mariners did get two strong innings from Josh Lueke, who is a guy that seems to be figuring more and more in the bullpen mix.

Offensively the Mariners totaled just six hits and took advantage of some A’s wildness — six walks — to score their six runs. Chris Gimenez, filling in for an ill Adam Moore behind the plate, went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.

Jack Wilson made his first start at second base and turned an early ground ball into an adventure when he casually underhanded a throw wide of first base. But Mike Carp made the tag to save that play.

Young prospect Johermyn Chavez, replacing Ichiro in right field for the final five innings, threw out a runner at second base.

That’s all for today. The Mariners have two games Tuesday, their Cactus League contest against the Giants in Peoria and a “B” contest against the Dodgers that will give some pitchers — including Luke French — a chance to get some extra action.

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