June 2011

Larry Bernandez craze sweeping the nation … kind of

The new Larry Bernandez T-shirt released this week by Nike and now available in Mariners Team Stores.

Due to popular demand, here’s a photo of the Larry Bernandez T-shirt that Nike has come out with. And, yeah, it’s available in Mariners Team Stores for $22.

Second baseman Jack Wilson and catcher Chris Gimenez liked the shirts so much that they … OK, Wilson … bought one for every Mariners teammate and coach yesterday.

“He makes more money than me,” Gimenez noted with a chuckle.

Gimenez liked his so much that he wore it out on for batting practice yesterday before pulling on his official BP jersey once on the field. Here’s the story I wrote on that yesterday for Mariners.com.

As noted in that story, the Larry Bernandez shirts are not to be confused with the yellow “King’s Court” T-shirts being worn in the new cheering section for Felix Hernandez on days that he pitches at Safeco Field. Those King’s Court shirts are only available to fans who purchase seats in that section down the left-field line, which is quickly becoming a cool place to be.

The section was rocking last night, with lots of chants and cheers, almost a UW “Dawg Pack” type atmosphere. Hernandez acknowledged the group with a fist pump and clearly is enjoying the vocal following.

“I was disappointed last game [against the Yankees], because I wanted to win in front of my ‘King’s Court,'” Hernandez said after last night’s 8-2 win over the Rays. “But today was good. They enjoyed it out there. Now, we get Larry’s T-shirt. Weird things here.”

Gimenez is among those getting a kick out of the whole wave. He calls Felix “Larry” every chance he gets and couldn’t wait to show Bernandez, err, Hernandez, his new shirt yesterday.

“Between this and his yellow shirts, he’s creating his own clothing line here,” said Gimenez. “He can call it ‘Larry Wear.'”

As for the growing legend of the Bernandez TV commercial, not even the star himself expected that to take off the way it has.

“No, I never thought that,” Hernandez laughed. “Now, Larry is very popular, you know?”

Yeah, we are starting to know. And Gerry, his left-handed alter ego, can’t be far behind.

Figgins back in lineup tonight after brief respite

Veteran third baseman Chone Figgins is back at third base and batting eighth tonight against Tampa Bay after a two-game hiatus by manager Eric Wedge.

Figgins, in an 0-for-22 skid and hitting just .190, will get a return shot against Rays right-hander James Shields. That’s no easy task, but Figgins does have a nice track record against Shields, having hit .370 (10 for 27) with three doubles.

Wedge would love to see a little of that tonight, obviously, as the Mariners are coming off a lackluster 2-1 loss to Baltimore when they totaled just five singles while wasting another strong start by Michael Pineda.

Though Figgins has been a lightning rod for fans with his slow start, it’s worth noting that his replacement — Luis Rodriguez — hasn’t exactly lit things up either. Rodriguez is hitting just .167 in 66 at-bats this season. Wedge’s best bet is to get Figgins squared away and he’ll see if a couple days off helped.

The best way to do that is to work him in at the bottom of the order, especially with Brendan Ryan hitting well at No. 2, and watch what happens for a bit.

Worth noting: Figgins was hitting just .198 as of May 29 last year, but played much better the rest of the way.

While fans are also clamoring for the promotion of the red-hot Mike Carp from Tacoma, the Mariners are sticking with Carlos Peguero in left field for now. No roster moves at this point today and doesn’t sound like anything imminent on that front.

Should be a good matchup tonight with Felix Hernandez against Shields. Hernandez is 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in seven career starts against the Rays and the Mariners are 6-0 when Felix starts against Tampa at Safeco Field. He’s 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in six starts against the Rays in Seattle, but has received only nine total runs of support.

The Mariners will try to produce a little more tonight to help out their Cy Young winner, but Shields comes in with a 5-3 record and 2.15 ERA, so it won’t be easy.

Here’s tonight’s full lineup for Seattle:

51  Ichiro Suzuki (L)     RF
26  Brendan Ryan          SS
17  Justin Smoak (S)      1B
29  Jack Cust (L)         DH
21  Franklin Gutierrez    CF
4  Adam Kennedy (L)      2B
30  Miguel Olivo          C
9  Chone Figgins (S)     3B
8  Carlos Peguero (L)    LF
34  Felix Hernandez       RHP