June 2012

Here are post-game comments from frustrated Wedge

Mariners skipper Eric Wedge finally had enough after watching his team manage just two hits in a 5-0 loss to the Red Sox tonight as veteran sinkerballer Aaron Cook rolled through a shutout on just 81 pitches.

Wedge has preached patience with his young crew most of this season, but hit the tipping point Friday after his team’s batting average at Safeco Field dropped to .198 in 36 home games.

Here’s Wedge, or listen to him directly by clicking on the video clip above:

“We were horrible tonight. We stunk up the joint tonight. Nothing more to say. Eighty pitch complete game, not to take anything away from that guy, but can’t make it that easy for him. Just brutal.”

 “It’s obvious. Hell, it’s obvious to you guys, it should be obvious to those guys. It’s a step back today for me, offensively, and that’s hard as hell to do the way we’ve been swinging the bats here at home. I’m tired of watching. I’m patient and I believe nine times out of 10 you’re rewarded for patience. But there also has to be a sense of urgency with every player in that room. You got to be able to walk that line.

“We’ve got too many people not doing it right now. We got maybe a couple, three guys, swinging the bat OK right now. That’s it. Out of what, thirteen or whatever it is? We just stunk up the joint tonight offensively. I take nothing away against their pitcher because you know what, it’s a hell of an accomplishment, an 80 pitch complete game in the big leagues.”

Wedge sounded as if changes could be expected, though admitting there weren’t many options at the moment with Franklin Gutierrez going on the DL and Michael Saunders sick with the flu tonight.

“We’ll keep pushing. We’ll find it. It’s my job to make sure we find it, that’s why I’m here. I have no plans of failing here. We’re going to figure this thing out. We’re going to hit at home like we hit on the road. We’re not there yet, not even close yet, but it will happen. Whether it’s the same guys in the room or not, that’s yet to be determined, that’s up to them, but they’re not getting it done now.”

Safeco Field as a tough place to hit? Wedge wasn’t buying it.

“I’m tired about all the bullshit with Safeco and everything. They have to take full responsibility, as I do for not getting them where they need to be here offensively just yet. That’s my job, coaches job. Rest assured, we’ll get them there. It’s up to them if they want to be a part of this or not.”

Wedge said it wasn’t the quick at-bats that bothered him, but the inability to make anything happen or make any adjustments.

“I don’t mind swinging early, but get after it. Hell man, I don’t mind swinging early, but let’s go, kick up some dirt, man. I don’t want pull-side ground balls. What the hell is that? I want you to get after it if you’re going to get after it. I don’t mind you swinging, but square it up. Lasso one the opposite way or pull-side depending on the pitch, but get after it.”

And the bottom line …

“These guys have to do it. They’re the ones that are here, they’re the ones that we want to get it done with. Obviously we’ve got other guys that will be here at some point in time, too. But these are the guys we’ve got to get going. And they’ve got to do it.

“Every one of those guys needs to come to the ballpark with a little bit more of an edge to them and understanding just what the hell’s going on and what they need to do to put up better at-bats, be more productive and come here and be a good offensive club at home. Everybody’s got to do their job.”

Guti to 7-day DL, Iwakuma to start Monday

Lots of news from Eric Wedge here in Friday’s pregame chat. Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was placed on the seven-day “concussion” disabled list and the team recalled right-handed reliever Steve Delabar from Triple-A Tacoma to take his place on the roster.

Gutierrez was hit in the right side of the face on a pickoff throw by Boston’s Franklin Morales in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 1-0  victory and spent the night in the hospital for precautionary reasons, manager Eric Wedge said.

By the seven-day DL rules, a player must miss at least the full week. If Gutierrez isn’t deemed ready to return at that point, he could be extended another seven days.

The Mariners are short-handed in their outfield for Friday’s game with the Red Sox as Michael Saunders was sent home earlier in the day due to flu-like illness. That leaves Ichiro Suzuki in right field, Casper Wells in center and utility man Chone Figgins in left field for the 7:10 p.m. game.

Wedge said utility infielder .Munenori Kawasaki would be the fourth outfielder, if needed.

Delabar was recalled in order to bolster Seattle’s bullpen, as veteran Kevin Millwood will have his next start pushed back due to a sore groin muscle and long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma will make his first Major League start in his place Monday against the Orioles.

Millwood threw this afternoon and seems to be doing fine, but the club wants to be careful with him and will give him a start in Oakland just before the All-Star break.

Saunders out with flu as Mariners shy on outfielders

The Mariners outfield is suddenly a little shy on healthy bodies as Michael Saunders is sidelined today due to illness, or “flu-like symptoms” as reported by the club.

With Franklin Gutierrez out as well after suffering a slight concussion when he was hit in the head on a pickoff throw by Franklin Morales last night, that leaves the Mariners with just three able-bodied outfielders. One of those is utility man Chone Figgins, who will start in left field tonight.

Casper Wells, one of last night’s heroes in the 1-0 win over the Red Sox, will play center field tonight. He’s suddenly a very valuable man since being recalled from Tacoma two weeks ago.

We should learn more about Gutierrez’s situation shortly. If he’s going to miss some time, it’s possible under MLB’s new rules to put him on a seven-day “concussion” disabled list designed to protect players who suffer head injuries. Not sure if that will be necessary, but it’s an option if necessary. Should know more after we hear from Eric Wedge this afternoon.

Here’s tonight’s full lineup against Boston right-hander Aaron Cook (1-1, 9.39 ERA):

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Casper Wells CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero DH
John Jaso C
Justin Smoak 1B
Dustin Ackley 2B
Chone Figgins LF
Brendan Ryan SS

Hector Noesi RHP


Felix can make All-Star selection easier with strong start tonight against Red Sox

Pretty good night for baseball in the Puget Sound tonight, with lots of buzz about the Triple-A pitching matchup in Tacoma with Danny Hultzen making his Cheney Stadium debut and first home start since being promoted, with Jamie Moyer expected to be on the hill for Las Vegas in a classic “past vs. future” matchup.

And there’s also a pretty fair scene at Safeco Field with Felix Hernandez taking on the Red Sox in his final showing before All-Star teams are announced Sunday.

There’s been much debate about who the Mariners All-Star representative will be, but it seems to me the logical choice will be Hernandez, particularly if he wins tonight. That would put his record at 6-5, which looks a lot better than 5-6 when it comes to these things.

But more importantly with Hernandez, he’s returned to his dominant self the past two outings — allowing two runs over 14 innings to the Giants and Padres — and could add to that with another strong showing against the Red Sox.

Let’s fact it. There isn’t a strong competitor among the Mariners position players. Kyle Seager deserves to be part of the conversation and his 46 RBIs are strong. But he’s hitting just .256 now and there are a lot of good third base canddiates in the American League.

Ichiro has the name recognition and if he’d announced this was his final season, I could see him getting selected in deference to his outstanding career. But at .276 with a .304 on-base percentage, 10 stolen bases, 24 RBIs, none of that screams “All-Star.”

If it comes down to the players and managers vote in determing which Mariners player to add, it’s seems pretty certain that Felix carries considerable respect among his peers and will be the leading vote-getter in that group.

And despite a rough stretch during which he went 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA in six starts, he’s 5-5 with a 3.36 ERA overall with 101 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings, with tonight’s start to add on before selections are announced Sunday morning.

He’s currently fifth in the AL in strikeouts, sixth in innings, 11th in ERA among qualified starters.

If he adds on another solid start tonight, it certainly won’t hurt. And with each team needing to have one All-Star, he seems the logical selection. The other pitcher with deserving numbers is Charlie Furbush, who has been crazy good in his role this season and is 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 innings. But it’s rare for a non-closer to get selected as a reliever, particularly a guy who just now is working into more of a late-inning setup role.

A year ago, Felix was selected to the team, but then replaced from the 33-man active All-Star squad because he pitched on the final Sunday before the All-Star game. This year, if the Mariners stay in their five-man rotation through the All-Star break, he wouldn’t start that Sunday.

He could start that Sunday game if the Mariners choose to keep him on an every-fifth day plan, however, and skip somebody else when they have an off day on July 5. But that seems unlikely, particularly if they know that doing so would keep Hernandez out of the All-Star game.

So we’ll see what happens tonight, but this seems like a big night for Felix as he tries to lock down the third All-Star selection of his career.

Guti showing increased strength since return

While the Mariners struggled through a 2-4 road trip to Arizona and San Diego, one of the positives emerging is the return of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

The 2010 Gold Glove winner went 7-for-19 with two home runs and five RBIs on the trip and is hitting .290 in his first nine games back off the disabled list. Obviously there is considerable caution is pronouncing Gutierrez as being “back” after his lengthy run of health problems, but it’s been encouraging to see him playing well and showing much better power at the plate after last season’s difficulties.

Gutierrez had Sunday off as manager Eric Wedge continues bringing him along by playing about two of every three games, but he’s back in the lineup Monday night against the A’s and is getting close to being ready to play every day.

“I like the way he’s looked,” Wedge said. “We’re obviously being careful with him, but his at-bats have been good, he’s moving around in the outfield, his arm is coming back pretty good. He’s getting more comfortable. We just have to keep ramping him up to where he can play every day.

“But his timing has been pretty good coming back, all things considered. And he’s playing with some strength to his game, which I like, too. It’s been great to see. We just have to work to stay ahead of it because obviously he’s a heckuva player when he’s healthy.”

Here is tonight’s full Mariners lineup against A’s lefty Tommy Milone (7-5, 4.13 ERA):

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saunders LF
Miguel Olivo C
Dustin Ackley 2B
Brendan Ryan SS

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

Seager sits Sunday with sore calf; Figgins in at third

After fouling a ball off his calf during Saturday night’s game at San Diego, Kyle Seager got a day off Sunday as manager Eric Wedge put Chone Figgins in the starting lineup for the first time since June 12.

Seager has been excellent this year at third base, but he committed two uncharacteristic errors in Friday’s series opener against the Padres and is 0-for-9 the past two nights as his batting average dropped to .259.

But Wedge said he’s happy with the way Seager has been swinging and he just hasn’t gotten any breaks the last two nights.

“He clipped his calf pretty good on that foul ball and is still feeling it pretty good,” Wedge said. “Kyle will be available to pinch hit.”

Gutierrez was given the day off, as expected, in the day game after a night contest as Wedge continues to be cautious with him coming off his injury problems. Jesus Montero also gets the day off so John Jaso can get a game behind the plate.

“We’re just trying to keep everybody as sharp as we can as we work through this Interleague play,” Wedge said. “Obviously we get the DH back tomorrow.”

Figgins  is 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs against Edinson Volquez, today’s Padres starters.

Here’s today’s full lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
John Jaso C
Casper Wells LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saunders CF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Chone Figgins 3B
Brendan Ryan SS
Hector Noesi P

It’s time to see exactly what Mariners have on offense

Granted, it’s a three-game series between the last place team in the AL West and the last place team in the NL West. But it feels like there’s something to prove this weekend for the Mariners in San Diego.

For a young Seattle squad, it’s time to begin taking steady strides forward. The offense has hit better on the road and is coming off back-to-back games in Arizona where they put up 22 runs. But that was at the launching pad of Chase Field. This weekend brings less-friendly Petco Park, a scene similar to Safeco where the struggles have been apparent.

But there’s no lousy weather this weekend to blame. Temperatures will be in the low 70s here all three days and it’s a glorious blue-sky Friday morning right now. The Mariners need to carry their offensive road success over into this weekend and begin building some momentum for a stretch where they’ll play 23 of their next 33 games at home after this series.

This team’s young hitters need to prove to themselves, as much as anyone, that they can succeed in parks like Petco and Safeco. It’s not about home runs, it’s about line drives in the gaps and playing good situational baseball and taking advantage of opportunities.

The Padres swept the Mariners last week in Seattle in a three-game series that cut the legs out from under the promising road series to Texas, Chicago and Anaheim that preceeded that homestand. This weekend’s series can help get some of that back.

It’ll be Kevin Millwood, Felix Hernandez and Hector Noesi on the mound for the Mariners. But the real test, in my mind, will be the Mariners offense. We’ve seen spurts of what Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak can do over the past year.

It’s worth remembering that Ackley didn’t get called up to Seattle until June 17 last year. Seager made his Major League debut on July 7. Montero didn’t start with the Yankees until Sept. 1. All those guys are a year or less in the big leagues.

So, yes, there is a learning curve and growing pains, which explains some of the offensive ups and downs this season. But it’s time to begin building consistency and confidence in that core group so the Mariners will know exactly what they have — or don’t have — going forward as they await the arrival of their top young pitching prospects to complete the picture in the next year or so.

Oliver Perez joins Mariners bullpen

Interesting move by the Mariners today in bringing left-handed reliever Oliver Perez up from Triple-A Tacoma and sending Steve Delabar back down after just one game.

Perez, 30, has been remaking himself as a reliever after a roller-coaster career with the Mets during which he went 25-17 in 2007-08, signed a big deal to stay in New York and then struggled mightily and was eventually released before the 2011 season with $12 million still owed on his contract.

Perez came to Mariners as a non-roster invitee this spring and showed enough to land in Tacoma, but his contract had a clause where he could request his release if he wasn’t on the Major League club by June 1.

The Mariners have decided to take a look at him now to see exactly what they’ve got after he pitched relatively well for Tacoma. Delabar originally was sent down to work on his slider so he’d have a secondary pitch to keep hitters off his fastball. He was recalled on Wednesday when Stephen Pryor went on the disabled list and pitched well in his one appearance since then, but now will be given more time to work on developing that secondary pitch.

Lucas Luetge and Charlie Furbush have been pitching extremely well as left-handed relievers, so it’ll be interesting to see how Perez is worked in. Manager Eric Wedge noted he can be more than a left-on-left guy, given his long history as a starter, but his role will be established as things play out.

Perez will earn $750,000 on his Major League deal with the Mariners. The other cost is the potential loss of Minor League outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, who was designated for assignment to make room for Perez on the 40-man roster.

Chiang was one of the two prospects acquired for Erik Bedard last July 31 — along with Trayvon Robinson — and had big numbers for Boston’s Double-A club at the time. But he hasn’t hit much at all in the Mariners system and is batting .236 for Double-A Jackson this year.

Being DFA’d exposes him to other clubs, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll wind up sticking with the Mariners or not.

Meanwhile, the Mariners will seek to snap a six-game losing streak tonight against Tim Lincecum in what figures to be an interesting matchup with Kevin Millwood, making his first appearance since his six innings in the combined no-hitter last week.

Franklin Gutierrez isn’t in the lineup, with Wedge saying they want to bring him in slowly the first 10 games or so back off the DL. He’ll start Sunday in the series finale with the Giants.

Wedge said he’s considering giving Ichiro a day off soon as well, but would want to talk to the veteran first. The return of Casper Wells gives Wedge far more flexibility in that regard as Wells can play right in Ichiro’s place or left — as he is tonight — with Gutierrez off.

Here’s tonight’s full lineup against Lincecum (2-7, 6.00):

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Casper Wells LF
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero C
Michael Saunders CF
Justin Smoak 1B
Dustin Ackley 2B
John Jaso DH
Brendan Ryan SS

Kevin Millwood RHP

Guti makes his season debut in center tonight

Franklin Gutierrez makes his Mariners debut tonight in the 7:10 p.m. series finale with the Padres as the Gold Glove center fielder returns from a three-month injury absence.

Guti will bat eighth in his first game back, with Michael Saunders moving to left field as expected. Gutierrez said yesterday it will be an emotional moment for him returning to Safeco Field after all he’s been through recently, so will be interesting to see how he plays.

Two other interesting things to watch tonight. Erasmo Ramirez makes his first Major League start, filling the vacancy created by Blake Beavan’s return to Tacoma. Ramirez, 22, is a strike thrower like Beavan, but capable of bringing a little more heat from his 5-foot-10 frame. He’s also been working on some off-speed stuff and this could be a nice spot for his first start against a Padres team that doesn’t hit particularly well, and in the comfort of Safeco Field where the same two teams dueled to a 1-0 game last night.

Also, Munenori Kawasaki gets his second straight start at shortstop in place of Brendan Ryan. Manager Eric Wedge said yesterday he’s trying to help get Ryan’s bat going, so apparently they’re working on some things and giving him a little breather. Obviously Ryan’s defense is special — and Kawasaki isn’t much of an offensive threat either — so I don’t expect this to be a long-term situation.

But we’ll see how Kawasaki does with a second straight start. He’s batting .204 on the season with a .224 slugging percentage and .278 on-base. Ryan is at .157/.241/.267.

Here’s the full lineup: against Padres right-hander Edinson Volquez (2-6, 3.91):

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero C
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saunders LF
John Jaso DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Munenori Kawasaki SS

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

Mariners sign 25 more of this year’s Draft picks

Second-round pick Joe DeCarlo, a high school shortstop from Pennsylvania, tops a list of 25 Draft picks whose signings were announced Wednesday by the Mariners.

The club has now signed 27 of the 41 players from last week’s First-Year Player Draft, including seven of their top 10 picks and 25 of their first 30.

Catcher Mike Zunino, the Mariners top pick – and third choice overall in the Draft- — has not signed as his Florida team is playing in the College World Series. Also yet to agree are third-rounders Edwin Diaz and Tyler Pike, both pitchers.

Fourth-rounder Patrick Kevlehan and seventh-rounder Taylor Ard had already been announced. The new additions in the top 10 rounds are DeCarlo (2), Chris Taylor (5), Tim Lopes (6), Jamodrick McGruder (9) and Grady Wood (10).

Here’s the full list of players signed:

Right-Handed Pitchers (8) – Grady Wood (10th), Blake Hauser (13th), Dominic Leone (16th), Levi Dean (23rd), Matt Vedo (24th), Mark Bordonaro (25th), Aaron Brooks (26th) and Matt Brazis (28th).

Left-Handed Pitchers (5) – Nate Koneski (19th), Steven Ewing (20th), Scott DeCecco (21st), Blake Holovach (27th) and Rusty Shellhorn (31st).

Catcher (1) – Toby Demello (29th).

Infielders (10) –  Joe DeCarlo (2nd), Patrick Kivlehan (4th),  Chris Taylor (5th), Tim Lopes (6th), Taylor Ard (7th), Jamodrick McGruder (9th), Kristian Brito (11th), Brock Hebert (14th), Gabrial Franca (22nd) and Richard Palase (32nd).

Outfielders (3) – Michael Faulkner (12th), Dario Pizzano (15th) and Jabari Henry (18th).

Teams have until July 13 at 2 p.m. to sign players selected in this year’s Draft.