July 2012

Beavan is back; Delabar sent down

As expected, the Mariners activated right-hander Blake Beavan on Tuesday afternoon, in time to start tonight’s game against the Royals, and reliever Steve Delabar was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to make room on the 25-man roster.

Beavan, 23, has gone 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma since being sent down a month ago. The Mariners need to fill the rotation spot of rookie Erasmo Ramirez, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow.

Beavan opened the season with the Mariners and went 3-6 with a 5.92 ERA in 12 starts. He was 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA in half a season with Seattle last year as a rookie.

The 6-foot-7 Texan beat Kansas City in his only appearance against the Royals last Sept. 9, allowing nine hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 7-3 victory at Safeco Field.

In his last Triple-A start, Beavan threw seven shutout innings with just two hits against Colorado Springs last Friday.

Delabar, 28, has been back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle three times already this season. He’s compiled a 2-1 record and 4.18 ERA in 32 1/3 innings over 30 games for the Mariners.

Josh Kinney would have been the other logical reliever to have been sent down, but Delabar has options remaining, while Kinney would be exposed to waivers if he were optioned back to Tacoma.

Ramirez is working out with the team on its current road trip and the club hopes he’s ready to go out on a Minor League rehab assignment sometime in the coming week. So it appears Beavan will get several starts to show what kind of progress he might have made in Tacoma.

If he pitches well, then the Mariners will have a decision to make once Ramirez is healthy. Hisashi Iwakuma is also in the rotation now, so it would appear there eventually will be a three-man competition between Ramirez, Iwakuma and Beavan for the final two spots in the rotation if everyone remains healthy and no deals are made in the coming days.

Brendan Ryan does his Harry Caray


In every Major League clubhouse, televisions play in the background with a variety of baseball highight shows, SportsCenters, live games or tape of the opposing starter for that evening’s game. Some players might be watching, most are going about other business.

But Monday afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, all the Mariners players were gathered around a large big screen as teammate Brendan Ryan prepared to go on the MLB Network’s Intentional Talk with Chris Rose and one-time Mariners outfielder Eric Byrnes.

Ryan was doing the interview just outside the clubhouse on the field. If the circumstances were reversed and another Mariner was being shown on live TV, Ryan likely would have hustled out to the field and run behind the camera a time or two just for fun. He tried that in Fenway earlier this year when ESPN was doing a shot from the field at Boston, only to discover the spot was taped earlier.

But hey, that’s Ryan. The rest of his team, they mostly enjoy his antics. So they gathered and watched as Ryan was led through an eight-minute interview that seemed a little forced at times, with questions about Eric Wedge’s mustache and his own facial hair, his childhood nickname (“Boog”), his evaluation of teammate Munenori Kawasaki’s dance moves and a long reach for his memories of playing in Alaska when he was in college.

Ryan did his best to make it entertaining as he’s the rare pro athlete who actually tries to be interesting and he truly is one of the most genuine — and genuinely funny — guys you’ll ever meet. But only at the end was the 30-year-old shortstop allowed to really let it loose, as Rose asked him to do a couple of his favorite impersonations.

And by the time Ryan finished — with a little R-rated Harry Caray bit — his teammates were rolling on the floor. You can see the whole interview by clicking on the video above. Just make sure to get to the end for the full Ryan. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Montero back at DH as second half opens

As expected, rookie Jesus Montero is back in the lineup tonight at designated hitter as the Mariners open the second half against the Rangers in a 7:10 p.m. game at Safeco.

Montero missed the last three games with a minor concussion after taking a foul ball off the mask, but is ready to go now after the All-Star break.

Manager Eric Wedge is sticking with Dustin Ackley in the leadoff role and Ichiro batting second, as he did in the final two games in Oakland before the break. Wedge shook things up that way, but the roster remained intact despite his talk of possible changes last weekend.

The club wants to give its young guys a look coming back from the All-Star breather. That reprieve isn’t endless, so they’ll need to see signs from Montero, Ackley and Justin Smoak. I thikn the warmer weather could be a positive factor for all those youngsters, particularly at Safeco, so this next stretch will be interesting to see.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Rangers lefty Derek Holland (5-4, 5.05 ERA):

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

Kevin Millwood RHP

 

Mariners set rotation … and ponder roster changes

Hisashi Iwakuma will start Sunday’s game against the Rangers in his first chance as part of the Mariners’ regular rotation.

We’re still in All-Star break mode on Wednesday, but a little interesting news out of the Mariners today in regard to their rotation for the weekend ahead.

With Felix Hernandez not throwing in Tuesday’s All-Star Game — which was certainly fine with the Mariners after he’d tossed 114 pitches in Sunday’s game against the A’s — Felix will come back Saturday at Safeco Field and face Yu Darvish of the Rangers in an All-Star battle of their own.

As manager Eric Wedge indicated last weekend, Kevin Millwood will get the start Friday in the series opener against the Rangers. Millwood is 1-0  with a 1.06 ERA (2 runs in 17 innings) in three starts against his former Texas team this year, so that should be a good matchup as well against Derek Holland.

But the biggest surprise is that Hisashi Iwakuma will start Sunday in the series finale against the Rangers’ Matt Harrison. We knew Iwakuma was in the rotation now that Hector Noesi has been sent down, but the assumption was he’d go Monday and that Jason Vargas would pitch one of the first three games after the break.

Instead, Vargas will throw Monday when the Mariners open a seven-game road trip in Kansas City. That’s not a big change, just a one day difference for Vargas, but not sure the thinking there. Maybe they just wanted to give Vargas a little longer breather — he’ll be pitching on eight day’s rest. Or maybe they didn’t want to make Iwakuma go that much longer between his last start, which was July 2. Or maybe a little of both.

We should be able to learn more Thursday when the Mariners hold a workout at Safeco Field and Wedge will be around to answer questions.

The other pending rotation question is who will throw Tuesday in Kansas City. As of now, that is being listed as TBA. Wedge doesn’t expect Erasmo Ramirez to be ready to come off the DL by then, given he’s just begun throwing as he returns from a sore elbow, so a roster move is expected.

I’ve said all along it seems to make sense to bring Blake Beavan back up for that start. He’s made five starts since getting sent down and is 3-0 with a 3.19 ERA in Tacoma. He’s scheduled to start Thursday for the Rainiers, which would put him right in line to make his next start that following Tuesday in K.C. on his normal fifth day. But the Mariners don’t need to make that decision yet, so we’ll see.

There’s also some expectation of roster moves among position players after a frustrated Wedge spoke of reevaluating things over the All-Star break and possibly making changes with some of the struggling young hitters. Frankly, I don’t expect a lot of change, as the reality is there aren’t a ton of red-hot prospects in Tacoma awaiting a call.

Mike Carp is a logical replacement at first base if the Mariners decide to give Justin Smoak some time in Triple-A to regain his timing and confidence, but that might be pushing it a little on Carp’s rehab stint. Carp is showing signs of life his last two games, however. He went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a home run in Tacoma’s last game Sunday in Salt Lake City.

Then with the Triple-A All-Star break happening as well, Carp went to Single-A High Desert on Monday and went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mariners think he’s ready for a recall.

Otherwise, I don’t see a ton of options. Maybe they bring Alex Liddi back up, or veteran infielder Luis Rodriguez. The Rainiers hitter having the best first half is Luis Jimenez, the big DH. But at 30 years of age, he’s been a Minor League journeyman his entire career and it seems unlikely they’d bring him up and take at-bats away from Jesus Montero at DH at this point.

My hunch is they’ll let the struggling youngsters like Smoak, Montero and Dustin Ackley see if the four-day All-Star break can serve as a nice time to regroup and come back strong, especially with the weather finally heating up at Safeco Field. It’d be ironic to send guys down to Tacoma right when the best part of the season to hit at Safeco has arrived.

But hey, it’s a tough business and Smoak and Ackley haven’t taken advantage of a lot of opportunies so far, so whatever decisions are made they’ll just have to make the most of them. But if I’m the Mariners decision makers, I’d want to see how that key core group of youngsters fares now in warmer weather as part of my evaluation both on their own futures and on whether it would be smart to move the fences in at Safeco this offseason.

Montero not in lineup Sunday for third straight game

Rookie catcher Jesus Montero was not in the lineup for a third straight game on Sunday as he continues to recover from a mild concussion stemming from a hard foul ball off his mask on Wednesday.

The Mariners close out the first half with the 1:07 p.m. game in Oakland, with Felix Hernandez facing Bartolo Colon.

As promised, manager Eric Wedge is going with Dustin Ackley in the leadoff spot for a second straight day, with Ichiro batting second. Ackley went 0-for-5 in Saturday’s 7-1 win, but he had his best stretch of the season in the leadoff role earlier this year and Wedge wants to see if he can revive that success.

Ichiro went 2-for-5 on Saturday, breaking an 0-for-23 slump.

Here’s the full Mariners lineup:

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

Felix Hernandez P

Ichiro dropped to second in batting order

Mariners skipper Eric Wedge is shaking things up a little today in his lineup, moving Dustin Ackley up to the leadoff spot and dropping Ichiro to No. 2 in the order.

This will be the first time Ichiro has ever started a game batting second. He has come into games as a pinch hitter and hit second in the order twice in his career, but never begun a game in that position.

What does it mean? We’ll talk to Wedge in a bit, but first blush is he’s trying to get Ackley going again after a tough stretch for the young second baseman during which he’s hit eighth for the last week or so.

And Ichiro could probably use a different approach as well as he’s on an 0-for-20 skid that has dropped him to .258 for the season. Ichiro has only gone hitless for 20-plus at-bats three different times in his 12-year career … and two of those now are in the past five weeks.

Ichiro’s on-base percentage of .286 is way off his career mark of .366 and even last year’s previous low of .310. Ackley, even batting just .235, has a .315 on-base percentage.

Wedge talked after Friday’s loss of pursuing roster changes at the All-Star break if the offense didn’t improve in the final two games here in Oakland, with some struggling players possibly being sent to Tacoma. Obviously there’s limited change that can be made at this point in the midst of the three-game set in Oakland, but the lineup shakeup is one.

Here’s tonight’s full lineup:

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

Jason Vargas P

Ichiro dropped to second in batting order

Mariners skipper Eric Wedge is shaking things up a little today in his lineup, moving Dustin Ackley up to the leadoff spot and dropping Ichiro to No. 2 in the order.

This will be the first time Ichiro has ever started a game batting second. He has come into games as a pinch hitter and hit second in the order twice in his career, but never begun a game in that position.

What does it mean? We’ll talk to Wedge in a bit, but first blush is he’s trying to get Ackley going again after a tough stretch for the young second baseman.

And Ichiro could probably use a different approach as well as he’s on an 0-for-20 skid that has dropped him to .258 for the season. Ichiro has only gone hitless for 20-plus at-bats three different times in his 12-year career … and two of those now are in the past five weeks.

Here’s tonight’s full lineup:

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

Jason Vargas P

Frustrated Wedge vows change coming in second half

There aren’t many easy answers right now for the Mariners offense, which turned in another frustrating effort in a 4-1, 11-inning loss to the A’s tonight that had manager Eric Wedge at the end of his rope by game’s end.

Wedge has tried to be patient with his young club, but the continuing struggles of a team that has fallen to 35-50 are starting to show. Wedge is talking about change coming at the All-Star break, sounding as if it might be time to send some of the struggling youngsters down to the Minors to find themselves.

I’d presume he’s talking about Justin Smoak, now down to .202 after an 0-for-4 night with three strikeouts, and possibly Dustin Ackley, who is a better hitter than the .235 he’s at after his own 0-for-4.

Even Ichiro is down to .259 after he went 0-for-5, extending his hitless streak to 20 at-bats. The Mariners just don’t have anybody to carry them, whether veteran or youngster. But they don’t have a ton of guys sitting in Tacoma who figure to change much either, so therein lies the dilemma.

They might be able to send Smoak, Ackley or Jesus Montero down to get themselves squared away in a less-pressured situation, but they’re not going to bring up saviors who’re waiting in the wings. Veteran Luis Rodriguez can play second base and he’s been hitting well in Tacoma, but he’s a veteran utility guy who hit .197 in Seattle last year.

Luis Jimenez is a big DH-type guy putting up good numbers in Triple-A, but he could only play DH in Seattle and isn’t regarded as a top prospect. Carlos Peguero already got the call and went 1-for-4 with a triple tonight, so maybe he gets more time.

Ultimately, Mike Carp could come play first base and let Smoak work on things in Tacoma, but Carp is just starting a rehab stint in Triple-A and will need some more time, one would assume.

Anyway, those things can be debated. What isn’t up for debate was Wedge’s post-game discussion. He made his frustration pretty clear, so I’ll just let his words speak for themselves:

“It’s just been Groundhog Day too many times for me. We’re in the process of evaluating everybody and everything. We’re a couple days away from the All-Star break. We’re not just going to keep watching what we’re watching. We’re not going to watch people keep doing the same  thing over and over again and live with it. These guys need to do it.

“To a man, they know what they need to do to be successful. I’m talking about the offense. And I’m tired of seeing the same thing night in and night out. Whether it be mental or fundamental, sometimes some of these guys it’s emotional, it’s their heart beat. This is the big leagues. We can’t just keep going out here and putting that kind of pressure on the ballclub to be perfect because we’re not scoring runs. Tonight was a great example of that, a 1-0 ballgame where you have opportunities.

“To me, every time you go up to home plate it’s an opportunity, not just when there are runners in scoring position or two outs with runners in scoring position or whatever it may be. We’re going to do what we need to do to get better in the second half offensively. I know how Jack [Zduriencik] feels about it, I know how I feel about it, I know how the staff feels about it. We’re not going to keep watching this over and over again. We’ve been patient, we’ve addressed things in different ways, but ultimately they’re grown men and they’re either going to get it done or they won’t be here.”

“I know where these guys are in their development. But ultimately it’s always about production up here. You have to be patient with young players because it doesn’t happen right away, but ultimately we need to make sure if certain guys aren’t getting it, maybe we need to make some changes. We’ve been contemplating this for a while.

“You’d like to see them get it done and make the adjustments up here because you send them out and bring them back, they’re still going to have to go through certain things when they get back up here. But if they push our hand, it is what it is. And that’s pretty much where we are right now.”

“We’re doing everything that we feel we need to be doing, but ultimately we’re two games away from the break and that’s a big part of the season in regard to evaluating your players and team. It’s no secret what our biggest issue is. What’s most frustrating is these guys had it there for a little while and showed what they’re capable of doing and more importantly, proved to themselves what they have to do to be successful. Unless they’re not paying attention or are just dumb, they should be able to find a way to get back to it and be more consistent.

“You have to be much better than this offensively. We’ve been in a rut here offensively for 3-4 years or whatever its been, but what we showed signs of earlier this year on the road, that’s what we’re looking for. And not even that much, because that was pretty extreme there for a while. But ultimately they proved to themselves what they’re capable of doing against big league pitching and that’s what we’ve got to get back to.”

Peguero starting in right field with Ichiro at DH

Eric Wedge wasted no time getting Carlos Peguero’s hot bat in the lineup as the big lefty is starting in right field in tonight’s series opener in Oakland.

Wedge has Ichiro at DH for just the second time this season, which opens up an outfield spot. Tonight’s trio will be Casper Wells in left, Michael Saunders in center and Peguero in right. Peguero was just recalled from Triple-A Tacoma yesterday after hitting six home runs in the past five games.

Certainly the Mariners could use some offensive help. Peguero’s problem in the past has been his high strikeout rate, so we’ll see if he’s come around any there.

Jesus Montero is not in the lineup. We won’t get a chance to talk to Eric Wedge until later this afternoon, but Montero suffered a mild concussion in Wednesday’s game and I’m assuming they’re being careful with him.

Here’s the full lineup against A’s lefty Tommy Milone (8-6, 3.73 ERA):

Ichiro Suzuki DH
Casper Wells LF
Michael Saunders CF
Miguel Olivo C
Kyle Seager 3B
Justin Smoak 1B
Carlos Peguero RF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Brendan Ryan SS

Kevin Millwood P

Peguero rejoins Mariners as Noesi sent to Tacoma

The Mariners need some offensive punch. They don’t need a fifth starter for the moment. So Hector Noesi was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday and the club recalled outfielder Carlos Peguero, who has hit home runs in five straight games for the Rainiers.

Noesi certainly could use some time in Triple-A to work on things. He’s struggled in Seattle in his first year as a full-time starter, his record falling to 2-11 with a 5.77 ERA after losing to the Orioles on Wednesday.

And with the upcoming All-Star break, Seattle won’t need a fifth starter for the next 10 days. The Mariners are off Thursday, then play three games against the A’s this weekend before hitting the four-day break.

Kevin Millwood, Jason Vargas and Felix Hernandez will start the three games in Oakland and conceivably the first three games against Texas after the break.  So it’s possible the club won’t need a fourth or fifth starting pitcher until opening a road trip in Kansas City on July 16.

Rookie Erasmo Ramirez is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a sore elbow, but he’s eligible to come off the DL on July 16.  The club could recall Noesi by July 17, or give Hisashi Iwakuma another start. The long reliever from Japan made his first spot start on Monday against the Orioles and went five innings with three hits and three runs.

In the meantime, Peguero provides an extra left-handed bat with some power. Peguero, 25, has hit .342 (13-for-38) with 12 RBIs and six home runs over his past 10 games and is now batting .293 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs in 49 games with Tacoma.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder missed a month earlier this year after having surgery on a torn media meniscus in his right knee, but still ranks third in the Pacific Coast league in home runs. He homered in his last five games, including a grand slam on Wednesday at Salt Lake.

Peguero showed flashes of power last season, but also a penchant to strike out. He played 46 games with Seattle, hitting .196 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 143 at-bats. With Casper Wells playing well since his return from Tacoma and Franklin Gutierrez likely back from the concussion DL after the All-Star break, it’s hard to imagine Peguero getting too much time in the outfield, but we’ll see what manager Eric Wedge says Friday in Oakland.

At least the Mariners can get a look at Peguero’s progress and have an added pinch hitter and left-handed DH candidate for the time being.

In that same vein, Mike Carp has also joined Tacoma to begin an injury rehab assignment, Carp, recovering from a shoulder issue that has hampered him since an Opening Day injury in Tokyo, went 1-for-5 with an RBI and run scored while playing designated hitter on Wednesday in Salt Lake.

Carp will DH and play first base for the Rainiers as the Mariners attempt to get him healthy without putting further strain on his right shoulder this season. Carp has 20 days maximum to rehab in Tacoma before the Mariners need to make a decision on whether he’s ready and how he might fit back into the mix as well.

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