September 2012

Triunfel gets third start today at shortstop

Rookie shortstop Carlos Triunfel gets his third start of the season Saturday as the Mariners face the A’s in a 1:07 p.m. game that will not be televised.

Jason Vargas gets the start for Seattle, going for his 15th win as he closes out a season where he’s already thrown a career-high 210 1/3 innings. If he can go 4 2/3 innings today, he and Felix Hernandez will become the first Mariners duo over 215 innings in the same season since Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer in 2002.

Wedge is using the game to get another look at Triunfel, but he’s sticking with his plan to go primarily with his regulars down the stretch in games that are deciding the AL playoff race for the A’s and Angels.

“I wanted to get Triunfel in there again,” he said. “I think it’s a good time to give Ryno an off day, too. ButI wanted our best outfield in there for Vargas in his last start. I have Gut back in there along with Wells and Saunders, which as you know, I like that outfield.”

Wedge wants a better focus from his defense, which committed two errors in Friday’s loss and has been uncharacteristically erratic the last two weeks.

He’s also hoping to get Charlie Furbush back into action quickly after the lefty struggled Friday with two walks and a hit in allowing three runs without an out.

“There’s really no answers, he just felt a little out of sync,” said Wedge. “Hopefully we can get him right back in theretoday and get him back on track. For whatever reason, sometimes you get out there and can’t find it. And that’s what it looked like for him yesterday. He wasn’t the same with the ball coming out of his hand. He didn’t have the same command and wasn’t quite as aggressive, so hopefully we can get home back in ther and back on track.”

Here is today’s full lineup against A’s right-hander Dan Straily (2-1, 3.60 ERA):

Dustin Ackley 2B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
John Jaso DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saundes LF
Miguel Olivo C
Casper Wells RF
Carlos Triunfel SS

Jason Vargas LHP

Guti held out Friday with sore neck

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was held out of Friday’s series opener against the A’s due to a sore neck after slamming into the wall in Anaheim on Thursday, but says he expects to be back by Saturday.
“I feel good,” Gutierrez said prior to Friday’s game. “It’s just a day off today. I don’t have any headaches or anything. Just a little stiff in my neck, but nothing too bad. I think I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Manager Eric Wedge would like to see Gutierrez in the outfield along with Michael Saunders and Casper Wells to close out the year, but getting all three healthy and available at the same time has been a season-long issue.
“It has been a challenge,” Wedge said. “I was looking forward to seeing it again today, but it didn’t happen. We’ll try again tomorrow. It could be a separator for us, the way those three can play the outfield, with their arms, their coverage and their ability. I think it’s a real good outfield when we’ve got those three out there.”
Gutierrez, 29, has been hampered by injuries the past two years and has played just 38 games this season, hitting .259 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. He opened the year on the disabled list with a partially torn pectoral muscle, then missed another two months after getting a concussion when he was hit in the head by a pickoff throw.

Saunders got hurt in an outfield collision and missed time after Gutierrez’s returned from his concussion, while Wells has been back-and-forth between the Mariners and Triple-A Tacoma as he’s tried to find consistency with his bat.

But Wedge likes Wells’ defense and feels he’s been swinging the bat better of late. So if he can, it sounds like that trio will get the bulk of playing time down the stretch. Wedge said he’d continue playing his regulars in the remaining six games.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against A’s right-hander A.J. Griffin:

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

Blake Beavan P

Mariners name Allison new Director of Pro Scouting

Tom Allison, a veteran of 18 years of scouting with four different organizations, was named Wednesday as the Mariners new Director of Professional Scouting.

Allison, 45, was most recently a scout for the Red Sox in 2011-12. Prior to that he spent four years as director of scouting for the D-backs from 2007-10.

Allison fills a vacancy that hadn’t been filled after Carmen Fusco was fired in September of 2010.

“We are excited about the addition of Tom Allison to our organization as Director of Pro Scouting,” said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “He brings a level of experience with his background as a crosschecker, scouting director, Minor League player and front-office executive. He is a well-rounded individual and his contributions will be an asset to the Seattle Mariners.”

Allison spent seven seasons in the Brewers scouting department from 2000-06, working with Zduriencik during that time in Milwaukee, and also has 10 years with the Mets. He played as an infielder and coaches in the Mets’ farm system from 1990-94.

Allison is a graduate of Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies. He also played baseball at Loyola Marymount University and was a member of the Lions squad that advanced to the 1986 College World Series.

Allison grew up in the Vancouver, Wash., area and currently resides in Phoenix.

Ackley back in lineup for Mariners

Second baseman Dustin Ackley is back in the lineup and starting at second base on Tuesday night in Anaheim after missing the past two games with a sore neck.

The Mariners are down to their final nine games of the year and kick off a six-game road trip with a trio of games against the Angels, who are fighting for the playoff lives as they come in two games back of the A’s and Orioles in the Wildcard chase.

Seattle will face the Angels’ best shot — although not their best pitcher as Jered Weaver won Anaheim’s last game on Sunday against the White Sox. Instead, they get Zack Greinke today, C.J. Wilson on Wednesday and Ervin Santana Thursday.

The Mariners counter with rookie Erasmo Ramirez tonight, followed by Felix Hernandez on Wednesday and Hisashi Iwakuma on Thursday.

Ramirez has two last starts to show his stuff and he’s been pretty darn good lately. Ramirez has a 1.69 ERA over his past five outings, including two before he went on the disabled list in June.

There’s no secret as to what the Mariners will need to do to compete in this series. The club has hit relatively well in the second half, but not always in a timely fashion. They’re 1-for-40 with runners in scoring position over the past five games, which isn’t a recipe for success.

We’ll see if that changes tonight in Anaheim, which is a pretty good hitting park. Look for Jaso tonight. he’s batting .341 (24-of-82) with a .926 OPS against the Angels in his career.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Dustin Ackley 2B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
John Jaso DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Michael Saunders RF
Miguel Olivo C
Trayvon Robinson LF
Brendan Ryan SS

Erasmo Ramirez P

Felix’s Cy Young bid could well rest with the Angels

We’re coming down to crunch time in the AL Cy Young and MVP races. And while the debate between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera has been heated for MVP honors, an even-broader and equally uncertain field appears to be competing for Cy Young honors.

The final two weeks could well swing the vote in what appears to be a five-pitcher race.

Felix Hernandez clearly has dropped back into the pack after his three-start slip at the beginning of September, but I don’t think this one is decided yet and most voters — there are two BBWAA writers in each AL city with a Cy Young ballot — should still be open to how things play out.

Along with Hernandez, the top contenders are 2011 winner Justin Verlander of the Tigers, David Price of the Rays, Chris Sale of the White Sox and Jered Weaver of the Angels, with closer Fernando Rodney of the Rays also getting some consideration.

All of those guys — except Rodney, obviously — have two starts left. For Felix, the challenge is clear. Though the Mariners have yet to finalize their rotation beyond this weekend, it’s all-but-certain he’ll pitch twice against the Angels — once in Anaheim next week and once in Safeco in the final three-game homestand on Oct. 1-3.

And that means Hernandez needs to twice dominate one of the few teams that has consistently had his number. Felix is 6-11 in 28 starts against the Angels in his career. Throwing out a couple teams that he’s only faced once, that .353 winning percentage is the lowest mark against any opponent and his 3.89 ERA is the second-highest of any foe (behind only the Blue Jays’ 5.13 in nine games).

In Anaheim, Felix is 2-5 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 starts. He’s faced the Angels just once in Anaheim this year and wound up with a no-decision, but it was the only difficult start he had in his fabulous August as he gave up five runs (four earned) in seven innings.

The rest of the month, Hernandez was 4-0 with a 0.26 ERA (1 run in 34 2/3 innings), so yeah, the Angels are an aberration even when Felix is on fire.

He’s also lost both his battles at Safeco to the Angels this year, including a 5-2 defeat on Sept. 1 that snapped his nine-game winning streak as he allowed nine hits and five runs (4 earned) in 7 2/3 innings. And back on May 26, the Angels got to him for 10 hits and five runs in six innings in a 5-3 loss in Seattle.

If he reverses that trend, could two big outings to close out his season sway the Cy Young decision?

If you want to put a finger on the current pulse, here are a couple good reads — Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has Verlander in the lead at the moment, with Price second and Felix third.

Chris Corcoran of SI.com lists Verlander, Sale and Price as his top 3 at the moment.

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince had Tampa’s Price and Rodney as favorites the other day, but that was before Felix threw eight innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Orioles.

Clearly momentum has shifted from Hernandez after his unbelievable midseason run. But depending on what his competition does, that could certainly shift back just as quickly with two strong starts against the Angels. At 13-8, Hernandez doesn’t have the eye-popping win-loss record, but he was 13-12 when he won it 2010, thanks to overpowering numbers in the statistics that pitchers actually can control.

Hernandez again can’t be blamed for pitching for a team that offers little offensive help. In 10 no-decisions this year, he’s posted a 2.41 ERA, including four starts when he allowed one or less runs while going 8-plus innings.

If he’d gotten just a little run support in even half those games, he’d be 18-8 with his 2.85 ERA and 220 2/3 innings and 207 strikeouts, not to mention five shutouts (four by 1-0 scores) and, yep, a perfect game.

So voters who look closely will see that Hernandez indeed deserves to be in the Cy Young debate. Whether he deserves to win it? That answer may well rest with the Angels.

Mariners bullpen could use Felix bounceback

In eight seasons in the Majors, Felix Hernandez has started 235 games. In only 15 of those has he lasted less than five innings, but two of those abbreviated starts have come in his last two outings.

Never in his big-league career has Hernandez gone three straight starts of less than five innings and the Mariners badly need him to avoid that first tonight, given the state of their overworked bullpen.

In the wake of Tuesday’s 18 inning marathon loss to the Orioles and Monday’s 1 1/3-inning start by Hector Noesi, manager Eric Wedge has needed his relievers to soak up 17 2/3 innings of work the last two nights. Even with September callups providing extra depth, that’s a ton of use.

Oliver Perez (4 innings), Stephen Pryor (3) and Shawn Kelley (2 2/3) threw in both games and Wedge used seven different relievers last night, including two innings out of closer Tom Wilhelmsen.

The Mariners can thank Blake Beavan for seven strong innings on Sunday in Texas for keeping things from being a lot worse, as Wedge had gone heavily to his ‘pen in the previous five games of the last road trip.

Over the past eight games, Wedge has used 33 relievers to get 34 2/3 innings of work. That’s an average of 4 relievers for 4 1/3 innings every game.

Kelley has thrown in five of those games (5 innings), Josh Kinney has thrown five games (4 1/3 innings), Perez four (5 1/3 innings), Pryor four (4 innings), Wilhelmsen four (5 1/3 innings), Lucas Luetge four (3 innings), Carter Capps three (5 inning), Charlie Furbush three (2/3 of an inning) and Noesi once (2 innings).

That doesn’t include time up and down in a bullpen and the warmup pitches required to get ready, which any reliever will tell you can take a toll as well. So some of those guys are going to need a break. It helps that the club has off days on Thursday and Monday, but Hernandez can certainly help out as well.

And, yeah, it would be surprising if he doesn’t. His last two starts of 4 2/3 and 4 innings are indeed a rarity. Prior to those two outings, he’d thrown less than five innings just twice in the last two seasons.

The only other times he’s had back-to-back abbreviated starts like that both came early in the year. In his Cy Young season in 2010, he had consecutive starts of 4 1/3 at Texas and 3 2/3 at Anaheim on May 1 and 7, giving up 13 hits and 12 earned runs in 8 innings before obviously getting things squared away that year. Those were his only sub-five inning outings in 2010 and he had just one last year and one this season until this past two starts.

His other back-to-back short stints came in 2007, but that was injury related when he was pulled after 1/3 of an inning on April 18 vs. the Twins and then went on the DL with a strained forearm, then went just 3 2/3 in his first start back on May 15. Again, those were his only two sub-five inning starts that year.

One of his other short stints was also injury related as he went 4 2/3 innings on June 23, 2008 against the Mets in a game better remembered for his grand slam off Johan Santana. But he twisted his ankle covering home plate and had to come out early.

Those have all been rarities, both injuries or just poor outings for one of the most-durable starters in the Majors over the past eight years. I would expect Hernandez will come back strong tonight against the Orioles tonight … and the Mariners bullpen certainly would welcome that sight as well.

Some pregame news and notes from rainy Texas

We’re less than an hour from game time at the moment in Arlington and rain is falling and the tarp is on the field. It frankly looks a lot more like Seattle than Texas weather at the moment … wet, gloomy and temps in the 60s.

But we’ll keep fingers crossed that this will pass and they can get this final game of the series in, though I don’t think it’ll be starting at the scheduled 12:05 p.m. PT start time.

A few of us met with manager Eric Wedge as normal for his pregame chat and the main news is that Casper Wells remains out today with a sore neck that locked up on him prior to Saturday’s game when he was hitting in the cage.

Wedge sounded like that might be a tough deal for Wells, which is bad timing since he’d figured to get some increased looks here in the coming days with Wedge not particularly happy with Carlos Peguero’s defense or base running in Friday night’s loss.

Wedge was still fired up about Saturday’s win, with Seattle responding to the Rangers’ comeback and answering with their own eighth and ninth inning runs — both on big hits by Justin Smoak — in the 8-6 victory in front of 47,000 fans against a club fighting for the AL West lead.

“It all comes into play for me,” Wedge said. “You talk about the way the first night ended here and then coming back the next night … That was a big win and a big way going about it. It’s a big step for these guys as they continue to develop into a championship-caliber team. That atmosphere last night, middle of September, on the road. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m not going to downplay it.”

In other news, the team set its pitching rotation for the rest of the upcoming homestand. They’d already set Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez and Felix Hernandez for the next three games against the Orioles. Now they’ve set up Hisashi Iwakuma (Friday), Jason Vargas (Saturday) and Noesi (Sunday) in a rematch with the Rangers.

That means Blake Beavan, today’s starter, will be pushed back at least a day with Noesi moving ahead of him.

Wedge also indicated Franklin Gutierrez will play Winter Ball this offseason, but said catcher Jesus Montero and many of the other youngsters currently with the club would not play this winter after going through their first long Major League season.

Here’s today’s full lineup against left-hander Matt Harrison, who has won eight straight starts against the Mariners. That’s the third-longest all-time streak of wins in consecutive starts against the Mariners, behind only Dave Steward (14 from 1986-90) and Pedro Martinez (12 from 1998-2004).

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

Blake Beavan

Wedge bringing in the big boys for Jays’ finale

Manager Eric Wedge is breaking out a couple of his big bats Thursday, with left-handers Luis Jimenez and Carlos Peguero both in the lineup against Toronto right-hander Henderson Alvarez in tonight’s 4:07 p.m. PT game at Rogers Centre.

Jimenez, a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder, will be making his second Major League start at designated hitter. Peguero, 6-5 and 245, has been with the team off and on the past two years, but this will be his second start since returning as a September callup.

Peguero is 2-for-7 with a home run since his return, but hasn’t played since Sept. 3.

“Hopefully one of them can run into one,” Wedge said. “I felt it was a good time to get Peguero back in there. He hadn’t played in a while. And we’re still taking our looks at Jimenez. They’ve got as much power as anybody. To have them both in there at the same time, hopefully they can help us win a ballgame today.”

That would be just fine with Felix Hernandez, who is looking to get back on track after two losses to start September.

“Those last two outings weren’t good,” Hernandez said of his losses to the A’s and Angels. “I’ve got to do something better.”

He’ll pitch against a 22-year-old who considers Hernandez his idol, as Alvarez grew up in the same city of Valencia, Venezuela.

The two talked at length last year in Seattle, with Hernandez offering advice to his fellow Venezuelan.

“I try to help,” Hernandez said. “He’s a countrymate. But [Thursday], I’m not going to help. Nope.”

Wedge has used his bullpen extensively in the past two games, so a strong game from Hernandez wouldn’t hurt. But the manager said his relievers are all available and in good shape, as none have had to throw very long stints in either game.

Here’s today’s full lineup:

Dustin Ackley 2B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
John Jaso C
Michael Saunders LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Luis Jimenez DH
Carlos Peguero RF
Brendan Ryan SS

Felix Hernandez RHP

2013 schedule released: Mariners open at Oakland again

The Mariners will open on the road for a fifth straight season next year, according to the tentative 2013 Major League schedule released Wednesday, with Opening Day set for the Oakland Coliseum on April 1.

The full schedule is available on Mariners.com if you click on this link.

It’ll be the fourth straight time Seattle kicks off its season on the road against the A’s, although this year the two teams played their first two games in Tokyo before resuming play a week later in Oakland.

But Seattle does get a unique twist next year, with the Mariners facing off against the Houston Astros, the new American League West member, in their home opener on Monday, April 8. That three-game set with the Astros starts off a 10-game opening homestand that also includes the Rangers and Tigers.

The new schedule also features the revamped Interleague slate, which will have crossover games spread throughout the course of the season instead of packed primarily into June. Because of the Astros’ move to the AL, there will now be an odd number of teams (15) in each league. And that means Interleague games will be played nearly every day, with the Reds and Angels opening the season against each other this coming year.

The Mariners travel to Pittsburgh for a two-game series on May 7-8 in their first Interleague action. They’ll host the Padres on May 27-28 for a pair of games, then travel to San Diego on May 29-30 to conclude their “natural rivalry.”

The AL West and NL Central are paired off in 2013, so the Mariners host the Pirates on June 25-26 and then have the Cubs for three games at Safeco Field on June 28-30. It will be the Pirates’ first appearance in Seattle since 2007 and the Cubs’ first return since 2010.

Seattle travels to Cincinnati on July 5-7, hosts the Brewers on Aug. 9-11 and concludes Interleague play at St. Louis on Sept. 13-15. Milwaukee’s visit will be its first-ever to Safeco Field, as the last time the Brewers played in Seattle was 1997 in the Kingdome when both teams were in the American League.

The Mariners will total 20 Interleague games in 2013, two more than this year.

With the new 15-team alignment in each league, they’ll also play two series (one home, one road) against each team in the AL East and AL Central and six series against their four AL West rivals (three home, three road).

The Mariners have a tough stretch on the road in early May when they play 14 of 17 days on the road, with a trip to Toronto and Pittsburgh, then three games at home with the A’s, followed by a nine-day journey to face the Yankees, Indians and Angels.

But Seattle also has a 10-game homestand from June 3-12 with the White Sox, Yankees and Astros. The Yankees will be at Safeco just that once for a four-game series from June 6-9 and the Red Sox also make just one four-game stand in Seattle on July 8-11.

The Mariners wrap up the year with six games at home, concluding with the final weekend series against the A’s on Sept. 27-29.

Erasmo Ramirez gets his shot tonight in Toronto

Erasmo Ramirez makes his return to the mound tonight in Toronto, getting the call for the first time since his September recall. The 22-year-old rookie will likely get a couple starts here in the final three weeks to show where he’s at, so this is an important audition for the youngster.

Ramirez, if you recall, was pitching relatively well for the Mariners after his insertion into the rotation in June, but had yet to pick up his first win when he felt some soreness in his elbow in his fourth start. That led to a rehab stint and eventual return to Tacoma.

But he’s back now and gunning for that first victory against a Toronto team on a four-game win streak and with right-hander Brandon Morrow on the mound. Morrow has been extremely tough on his former team in the past, so Ramirez will need a little offensive help tonight.

Eric Thames, making his first return to Toronto since being traded to the Mariners for Steve Delabar on July 30, will get the start in right field tonight. He’s a career .277 hitter with 11 home runs in 77 at-bats at Rogers Centre, including a home run off Tom Wilhelmsen earlier this season, so maybe he can provide a nice storyline tonight.

They’ve just rolled the roof open here at Rogers Centre and it’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Toronto. So should be a nice evening, with first pitch at 4:07 p.m. PT.

Here’s the full Mariners lineup:

Dustin Ackley 2B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
John Jaso DH
Jesus Montero C
Michael Saunders LF
Eric Thames RF
Mike Carp 1B
Brendan Ryan SS

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

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