February 2013

Carp eager for fresh start in Boston

Carp MikeOne of the tough things about baseball is seeing guys go after you’ve established relationships. And that would be the case today with the trade of first baseman Mike Carp to Boston.

Carp was a first-class guy to work with during his time with the Mariners and did a great job last year remembering his fallen friend, Greg Halman. Carp was the one who put together T-shirts in Halman’s memory and distributed them to every player in the Spring Training clubhouse.

He was one of four guys who flew to the Netherlands for Halman’s funeral and he talked frequently of remembering his friend every day. I know Carp really wanted to play well last season for Halman and for his own career, which finally seemed ready to take off after a strong second half in 2011.

And then he hurt his shoulder in the opening game, diving for a line drive in the Tokyo Dome, and things never got right after that. Now the Mariners went out and added Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, all guys who can play first along with returner Justin Smoak. So Carp saw the writing on the wall.

“I looked at all the roster moves and acquisitions and they didn’t really have a place,” Carp told me this afternoon from his home near Anaheim. “I thought maybe I’d come to camp and have something happen, but I’ve been a casualty of roster space before, so I understand. I just want to make the most of this new opportunity.”

He’s eager for his shot in Boston, where he’ll compete with Lyle Overbay for the backup first base job behind Mike Napoli.

“I enjoyed my time with Mariners, but I just want to play,” he said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity. You talk about the Red Sox and their tradition, to get a chance to put my name on the list of guys who’ve played there means a lot. Hopefully I can live up to the expectations I have for myself.”

Carp talked about how much he enjoyed his time in Seattle and his excitement now over playing in Fenway for the Red Sox. I’ve got a lot more on all that in my full story on Mariners.com, which you can read here.

I know some fans are wondering why the Mariners only got a player to be named or cash considerations, but that’s the situation when you designate a player for assignment. That limits a team’s bargaining power and the Mariners obviously tried to trade Carp before they DFA’d him and again afterward, but didn’t have any strong offers.

So they’ll likely wind up with cash compensation, while Carp gets a new opportunity.

Brendan Ryan meets his match in Harvey the buffalo

HarveyBuffaloEvery spring one of the highlights of Mariners camp is the shooting of the creative promotional television commercials that will run throughout the season. Which is how shortstop Brendan Ryan found himself staring down a rather large buffalo Tuesday afternoon on the infield at Peoria Stadium (as seen above in this photo by Mariners vice president of marketing Kevin Martinez).

The premise of the commercial remains secret, pending the release of all the ads later this spring, but anything with Ryan and a buffalo figures to be entertaining.

“I wasn’t even intimidated, to be honest,” Ryan said with a laugh. “He had friendly eyes, you know? So we had a connection. There was an understanding. He didn’t cross me and I didn’t grab onto his horns or anything. No quick moves.”

At one point, Ryan was asked to field ground balls near the big fella, who went by the name of Harvey.

“The guy threw me a backhand and I had to get around Harvey,” Ryan said. “I was kind of, ‘Uhh, why don’t you move in a little bit and roll it underhand because you’re going to get me in trouble.’”

The piece will also feature closer Tom Wilhelmsen and catcher Jesus Montero. How funny will the final product be?

“Well, I guess we’ll let the fans and everyone else be the judge of that,” Ryan said. “I will say it didn’t make the most sense, but maybe that’s the joke of it, I don’t know. It was pretty obscure, which is about right for the guys they chose.

“I’m waiting for everybody to see it first and then see what kind of crazy feedback we’ll get. It’s everything you’d think it would and wouldn’t be. It’s as random as you’d think.”

Ryan said he spent nearly two hours doing the shoot with his hairy new friend.

“He was behaving well,” Ryan said. “Then they finally said, ‘It’s a wrap for Harvey’ and I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m on a set!’ Then he walked off and dropped a huge dump at shortstop. There’s still some fertilizer out there on that one. I’m not diving any time soon.”

Carp traded to Red Sox

First baseman Mike Carp, who was designated for assignment last week, was traded by the Mariners to the Red Sox on Wednesday for a player to be named later or cash.

Carp, 26, opened last season as Seattle’s starting left fielder, but sprained his throwing shoulder diving for a ball on Opening Day in Tokyo and wound up missing considerable time.

Carp hit just .213 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 59 games last year. In four seasons in Settle, he batted .255 with 18 homers and 71 RBIs, including a 20-game hit streak after getting called up in the second half of 2011.

He finished that year batting .276 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs and seemed to have found a place in the Mariners lineup, but last year’s injuries – which also included a strained groin muscle later in the year – hampered his efforts.

When the Mariners acquired Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez over the offseason, Carp’s chances of finding playing time diminished and he was designated for assignment on Feb. 12 to make room on the 40-man roster for left-hander Joe Saunders.

Pictures from Peoria: Tuesday at Mariners camp

AckleyGuerrorDustin Ackley chases down Minor Leaguer Gabriel Guerrero during a run-down drill. Guerrero is the 19-year-old nephew of long-time MLB star Vladimir Guerrero.


Carter Capps was throwing heat during his session of live batting practice.


Felix Hernandez found a shoulder to lean on in the form of Oliver Perez.


Top prospect Taijuan Walker was impressive in his first live BP.


Michael Morse seems to find fun wherever he goes, here offering an earful to strength and conditioning coach James Clifford.


Michael Saunders is all smiles as he goes about his work.

Walker working on a new curve

WalkerTaijuanCatchTaijuan Walker has the kind of live arm and sizzling fastball that makes people take notice, but developing some secondary pitches to go with that mid-90s heater stands as the primary need for the 20-year-old before he makes the jump to the Majors.

So it was interesting to see Walker unveiling a new curveball with some frequency during his first round of live batting practice on Tuesday.

The youngster from Yucaipa, Calif., said he’s working on a “spike curveball,” thrown with his index fingernail digging into the ball, and liked the way it felt. But with his fastball control struggling a bit initially, he bore down a little as Tuesday’s session went along.

“I was easing it in there, but I got a little frustrated with myself and started bumping it up to maybe 80-90 percent,” he said. “I felt I wasn’t locating very well with my pitches. And you always want to locate, especially with your fastball.”

As for the newest weapon? Kyle Seager said he only saw fastball, changeup and a new cutter from Walker. But the lanky right-hander said he indeed is tuning up a curveball that he dropped in while facing Michael Morse, Casper Wells, Vinnie Catricala and Nick Franklin.

“Last year during the season I kind of got away from my curveball, so I wanted to make sure I came into camp with my curveball ready,” he said. “I wanted to throw it a lot, just to make sure I’ve got it.

“I’ve been working on that spike curve and this was my first time throwing it against live hitters. I need to locate it better, but I felt it was sharper than other curves I’ve thrown in the past. But I just need to keep throwing it and get better.”

Pictures from Peoria: Monday at Mariners camp


Jason Bay hauls down a ball during outfield drills.


Raul Ibanez discusses the finer points of batting with Justin Smoak.


Catcher Ronny Paulino, all 6-3, 250 pounds of him, finally arrived at camp after some visa issues getting out of the Dominican Republic.


Former Brewers reliever Kameron Loe was one of the pitchers throwing live batting practice for the first time.


Young catcher Mike Zunino chats with Blake Beavan after his batting practice session.


Veteran lefty Oliver Perez is a picture of concentration as he winds up.

Wedge reiterates plans for Smoak, Morales

Smoak-AlvinDavisIt’s only six days into Spring Training and Monday brought the first round of live batting practice, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge reaffirmed what he’s been saying all along: He sees Justin Smoak as the primary first baseman heading into the season, with newcomer Kendrys Morales mostly at designated hitter.

“It would have to be something drastic” to change that, Wedge said.

Of course things can come up during the next five weeks to alter plans, but the Mariners envision Smoak as an integral part of their future and Wedge wants his glove at first base, while Morales — on a one-year contract and coming back from a significant ankle injury — provides a healthy addition to the offense at DH.

What goes into that?

“Spring Training is a part of it, but it’s by no means the biggest part of it as far as I’m concerned,” Wedge said. “You have to look at everything. With guys we’ve already had, the history helps us because there’s so many indicators, both good and bad, that you can work off of.

“Of course, playing against Morales, I know what he’s all about. Right here, sitting here today, we’re lined up where Smoak is going to get the bulk of the time at first base and Kendrys is going to get the bulk of the time DHing. But we’ve got enough flexibility and versatility where we can change off that if we need to.”

What have the Mariners been able to see of Smoak so far this spring?

“Technique wise, just the fundamental side of things. Obviously we knew what he was doing for the last 5-6 weeks last year and we want to see a lot of that. You look at the ball off the bat, how it’s reacting and carrying. Really all we have to work on right now is batting practice, but bat speed we’re seeing. There are things we need to see for him to be successful and we’re seeing those.”

Scenes from Sunday: The latest pics from Peoria

SeagerBubbleThird baseman Kyle Seager was on the bubble during this throw during infield drills.


Michael Morse put on a show during batting practice, but got his outfield work in as well.


Justin Smoak talks with Alvin Davis, who is working as a roving instructor with the club.


Reliever Kameron Loe, who is a large human being, shares a laugh with Seager after running over the third baseman during a bunt drill.


Dustin Ackley should carry a bigger bat for the Mariners this year now that his ankle is healthy and he has a year under his belt.

Big boys continue putting on a hitting display

MoralesSmile1Another pretty impressive hitting display by the big boys at Mariners camp this morning, with Kendrys Morales (pictured above), Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay all driving the ball with power throughout their batting practice session.

It’s interesting that those four newcomers have immediately been lumped together as the first hitting group in batting practice, but the reason why is evident as soon as they go to work.

Morse, in particular, is a powerful man who drives the ball with aggression. But Ibanez and Morales also are obviously professional hitters with good strength. And on Sunday, Bay looked much better as he hit the ball with authority throughout the session.

Of course, this is just batting practice against coaches laying the ball in there. But this type of group power display is something that hasn’t been seen in Mariners camp for a while now and even manager Eric Wedge has taken notice.

“It’s impressive,” said the skipper. “Obviously they all have their own type of presence, which means a lot to me. That’s important. They’re here to perform and help us win ballgames. If you look at what they do in the cage, the way they handle themselves in drills, the way they move around, the way they lead, all those things are impressive to me.”

Things figure to quiet down on Monday when live batting practice begins. That means hitters stepping into the cage for the first time against Mariners pitchers, who to this point have been sharpening up in bullpen sessions without opposition.

The first day of live BP often involves hitters just standing at the plate tracking pitches, getting used to seeing the ball and honing their timing. So it’ll be interesting to see how much the big boys try to unleash, if at all.

Pitchers throwing live batting practice Monday will be Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi, Kameron Loe, Oliver Perez, Logan Bawcom, Andrew Carraway, Danny Farquhar, Brian Moran, Carson Smith, Jonathan Arias, Anthony Fernandez, D.J. Mitchell and Chance Ruffin.

Then on Tuesday, it’ll be Taijuan Walker, Charlie Furbush, Josh Kinney, Erasmo Ramirez, Tom Wilhelmsen, Carter Capps, Bobby Laframboise, Brandon Maurer, Yoervis Medina, Danny Hultzen, Lucas Luetge, James Paxton and Stephen Pryor.

The veteran starting candidates — Joe Saunders, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jeremy Bonderman and Jon Garland — all are throwing an extra bullpen session instead of jumping immediately into live BP.

Bonderman and Garland, both coming back from arm injuries, each threw Sunday and again impressed Wedge. Iwakuma and Saunders will throw in the bullpen Monday, along with Jhonny Nunez, who was late to camp because of a visa issue.

Felix Hernandez is on his own schedule and is simply playing catch right now as he eases into things. Wedge said Hernandez will throw his first bullpen early this week.

The only other news Sunday was the arrival of catcher Ronny Paulino, who finally got his own visa issue worked out and got out of the Dominican Republic. Paulino has missed the first five days of workouts, but took his physical Sunday and is expected to practice Monday.

Pictures from Peoria: First day of full-squad work

MorseCage1Michael Morse cast an imposing figure at his first workout … and then blasted some prodigious shots in batting practice.


Brendan Ryan is known more for his glove, but he’s looking to swing a bigger bat this year as well.


Kendrys Morales is more known for his bat, but he worked out at first base as well along side Justin Smoak.


Raul Ibanez, a familiar face, returns to the Mariners with a little new gray in the goatee.


Robert Andino, another new Mariner, will compete for time at shortstop and as a utility infielder.


Taijuan Walker, one of the young pitching guns, fires to first on a bunt drill.