March 2013

Monday’s Game 23 recap: Mariners 6, A’s 5

Morse_MichaelPlayer of the Game: Left fielder Michael Morse (pictured) went deep again, unloading his sixth home run of the spring with a towering shot to left in the sixth off A’s starter A.J. Griffin. Morse’s six bombs is tops among all Major Leaguers this spring and two shy of the Mariners club record for a spring set by Mike Wilson in ’09.

Stat of the Game: Hisashi Iwakuma got 10 flyouts and four ground outs, a far different scenario from his previous spring starts when he continually induced grounders with his nasty sinker. Iwakuma said the dry Arizona air caused him some problems gripping the ball and he didn’t get his normal downward movement, but still was able to battle through five innings with three runs on six hits.

Storyline: The Mariners put up five runs on six hits against Griffin, who is one of the A’s young pitching studs and a guy they’ll likely see several times this season in the AL West. It could have been better for Seattle, but A’s center fielder Coco Crisp robbed Jesus Montero of a two-run bomb with a great catch above the fence in the second.

Worth noting: Sometimes momentum is an elusive thing in baseball, especially in short spurts like Spring Training. After his 8-for-11 week in the WBC, Michael Saunders has gone 2-for-17 with the Mariners after a 1-for-4 day Monday. And Casper Wells, red-hot before injuring his neck, is now 0-for-10 since returning from a five-game absence.

Quote of the Day: “He’s had a real good spring for us. He knows what he wants to do up there. He’s a smart hitter. He’s strong. He does a good job making adjustments. That’s why he’s in the middle of our lineup.” — Eric Wedge on Michael Morse.

Next: Young right-hander Brandon Maurer starts Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. against the defending World Series champion Giants at Peoria Stadium. Maurer, trying to win a rotation berth as a 22-year-old prospect, is slated for five innings. Closer Tom Wilhelmsen and Charlie Furbush are among the relievers scheduled to throw. Veteran lefty Joe Saunders is on tap for a Minor League start in an intrasquad game at 10 a.m. at the Peoria Complex.

Here’s is the link to today’s boxscore.

Here’s a full story on today’s game.

Here’s my feature on Brandon Maurer as he keeps battling for a rotation berth.

Here’s my notebook on today’s news from Mariners camp.

And finally, here’s video of Morse’s towering home run.

Iwakuma sliding comfortably into No. 2 role

IwakumaHisashi Iwakuma gets the start today against the A’s, which means a day off from the rotation competition for the Mariners. Unlike last season, there are no questions surrounding Iwakuma this spring.

The 31-year-old has been outstanding all camp, the most-consistent pitcher in a Mariners uniform. Felix Hernandez obviously is the ace of the staff (news flash!), but Iwakuma has quietly slid into the No. 2 role in impressive fashion.

The trade of Jason Vargas opened that door and I kept hearing that Iwakuma wasn’t really a No. 2 starter, which of course is the same thing people used to say about Vargas. But Iwakuma was one of the premier starters in Japan for years and now that he’s fully healthy, he looks every bit the part this spring.

Iwakuma started preparing much earlier this offseason, knowing now what he’d be facing in the Major Leagues. He looks stronger physically and more comfortable mentally.

He’s getting hitters to pound the ball into the ground consistently with his sinker and has allowed just seven hits and no walks in 10 innings this spring with a 2.70 ERA. We’ll see how he fares today against the A’s, but so far, so good.

These are the same A’s the Mariners will face in their season-opening series on April 1-4 and Iwakuma figures to be on the mound for Game 2 of that series.

Here’s the Mariners lineup:

Michael Saunders RF
Casper Wells CF
Raul Ibanez DH
Michael Morse LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Jesus Montero C
Dustin Ackley 2B
Robert Andino SS
Brad Miller 3B

Hisashi Iwakuma P

Also scheduled to pitch today are Oliver Perez, Lucas Luetge, Steven Pryor and Logan Bawcom.

Brandon Maurer will start tomorrow and is scheduled for five innings in a 7:05 p.m. game against the Giants in Peoria, while Joe Saunders will start a Minor League contest. Then the Mariners have Wednesday off, though Jeremy Bonderman will throw in a Minor League contest that day.

Sunday’s Game 21 recap: Mariners 4, Rangers 3

Morales_KendrysPlayer of the Game: Kendrys Morales (pictured) supplied the big pop again, ripping his second home run in the past two days. And this one was a game-winner, a two-run shot that gave Seattle its 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Morales is batting .368 with four home runs and eight RBIs, definitely a good sign for a guy acquired to help boost the Mariners offense.

Stat of the Game: It was bombs away, again, for a Mariners team that slugged two more homers and now has 43 on the spring, just eight shy of the club’s Cactus League record. Morales and Raul Ibanez did the damage Sunday, their two-run shots accounting for all the scoring. The Mariners had 51 homers in 32 spring games in ’99 and 47 in ’08. They’re already third all-time with this year’s 43 … with 11 games still to go.

Storyline: While the Rangers didn’t bring a loaded team, having just one regular starter — Lance Berkman — in their split-squad lineup, Blake Beavan looked impressive with six innings of one-run ball and just three hits with no walks. Beavan is certainly doing everything he can to show he deserves to be in the rotation, but the Mariners are going to face some interesting decisions there in the next two weeks.

Worth noting: Dustin Ackley batted eighth for the first time this spring, an interesting spot for a guy supposedly destined to hit in the top three spots. But manager Eric Wedge said afterward that Ackley could well wind up down in that area during the regular season given the addition of the middle-of-the-order veterans and improvement of some of the young core players. Franklin Gutierrez appears the front-runner for the leadoff spot if he stays healthy and Kyle Seager is a strong No. 2 candidate.

Quote of the Day: “These guys are pretty good. They swing the bat a lot. You’ve just got
to make good pitches. I don’t think it’s a different mentality. I just throw my pitches. But they’re way more aggressive than big leaguers. They swing at everything.”— Felix Hernandez after giving up one run on three hits in four innings in a Minor League game against Class-A hitters.

Next: Hisashi Iwakuma gets the start Monday in a 1:05 p.m. Cactus League game against the A’s at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Iwakuma has looked very strong this spring and is clearly the No. 2 pitcher right now behind Hernandez.

Here’s is the link to today’s boxscore.

Here’s a full story on today’s game.

And here’s my notebook with all today’s news from camp.

Guti back in lineup; Felix in Minor League game today

GutiCatchAs expected, Franklin Gutierrez is back in the lineup today against the Rangers after not playing any games the past week after experiencing some tightness in his legs. The Mariners figured they’d take the safe route with Gutierrez, given his history, so they eased back in mid-March rather than risk any problems now.

But he’s worked out and hit in the cages every day, like normal, so the hope is he’ll pick right back up now on the strong spring he’s been having at the plate. Defense? That never is a concer with Guti.

As for the rest of the club, today will see Felix Hernandez pitching for the Class-A High Desert squad in a Minor League game against the Reds’ Bakersfield club on Field 3 at the Peoria Sports Complex at 1 p.m.

That keeps Hernandez on schedule — with two more spring starts after this before Opening Day — and avoids throwing him against the division-rival Rangers. Although having seen today’s Texas split-squad lineup, that wouldn’t much have mattered. The only starter in the Rangers lineup is DH Lance Berkman.

Blake Beavan gets the start against the Rangers at 1:10 p.m. PT and will likely go 5-6 innings as the contending starters continue getting stretched out. Hisashi Iwakuma starts Monday against the A’s in Phoenix and then Brandon Maurer goes Tuesday night against the Giants in Peoria.

Joe Saunders will pitch in a Minor League game Tuesday, Jeremy Bonderman will do the same on Wednesday and then Jon Garland and Erasmo Ramirez are both tentatively scheduled to throw Thursday night against the Cubs in Peoria.

If you’ve been waiting to see the Mariners on TV, this is your week. Games today, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will all be shown live on ROOT Sports.

Here’s the full lineup today:

Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Kendrys Morales DH
Raul Ibanez LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Jason Bay RF
Kelly Shoppach C
Dustin Ackley 2B
Robert Andino SS

Blake Beavan P

Saturday’s Game 20 recap: Mariners 5, Rockies 2

MoralesSmile1 Player of the Game: Kendrys Morales (pictured) continued showing what he can bring to the middle of the Mariners lineup with a 2-for-3 day that included his third home run of the spring. Morales is batting .371 this spring and looking like the offensive force the Mariners were hoping for when they traded Jason Vargas to the Angels.

Stat of the Game: Erasmo Ramirez gave up five doubles among his eight hits allowed in a six-inning start, but the youngster limited the Rockies to a 2-for-12 day with runners in scoring position. As a result, he allowed just two runs despite having runners on base every inning and kept his spring ERA at a nice 1.50 after 12 innings of work.

Storyline: The Mariners keep playing the long-ball game, belting two more home runs — by Morales and Mike Jacobs — to elevate their Major League-leading total to 41 over 20 spring games. Their all-time Cactus League record is 51 in 32 games in 1999.

Worth noting: Michael Saunders hasn’t quite translated his WBC success over into the spring games. Since going 8-for-11 in three games for Team Canada, Saunders has gone 1-for-13 in three outings for the Mariners. He was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts on Saturday, his Cactus League average dipping to .161.

Quote of the Game: “I don’t know why I wait until I get the double to execute the pitches.” — Erasmo Ramirez after he gave up five doubles, but continually worked out of trouble in his two-run outing.

Next: Blake Beavan gets the start on Sunday as the Mariners host the Rangers at 1:05 p.m. at Peoria Stadium. Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez will be tuning up against a group of youngsters in a Class-A Minor League game over on a practice field at Peoria Stadium at the same time. Expect Franklin Gutierrez back in the lineup for Seattle after missing a week with tightness in his legs.

Here’s is the link to today’s boxscore.

Here’s my notebook with all the news from camp today.

And here’s a full story on today’s game.

Saturday’s lineups and upcoming pitching plans

Erasmo RamirezMugAfter playing four games in the past two days, the Mariners are taking it a little easier today with players given the morning off. That means guys will just show up at 11 a.m. and those playing today will head to Salt River Fields for the 1:05 p.m. PT game against the Rockies, while the others will do their work and head home.

Manager Eric Wedge indicated last night that things would start to get turned up a little in the coming days, however, in terms of getting to a more regular lineup and players being used back-to-back games and that sort of thing.

They made 11 cuts yesterday, bringing the roster down to 40, which is a more manageable number. Wedge said the plan is to get Franklin Gutierrez back in the lineup Sunday after he’s taken a week off from games after feeling some tightness in his legs.

WIth Guti still sidelined, Michael Saunders is leading off and playing center field today.

Here’s the full lineup:

Michael Saunders CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Kendrys Morales 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jesus Montero DH
Carlos Peguero RF
Jesus Sucre C
Nick Franklin 2B
Brendan Ryan SS

Erasmo Ramirez P

These will be interesting days for the starting pitchers as well. Ramirez (pictured) has been very good so far this spring and he’ll go today, with Blake Beavan throwing tomorrow against the Rangers. Then it’ll be Hisashi Iwakuma on Monday against the A’s in Phoenix, with young Brandon Maurer starting Tuesday’s night game against Barry Zito and the Giants in Peoria.

We saw both Jeremy Bonderman and Jon Garland throw yesterday, with Bonderman turning in a solid outing and Garland having his first rough go. Both those guys seem to have a chance to land one of the final rotation spots. But if even one does, that leaves just one spot for Beavan, Ramirez and Maurer.

So, yeah, these upcoming starts will be closely watched. Maurer has done everything right so far, but he has never pitched above Double-A ball so it still seems likely he’ll at least begin the season in Tacoma. But he’s still here for a reason, so we’ll see.

The one guy missing from the Cactus League rotation there is Felix Hernandez. He’s scheduled to throw Sunday, but will go in a Minor League game at 1 p.m. on one of the backfields at the Peoria Sports Complex instead of facing the AL West-rival Rangers. Pretty typical for how Hernandez has been used in past springs. No use overexposing him to teams that see him several times in the regular season.

He’ll have two more Cactus League starts after that and then be ready for Opening Day. And yeah, Opening Day is now just 16 days away. A long spring is starting to turn toward the home stretch.

On the broadcast front, Sunday’s game against the Rangers is the Mariners’ next televised contest, with
ROOT Sports broadcasting live at 1:05 p.m. PT. There will also be TV coverage this coming week against the Giants on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. PT, the Cubs on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. PT and the Indians next Saturday at 1:05 p.m. PT.

Guti says he’s fine, plus Felix update

GutiCatchCenter fielder Franklin Gutierrez isn’t in the lineup for either of Friday’s games and he hasn’t played in five days, since March 9 against the Dodgers.

What gives?

“I just had a little tightness in my legs,” Gutierrez said this morning. “But I’m fine. Nothing to worry about.”

Gutierrez continues to hit and work out every day, so it certainly does appear this isn’t a big deal. Of course, given his history of injuries, any issue becomes a concern. It appears the Mariners are just being extra cautious right now with two weeks still before the start of the regular season.

Also, Felix Hernandez isn’t going to pitch  against the Rangers in Cactus League play on Sunday, which is his next scheduled day to stay on rotation toward Opening Day. Instead, he’ll pitch four innings in a Minor League contest that day rather that face the AL West rival Rangers.

Blake Beavan will start against Texas on Sunday.

Hernandez will have two more spring starts after Sunday, with his scheduled days falling March 22 when the Mariners face the Padres and March 27 against the Dodgers. Both those games are in Peoria.

Four more cuts this morning, plus today’s lineups

It’ll be a busy Friday here at Mariners camp with two games today – facing the Angels in a Cactus League game at 1:10 p.m. in Tempe and then hosting The Netherlands in a WBC exhibtion at 7:05 p.m. in Peoria.

You can expect more roster moves today as well. The club already sent catchers Ronny Paulino and John Hicks and infielders Alex Liddi and Stefen Romero down to the Minor League camp this morning.

The moves leave the Mariners with 47 players in camp, with more cuts expected after the team plays twice today..

With the departure of Paulino and Hicks, the club has four catchers remaining: Jesus Montero, Kelly Shoppach, Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre.

Here are today’s lineups:

Mariners at Angels in Tempe

Michael Saunders LF
Nick Franklin 2B
Raul Ibanez DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Jesus Montero C
Julio Morban RF
Carlos Triunfel SS
Vinnie Catricala 3B
Francisco Martinez CF

Jeremy Bonderman P

Bonderman is expected to throw four innings, followed by three from Andrew Carraway.

Mariners vs. The Netherlands

Jason Bay DH
Dustin Ackley 2B
Casper Wells CF
Carlos Peguero RF
Kelly Shoppach C
Eric Thames LF
Robert Andino 3B
Mike Jacobs 1B
Brad Miller SS

Jon Garland P

Garland is slated for four innings, followed by two from Lucas Luetge and one or two from Stephen Pryor. Tom Wilhelmsen is also expected to toss an inning.

Then the Mariners will be down to one game a day the rest of the spring, starting with Saturday’s trip to Talking Stick to face the Rockies. Erasmo Ramirez gets the start in that one, with Blake Beavan on the mound Sunday against the Rangers in Peoria.

Tonight’s game against the Netherlands is on 710 ESPN Seattle. There will be no radio coverage from the afternoon game with the Angels.

Thursday’s Game 19 recap: Mariners 8, Reds 7

 MorseAPPlayer of the Game: Michael Morse (pictured) continued his spring assault with a 3-for-3 day with two homers, a double and five RBIs. The big man is making his mark and now shares the Cactus League home run lead with the White Sox’s Paul Konerko with five.

Stat of the Game: Hate to keep leaning on the long ball, but hey, the Mariners keep hitting ’em. WIth Morse cranking two and Mike Zunino winning the game with his solo shot in the eighth, Seattle increased its Major League-leading HR total to 36 in 19 games.

Storyline: While veteran lefty Joe Saunders got hit around pretty good, giving up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, young Brandon Maurer shone brightly again with four shutout innings of relief. Maurer is competing for a starting job and doing everything possible as a 22-year-old who has never pitched above Double-A. He now owns a 0.90 spring ERA with one run in 10 innings.

Worth noting: After the game, the Mariners sent top young pitching prospects Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton down to the Minor League camp, along with Hector Noesi and Jhonny Nunez. Not sent down yet? Maurer.

Quote of the Game: “It’s a combination of things. One, how he handles himself as a young pitcher. Two, just the way his stuff plays against big-league hitters. And then you just look at how he continues to climb in regard to how we build him up and how he handles different situations and works through those situations. So far we’ve seen all good things.” — Manager Eric Wedge on what they need to see from Maurer.

Next: The Mariners have a pair of games Friday, traveling to Tempe to face the Angels in a 1:10 p.m. Cactus League game and then hosting The Netherlands in a WBC exhibition game at 7:05 p.m. in Peoria. Jeremy Bonderman starts against the Angels and Jon Garland goes against The Netherlands, both expected to throw four innings.

Here’s is the link to today’s boxscore.

Here’s my notebook on the news from camp today, including the roster move to send Hultzen, Walker and Paxton down.

And here’s a story on Mariners Minor League outfielder Kalian Sams, a member of The Netherlands team who says he’s playing these WBC games for Greg Halman.

Big Three sent down; Maurer still competing

The Mariners sent five pitchers down to the Minor Leagues on Thursday, including top pitching prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. But interestingly, up-and-coming right-hander Brandon Maurer remains in the Major League camp after throwing four more shutout innings in an 8-7 victory over the Reds.

Hultzen and Hector Noesi, who are both on the 40-man roster, were officially optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Three others pitchers – Walker, Paxton and Jhonny Nunez – were re-assigned to the Minor League camp since they’re not on the 40-man.

The moves bring the Mariners total to 51 players still in camp, including 22 pitchers.

Among those still competing is Maurer, the 22-year-old right-hander who has a 0.90 ERA with just one run allowed in 10 innings this spring. He allowed three hits and two walks with four strikeouts in shutting out the Reds from the fifth through eighth innings Thursday. It was his longest spring stint yet after Joe Saunders gave up seven runs in the first four.

“We had a couple starters out there pitching for us and it was a little different for Brandon coming out of the bullpen like that, but he knew he was going to pitch four innings and he did a great job,” said manager Eric Wedge. “He rushed through a couple pitches at times, but he was able to fix it and that’s a good sign. His stuff was good again, like it was his last outing. The baseball is doing what he wants it to do and obviously it’s good stuff. So he’s been pretty impressive.”

What exactly do the Mariners need to see from the youngster, who was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year last season for Double-A Jackson?

“It’s a combination of things,” Wedge said. “One, how he handles himself as a young pitcher. Two, just the way his stuff plays against big-league hitters. And then you just look at how he continues to climb in regard to how we build him up and how he handles different situations and works through those situations. So far we’ve seen all good things.”

Walker and Hultzen are among the top prospects in baseball, but Walker is just 20 and yet to pitch above Double-A ball and Hultzen – the second overall pick in the 2011 Draft – missed a week of camp with a sore hip and has thrown just four innings this Spring.