March 2013

Walker gives up two runs in ‘B’ game outing

WakerTaiB2GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Top Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker gave up two runs in two innings of a 6-0 loss to the Indians in a seven-inning “B” game Thursday, though the 20-year-old right-hander didn’t get a lot of help from his defense.

Both Walker’s runs were earned, but the leadoff hit was a double that sailed over the head of left fielder Vinnie Catricala – who has played third base most of the spring – and the next batter drove a ground ball that just eluded second baseman Tim Lopes, an 18-year-old Minor Leaguer called up to fill out the squad.

The Indians proceed to get a clean single off Walker to drive in one run, then sandwiched a sacrifice fly around a pair of strikeouts to finish off his session.

Walker, combining a mid-90s fastball with a couple nasty curves, struck out two in his first inning of work and finished with four punchouts in his two innings while throwing 35 pitches.


James Paxton, another of Seattle’s touted young arms, continued a rough stretch this spring by giving up four runs and needing 47 pitches to get through the first two innings before being replaced by Walker. Paxton, who was knocked out of his last Cactus League start after just two-thirds of an inning by the A’s, didn’t get much help from his teammates either.

All four of Paxton’s runs were unearned after a pair of errors on shortstop Nick Franklin in the second inning. The left-hander gave up three hits and a walk that frame and finished the day with four runs and four hits with one walk and no strikeouts.

Two-for-one day for Mariners

Wanting to get a fair shot for all their remaining pitchers in camp before serious cutdowns begin, the Mariners scheduled an extra “B” game today along with their normal Cactus League contest with the Reds.

That means we’ll have a chance to see three of the team’s top young prospects, plus new lefty Joe Saunders, all in longer outings.

James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will go three innings each in the “B” game in Goodyear against the Indians at 10 a.m., with Carter Capps among the relievers in that one.

Then Saunders is scheduled for the first four frames against the Reds at 1:05 p.m. in Peoria, with Maurer to get up to four innings of his own in that one if all goes well. Homer Bailey is starting for Cincinnati.

There’ll be two games on Friday as well, with a Cactus League game against the Angels in Tempe at 1:05 p.m. and then a WBC exhibition against the Netherlands at 7:05 p.m. in Peoria. The reclamation projects get the bulk of the work there, with Jeremy Bonderman on tap for four innings against the Angels and Jon Garland the same against the Netherlands.

It’ll be back to one game a day — for the rest of spring — starting Saturday when Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled to start against the Rockies.

Here are the lineups for today’s games, with two interesting notes: Casper Wells is back after missing four games with a stiff neck and Vinnie Catricala gets an outfield start in the “B” game after spending most of the spring working at third base.

“B” game vs. Indians

Dustin Ackley 1B
Nick Franklin SS
Brad Miller 3B
Ronny Paulino C
VInnie Catricala LF
John Hicks DH
Julio Morban RF
Francisco Martinez CF
Timmy Lopes 2B

James Paxton LHP

Cactus League vs. Reds

Kyle Seager 2B
Casper Wells CF
Kendrys Morales DH
Michael Morse RF
Justin Smoak 1B
Carlos Peguero LF
Jesus Sucre C
Carlos Triunfel 3B
Brendan Ryan SS

Joe Saunders LHP

Tuesday’s Game 18 recap: Royals 4, Mariners 2.

IwakumaPlayer of the Game: Hisashi Iwakuma (pictured) looked outstanding in his fourth appearance of the spring, breezing through three innings on 26 pitches without a ball leaving the infield. He gave up four hits and two runs in the fourth, but told Japanese reporters afterward that he was working on his fastball that frame and didn’t throw many breaking pitches, so he wasn’t concerned by that letdown. The 31-year-old has given up just seven hits and three runs in 10 innings of work this spring and clearly looks stronger and more comfortable in this second go-round.

Stat of the Game: The Mariners totaled just four hits, but one was a home run by young infield prospect Carlos Triunfel, raising Seattle’s Cactus League-leading long ball tally to 33.They’ve hit at least one homer in 17 of their 18 games and 20 different players have now contributed at least one bomb, with Triunfel joining that group Wednesday.

Storyline: Iwakuma and Danny Hultzen pitched well, but the four hits and two runs by the offense both tied the lowest outputs this spring. The loss was the sixth in the last seven games for Seattle after a 10-game win streak.

Worth noting: Jason Bay led off for the second straight game as Franklin Gutierrez again was given a day off and Dustin Ackley also sat out Wednesday, but Bay went hitless again and is now 0-for-6 in that spot as his Cactus League average dipped to .292

Quote of the Game: “You can’t impress anyone on the bench. I just hope I get a couple more chances and keep going.” – Danny Hultzen after throwing a scoreless inning of relief in his first action in two weeks after being slowed by a sore hip.

Next: Joe Saunders is scheduled to throw the first four innings of Thursday’s Cactus League game against the Reds in Peoria at 1:05 p.m. PT, with Brandon Maurer to follow with four of his own. The Mariners also have a “B” game at 10 a.m. in Goodyear against the Indians, which will give James Paxton and Taijuan Walker a chance to throw three innings apiece. So lots of pitching tomorrow.

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

Here’s my story talking to Mariners players about the new commercials that were released today.

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

Survey says … most fans OK with players in WBC

This has been a little different spring with the World Baseball Classic going on, something that only happens every four years now and definitely changes the dynamic for a few players and teams during Spring Training.

The Mariners only had three of their Major League players take part, but those guys certainly had an impact with Michael Saunders enjoying his MVP performance for Canada, Oliver Perez getting entangled in Mexico’s brawl with Canada, and Alex Liddi still playing for the surprising Italian team as it carries on in the second round in Miami.

Other teams have been far more impacted. The Brewers, for instance, had 12 players taking part in WBC games, including nine from their 40-man roster.

The Mariners would certainly have felt more of a pinch if Felix Hernandez had chosen to play for Venezuela this spring, a decision he changed after agreeing to his new $175 million contract.

Given the way Hernandez is just now ramping up his innings and pitch count, it indeed would have been a little different story had he needed to be going full bore for Venezuela a week earlier.

That’s the challenge of the WBC and MLB, getting players ready in time to play games ahead of schedule. Saunders said he’s ready to go today with regular-season action and feels the experience was beneficial. We’ll see if he can maintain that peak performance now and come out firing again when it counts in April.

But the whole issue intrigues me, so I did a quick Twitter poll last night, asking fans to vote on whether they’d prefer that players on the team they support would skip or play in the WBC.

Of the 90 responses I got in the next hour, here’s the breakdown:

Play — 58 percent
Skip- — 29 percent
Have position players play and pitches skip — 11 percent
Neutral — 2 percent.

Interestingly, I didn’t even offer the option of having position players play and pitchers skip, but that decision resonated with quite a few respondents. It makes sense on one hand (as with Felix), but it’s tough to hold a baseball tournament without pitchers.

Obviously you can use just non-Major League pitchers, but that changes things quite a bit. Most of my Twitter followers are Mariners fans, so my poll might have been skewed by Saunders’ performance as well. Surely Mariners fans enjoyed seeing his outstanding effort for Canada and relished that opportunity for him to shine.

At any rate, a majority of fans indicated they like seeing their players compete in the WBC. And I learned that Twitter is a pretty easy way to test the waters on such questions, so I’ll probably do more Twitter polls in the future.

If you’d like to follow, my Twitter account is GregJohnsMLB.

Today’s lineup … and pitching plans beyond

IwakumaCloseThe Mariners are back in Surprise this afternoon for a rematch with the Royals, who suffered just their second loss of the spring on Tuesday with a 6-3 loss to the A’s. The Royals’ only other setback was the 12-2 thrashing the Mariners handed them last Thursday, the game when Stefen Romero went nuts and Hisashi Iwakuma (above) pitched three scoreless innings with just one hit.

Of course, it’s spring and wins and losses really don’t much matter. Which is why nobody is too worried that the Mariners have lost five of their last six after winning 10 straight. The winning was fun, the losing isn’t as much fun, but none of it will matter on April 1 when the real games begin.

How much does spring mean? Jason Bay is leading off again for the second straight day for the Mariners. That’s interesting, since he’s never led off a game in the regular season in his 10-year career. But is he destined to be the Mariners’ leadoff hitter?

I seriously doubt that will happen. But Franklin Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley are both sitting today and Eric Wedge is looking at guys in different places now while he has the chance.

Here’s the full lineup:

Jason Bay LF
Kyle Seager 3B
Michael Morse 1B
Raul Ibanez DH
Michael Saunders CF
Kelly Shoppach C
Carlos Peguero RF
Robert Andino SS
Carlos Triuenfel 2B

Hisashi Iwakuma P

Iwakuma is slated to go four innings today as we’re hitting the point where starters are starting to get stretched out. We’ll see more of that on Thursday when Joe Saunders is scheduled for the first four innings against the Reds in Peoria, with Brandon Maurer to follow with another four.

Additionally, the Mariners scheduled a “B” game Thursday at 10 a.m. in Goodyear against the Indians in ordre to get three innings each for James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.

The Mariners have two more games on Friday, with a Cactus League game at 1:05 p.m. against the Angels in Tempe and a WBC exhibition against the Netherlands club at 7:05 p.m. in Peoria.

Jeremy Bonderman is scheduled for a four-inning start against the Angels, with Andrew Carraway getting three innings as well.

Jon Garland draws the starting nod against the Netherlands and is slated for four innings, with Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen lined up in relief.

How those starters and the primary relievers fare is far more important than the final score in these exhibition games.

Monday’s Game 17 recap: D-backs 5, Mariners 4

MillerBradPlayer of the Game: Young infielder Brad Miller (pictured) hit his first Cactus League home run, a solo shot leading off the fifth inning, and finished off a 2-for-4 day with a double and run scored in the ninth. Miller, 23, was the team’s second-round draft pick in 2011 and is batting .241 (7-for-29) this spring in his first big league camp. He played third base on Tuesday and has also shown a solid glove at short and second base.

Stat of the Game: Hector Noesi’s ERA climbed to 17.36 as his struggles continued. The young right-hander walked two and then gave up a two-out home run to Mark Teahen in his one inning of work in the fourth. That number would be even worse if Noesi’s last outing – a three home-run disaster – hadn’t been rained out. Including the rainout (which doesn’t count in Cactus League stats), Noesi has now posted a 20.25 ERA with 15 earned runs, 17 hits, 10 walks and eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings over five appearances.

Storyline: Felix Hernandez threw three innings and gave up just one hit – a home run by Eric Hinske – in his second start of the spring. Hernandez was efficient enough in a 38-pitch outing that he went to the bullpen and threw another 15 pitches to work up his arm strength for his next start. If the Mariners stick to the schedule, he’ll likely throw about 65 pitches Sunday against the Rangers.

Worth noting: Jason Bay, who has never led off in 1,169 career regular-season games, was in the top spot in the order for the Mariners as manager Eric Wedge continued exploring all options. Bay’s rise had mostly to do with the fact Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells and other logical candidates had the day off, but Dustin Ackley was in the lineup and Wedge put him second behind Bay. The skipper said he’s not sure where Ackley will wind up this season.

Quote of the Game: ““That was pretty nice. Those guys are unbelievable, huh? Awesome.” — Felix Hernandez on the group of about 40 yellow-shirted fans wearing King’s Court T-shirts who chanted and waved “K” cards from a section down the left-field line in Peoria during his three innings of work.

Next: Hisashi Iwakuma makes his fourth outing of the spring when the Mariners travel to Surprise to face the Royals at 1:05 p.m. Iwakuma has given up just one run and three hits in six innings, including three scoreless frames last Thursday against the Royals. He’s expected to go four innings in this one. Danny Hultzen, who hasn’t pitched in almost two weeks due to a sore hip, is scheduled to make his return and pitch an inning in relief.

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

Here’s my story on outfielder Michael Saunders’ triumphant return to camp after his MVP performance for Canada in the WBC.

And here’s my notebook with the day’s news from camp.

Saunders rejoins Mariners, plus lots of Tuesday news

SaundersMichaelMichael Saunders is back with the Mariners this morning, fresh off his MVP performance for Canada in the first-round of pool play in the World Baseball Classic. He said he’s locked in and ready to start the season tomorrow, though of course the Mariners still have three weeks til Opening Day.

I’ll have more on Saunders’ thoughts later on He’s not in the lineup today as the Mariners face the D-backs at 1:05 p.m. at Peoria Stadium. It’s Felix Day as the Mariners ace makes his second start of the spring and is scheduled to throw the first three innings.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Jason Bay RF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Kendrys Morales 1B
Justin Smoak DH
Eric Thames LF
Jesus Montero C
Brad Miller 3B
Julio Morban CF
Brendan Ryan SS

Felix Hernandez P

Coming up, Hisashi Iwakuma is slated to throw the first four innings on Wednesday when the Mariners travel to Surprise to face the Royals. Danny Hultzen will pitch an inning in that game after getting the last week off when his hip started bothering him.

Then there’ll be lots of action on Thursday with Joe Saunders tentatively scheduled to throw four innings against the Reds in Peoria, with Brandon Maurer to follow with four more innings as the starters continue to get stretched out.

And there’ll be a “B” game at 10 a.m. Thursday morning in Goodyear against the Indians, with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker slated for three innings apiece.

On the injury front, had a chance to talk to Josh Kinney this morning and he said the stress reaction that has sidelined him for the next several weeks is in his left shoulder area. That’s something of a positive since he’s right-handed. The hard part, he says, is he has no idea why the injury occurred, though he says that shoulder has been bothering him ever since he drove out to Arizona from Missouri before camp.

I’ll have more on Kinney later on as well.

And one more news note, left-hander Anthony Fernandez was optioned to Double-A Jackson this morning, which puts the number of players still in camp at 56.

Pictures from Peoria: An off-day bonus special

The Mariners are off today, so here are some pictures from camp in recent days to tide you over until Tuesday when Felix takes the mound to face the D-backs in Peoria:

AckleySalute1Dustin Ackley is quietly off to a nice start this spring, batting .353 in Cactus League games.

GutiCatchNothing better than watching Franklin Gutierrez glide through his work in center field.

BoneGriffeyThe boys were back last week, with Ken Griffey Jr. joined by his old pal Jay Buhner as they signed some autographs and talked ball with anybody who wanted to listen.

VasquezAnthonyPitcher Anthony Vasquez’s smile is a welcome sight in the Minor League camp after he survived emergency brain surgery last winter when a blood vessel ruptured while he was rehabbing a shoulder injury in Peoria.

HansenDaveTriunfelNew hitting coach Dave Hansen working with young shortstop Carlos Triunfel. Hansen might be the busiest man in camp, and the early results have been promising.

WilhelmsenTommyWhat better way to close out than with the bartender, Tom Wilhelmsen.

Sunday’s Game 16 recap: White Sox 11, Mariners 7

MorseCage1Player of the Game: Michael Morse (pictured) launched his third home run of the spring, a solo shot in the second inning, in a 1-for-3 day that puts his Cactus League average at .308. Morse also played first base for the first time, with manager Eric Wedge saying he just wants some versatility there behind Justin Smoak.

Stat of the Game: The Mariners gave up 17 hits to a White Sox split-squad that was only using two regular starters. Six of those came off young starter Andrew Carraway, but each of Seattle’s seven pitchers gave up at least one hit and this was some of the Mariners best bullpen arms.

Storyline: The White Sox jumped on Carraway for five runs on six hits in the first inning and never looked back, with Charlie Furbush giving up back-to-back homers in the sixth.

Worth noting: The bullpen figures to be one of the team’s strengths, but this wasn’t its best day, particularly after veteran Josh Kinney was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his rib area earlier in the day that will sideline him for several weeks and likely longer.

Quote of the Game: “I’m glad they didn’t get into it with each other, that’s for sure. But
it’s baseball. Every now and again with the competition, adrenaline and
intensity takes over and it gets away from you a little bit. And that’s what it
looked like happened there.”— Eric Wedge on the WBC brawl between Canada and Mexico, with Michael Saunders and Oliver Perez on opposite sides.

Next: Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez will throw four innings each in a Minor League intrasquad game Monday, while the rest of the team is off. The Mariners return to Cactus League play Tuesday against the Diamondbacks at 1:05 p.m. PT in Peoria, with Felix Hernandez scheduled for three innings in his second start of the spring.

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

Here’s my story on Oliver Perez’s return to camp today and his thoughts on the WBC brawl.

And here’s my notebook with all the day’s news from camp, including the first roster cuts that were made after the game.

Josh Kinney sidelined by stress reaction in rib area

Kinney_JoshThe Mariners bullpen received a setback Sunday when the club announced reliever Josh Kinney will be sidelined for several weeks after tests showed a stress reaction in his left rib area.

Kinney, 34, will be reevaluated toward the end of the month before determining how soon he can pitch again. A stress reaction is a precursor to a potential rib fracture and Kinney was shut down in order to prevent the situation from getting worse.

The right-hander pitched three scoreless innings in his first three outings this spring, but struggled in his last appearance on Wednesday when he gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning against the Brewers.

Kinney posted a 3.94 ERA in 35 relief appearances last year, establishing himself as a valued member of the bullpen after being called up from Triple-A Tacoma on July 3. He tied with Tom Wilhelmsen for the most games pitched from that point of the season on with 35 and was second on the team in holds with nine.

Kinney’s absence could open the door for veteran Kameron Loe, a former Brewers set-up man who is trying to make the team as a non-roster invitee. The Mariners have some promising young right-handed power pitchers in the bullpen with Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps, but don’t have a lot of established veterans beyond Kinney and Loe.