April 2013

Pryor goes on DL, bullpen getting thin

PryorStephenStephen Pryor was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners on Monday after the right-handed reliever was diagnosed with a tear in the latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder.

Pryor, 23, felt tightness in his back during Sunday’s victory over the Rangers and was taken out of the game after pitching 1 1/3 innings. The tear in his lat muscle was discovered during tests by Mariners medical director Edward Khalfayan.

The Mariners were off on Monday, so a roster move to fill Pryor’s spot on the 25-man roster won’t be announced until prior to Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Tigers.

This is a significant hit to the Mariners’ bullpen as the hard-throwing youngster had pitched in seven of the Mariners’ first 14 games this season and not allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings with just three hits and one walk, while striking out seven.

So what now?

The right-handed situation is suddenly pretty thin behind closer Tom Wilhelmsen and Carter Capps, with Blake Beavan the other righty in the pen after getting demoted from the rotation just three days ago upon Aaron Harang’s arrival by trade.

The Mariners could recall Lucas Luetge, who was just sent down to Triple-A Tacoma last week, though that would give the bullpen four left-handers — along with Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush and recently promoted Bobby LaFromboise — and just the three right-handers.

Available right-handed relievers in Tacoma include Logan Bawcom, Danny Farquhar, Jhonny Nunez, Brian Sweeney and Yoervis Medina. Of that group, only Medina is on the 40-man roster, so any other promotion would require a move to create a spot.

Veteran right-hander Kameron Loe was claimed off waivers by the Cubs on Saturday after being designated for assignment last week by the Mariners. Josh Kinney, another veteran right-hander, is on the 60-day disabled list with a stress reaction in his ribs.

Hector Noesi, who has worked some in relief in the past for both the Yankees and Mariners, was just promoted to Tacoma from Double-A Jackson on Monday after pitching 11 scoreless innings with five hits, three walks and 12 strikeouts in his first two starts with Double-A Jackson.

Would be a bit of a surprise to see Noesi get the call so soon, though he is on the 40-man roster and actually pitched much better in relief last year. The guy I thought might be on the radar later in the season is Carson Smith, the hard-throwing young closer at Jackson who impressed in camp. But not sure the Mariners want to jump him that quickly.

So we’ll see who shows up on Tuesday …

Wells DFA’d by Blue Jays … so now what?

WellsCasperOutfielder Casper Wells was designated for assignment today by the Blue Jays, having yet to even play in a game for Toronto after being claimed off waivers last week from the Mariners.

While that is surprising on the surface, it probably shouldn’t be stunning for one simple reason. The Blue Jays have done this sort of thing before, claiming a player they think might have value and then seeing if they can trade him or get him through waivers on their own to keep him in the system.

Tough situation for Wells, who now must sit through another 10-day waiting period to see if the Blue Jays trade, release or option him to the Minors. Just as with the Mariners, Wells would have to clear waivers before being sent to Toronto’s Triple-A club in Buffalo since he is out of Minor League options.

This is part of the business of baseball, a tough part for the player involved as they play the waiting game. The Mariners just acquired pitcher Aaron Harang in a somewhat similar situation as he was acquired from the Dodgers by the Rockies, who immediately DFA’d him and then saw what they could get in a trade.

I’m told the Blue Jays were figuring to DFA Wells once Brett Lawrie returned from the disabled list, but wound up pulling the trigger sooner because they needed a bullpen arm. So they’ll see if there is any market value for Wells now.

As the Mariners learned, there wasn’t a big clamor for Wells two weeks ago. Most team’s 25-man rosters are filled around Opening Day with players of value to their own clubs and any team claiming Wells had to be ready to release someone else to keep him on their 25-man roster.

The obvious question is whether the Mariners would be interested now in getting Wells back, given the rash of injuries to their outfield with Michael Morse out with a fractured little finger, Michael Saunders on the disabled list with a sprained shoulder and Franklin Gutierrez being played cautiously with ongoing sore legs.

I don’t have any immediate insight there as today is an offday for the Mariners, other than noting that Morse isn’t expected to be out for more than a few more days at the most. Saunders will likely be out for a couple more weeks. Gutierrez is an ongoing question mark, but one the Mariners were already dealing with when they let Wells go in the first place.

The Mariners made the choice to go with Jason Bay over Wells two weeks ago and there’s no reason to think they’ve changed their mind on that specific question. Bay has hit .200 (5-for-25) with a double, home run and two RBIs in 10 games. Not great, but not much different than what they had seen from Wells in the past.

Endy Chavez has done a decent job filling in at center field with Gutierrez and Saunders both out. He’s hit .250 (3-for-12) and played solid defense. Clearly the 35-year-old isn’t the long-term answer, but the Mariners didn’t seem to think Wells was either or else they’d have kept him on their original 25-man roster.

It’s worth noting that the Rangers are currently in the same process with outfielder Julio Borbon, a 27-year-old lefty who they DFA’d a week. Borbon, who has hit .283 in parts of three seasons with the Majors and is a good defender with speed and leadoff ability, reportedly has generated at least some minor trade interest. He was a 2007 first-round draft pick who spent last year at Triple-A Round Rock and hit .304 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

But again, with Borbon, Wells or any other player who is out of options, the question for any team is whether adding them is worth jettisoning another player.

For Seattle, making a deal with the Rangers for Borbon or trying to bring Wells back could easily be made in the short term by parting with Chavez. But barring further injury, as soon as Saunders is healthy again, it would be back to the same question of either DFA’ing that player again, or cutting ties with Bay or fellow backup outfielder Raul Ibanez.

That’s why it seems the biggest question revolves around Saunders’ long-term prognosis. If there’s any chance of him being out more than a few weeks, the Mariners would be wise to cover themselves better in center field, given Gutierrez’s history.

I’ve been a proponent of trying to bring Borbon on board as a quality addition to the outfield mix since he can play center field and also lead off, in essence a younger version of Chavez with more upside.

But even in his case, if Saunders is capable of returning by the end of April and Gutierrez proves capable of playing on close to an every-day basis, the Mariners would then find themselves back in the same spot.

That’s why even with the current string of injuries, the notion of simply reversing course on Wells — particularly since it’ll likely be another 10 days before he’s even available — isn’t just a slam-dunk decision. As always, there are lots of moving parts to ponder.

Harang to start Tuesday, Beavan to bullpen

The Mariners wasted little time moving newly acquired veteran Aaron Harang into the rotation, with Eric Wedge announcing the right-hander will start Tuesday against the Tigers at Safeco Field.

The move was made shortly after Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis watched Harang throw a 40-pitch bullpen session. Harang was acquired from the Rockies in a trade Thursday.

Blake Beavan will move into the bullpen in a long relief role, with Harang taking his spot.

“He was up to over 100 pitches in Spring Training and threw a simulated game the other day,” said Wedge. “He feels good and looked good today. So Carl spent some time talking to him as well as myself and we felt that was the right thing for him to do.

“Moving Beavan to the bullpen gives us some length in the bullpen as well. So hopefully it’s a win-win siutaiton for us.”

Beavan won 11 games last year for the Mariners, but has struggled in two starts this season.

“He’s still a young pitcher figuring it out,” said Wedge. “He needs to continue to improve. Sometimes when you move somebody to the bullpen it’s a different look and feel. Maybe that helps him along the way, too.”

“Winning 11 games lat year is no small feat for any pitcher, especially on a team that won as many teams as we won. So having an opportunity to have a different look at him helps us. And it makes us feel a little more comfortable having somebody down there that can give us some length.”

Rookie Brandon Maurer, who lasted just 2/3 of an inning in his last start and is lugging an early 16.20 ERA, will remain in the rotation for now.

“I like his arsenal of pitches and his stuff,” Wedge said. “He’s a young guy just getting his feet wet and I believe you’ve got to give him a little bit of time. Blake is a little further along experience-wise, but you have to like the stuff of Maurer. And each time he goes out there, you’ll see him continue to figure things out and improve. You’ve got to stick with guys.”

Harang, an 11-year veteran with a career record of 105-104 and a 4.19 ERA, said he was just happy to finally know where he’ll be playing after getting dealt from the Dodgers to the Rockies and now Seattle in the past week.

“It was just nice to finally have a resolution and be able to repack and ready to go for the season,” he said. “I made my last start that last week in spring and then was trying to throw as much as I could in case I needed to be used in a long situation. So I was able to stay fresh and make sure I was fully ready to go.”

Mariners acquire Harang to bolster rotation

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego PadresLooking to bolster a pitching staff that has looked a little shaky in the early going, the Mariners acquired veteran right-hander Aaron Harang on Thursday in a trade with the Rockies.

The Mariners sent Minor League right-hander Steven Hensley to Colorado in exchange for the 11-year veteran.

The Mariners also received what a Mariners source called “significant cash” from the Rockies to help offset Harang’s salary.

Right-handed reliever Kameron Loe was designated for assignment by the Mariners to make room for Harang on the 40-man roster. Loe surrendered six home runs in 6 2/3 innings for Seattle after making the club as a non-roster invite.

Harang is expected to join the Mariners on Friday. He hasn’t pitched since Spring Training when he was with the Dodgers, so it’s not certain if he’ll immediately join the Mariners rotation or start out in the bullpen.

Harang, 34, is under contract for $7 million for this season, plus either a $2 million buyout for 2014 or a mutual option for between $7-8 million depending on how many innings he pitches this season.

Harang was 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 179 2/3 innings with the Dodgers last season, then was traded last Saturday for catcher Ramon Hernandez, with the Dodgers including $4.25 million to offset some of Harang’s salary.

The Rockies immediately designated Harang for assignment and began shopping him, with several clubs expressing interest in the 11-year veteran.

Harang has a career record of 105-104 with a 4.19 ERA in 299 starts. He pitched eight seasons for the Reds from 2003-10, then was 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA for the Padres in 2011 before signing as a free agent with the Dodgers last year.

The Mariners rotation currently includes rookie Brandon Maurer and young right-hander Blake Beavan, who have both struggled in their first two starts.

Seattle does have some quality pitching prospects at Triple-A Tacoma, including 2011 first-round Draft pick Danny Hultzen, as well as veteran Jeremy Bonderman. But Harang adds proven depth to a rotation topped by Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders.

Hensley, 26, had appeared in two games in relief for Triple-A Tacoma this season, allonw one earned run on two hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. He’d been a starter most of his Minor League career, but was moved to the bullpen last year and posted a 4-6 record with a 4.84 ERA in 44 appearances for Tacoma and Double-A Jackson.

So what now if Michael Saunders goes on DL?

Houston Astros v Seattle MarinersAfter a relatively injury-free Spring Training during which the only significant issue was losing reliever Josh Kinney to the 60-day disabled list with stress reaction in his ribs, the Mariners took a big hit in Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the Astros.

Right fielder Michael Saunders, who figures as a key player both defensively and at the top of the lineup this year, crashed into the outfield wall and sprained his right shoulder on the first out of the game.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the video.

Tough blow for the Mariners and Saunders, who flashed his considerable potential with a breakout performance for Canada in the WBC this spring and is looking to build on that this season after establishing himself as a everyday starter last year.

Manager Eric Wedge said postgame that it wasn’t a certainty that Saunders would go on the 15-day disabled list, which is good news that it’s at least a question. But shoulders, particularly throwing shoulders, are a tough spot to hurt for an outfielder (see Mike Carp last year).

Assuming Saunders is going to be out at least a couple weeks, what is the short-term solution? We’ll find out this afternoon when the Mariners gather for tonight’s game against the Rangers. But the guess here is veteran Endy Chavez gets the call from Triple-A Tacoma, for one simple reason.

Unless Wedge thinks Franklin Gutierrez is ready to play every day — and he indicated on Tuesday he wasn’t to that point yet — the Mariners will need someone who can play center field.

Jason Bay tinkered with that position in spring, but that appears more of an emergency fill-in solution. Bay is a decent corner outfielder, but he’s not a guy who would instill great confidence in center, particularly if your corner outfielders in that same scenario were Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez.

This is precisely why the Mariners signed Chavez late in spring, knowing they might need a center fielder if they let Casper Wells go and something happened to Gutierrez or Saunders.

Chavez is off to a great start in Tacoma, hitting .429 (12-for-28) through six games. Some of the other Tacoma outfielders are hitting well also — Eric Thames is at .464 and Carlos Peguero is hitting .323 with 10 RBIs.

But Chavez, 35, is a natural center fielder and a veteran whose development wouldn’t be hurt by playing sporadically as Gutierrez’s replacement for a couple weeks. The only downside with Chavez is he’s not on the 40-man roster, so a move would need to be made to clear a spot.

Here’s the current 40-man list.

Or another possibility could lie with the team coming in tonight for a four-game series. The Rangers just designated outfielder Julio Borbon for assignment on Monday. Borbon, 27, is a pretty good defender who runs well and could fill the left-handed leadoff role if needed.

Borbon would be a younger version of Chavez with more upside, if the Mariners could work out a deal with the Rangers. He’s hit .283 with 40 stolen bases in 216 games in parts of three Major League seasons with Texas, though he was at Triple-A Round Rock all of last year where he batted .304 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

So that’s one to keep an eye on, though Chavez is the more-likely immediate solution.

Casper Wells claimed by Blue Jays

WellsCasperOutfielder Casper Wells was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays on Wednesday, according first to Peter Gammons and since announced officially by the Mariners.

Wells is out of Minor League options, so he was designated for assignment by the Mariners on March 31 when the club decided to go with Jason Bay as its final outfielder on the 25-man roster. That gave the Mariners a 10-day window to trade, release or outright Wells to the Minors if he cleared waivers.

Wells, 28, is an excellent defender who hit .225 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs in 124 games for the Mariners over the past two seasons. He batted .189 with two homers, 14 RBIs and a .646 OPS in 53 at-bats this spring.

Wells was one of four players acquired from the Tigers in the Doug Fister trade on July 30, 2011, coming to Seattle along with pitchers Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin and third base prospect Francisco Martinez, who has since been shifted to center field.

The Blue Jays will either need to keep him on their own 25-man roster or go through the same procedure of designating him for assignment if they want to send him to the Minors.

The Blue Jays have a starting outfield of Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus, with Rajai Davis the primary backup at all three positions. Emilio Bonifacio is also capable of playing in the outfield, though he has been used mostly at second base early this season.

Also, Ryan Divish of the News Tribune is reporting that the Mariners will call up left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise to bolster their bullpen after last night’s 16-9 loss, with Lucas Luetge getting sent down to Tacoma after pitching three innings in that game.

That move has not been announced by the Mariners, who don’t make such moves official until players actually arrive and are available to play. The Rainiers were in Sacramento last night, so presumably LaFromboise is making his way to Seattle as we speak.

LaFromboise is on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, but has never been with the big-league club. He went 5-2 with a 1,59 ERA in 27 appearances for Tacoma last year after a midseason promotion from Jackson.

He’s pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief this year for the Rainiers.

Guti with a Gold Glove moment in center

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners

-Getty photo

Nice Opening Night win by the Mariners tonight as they debuted at Safeco Field with a 3-0 victory over the Astros in a game that featured good pitching, timely hitting and a great defensive play.

But one thing really worth a closer look is the diving catch by Franklin Gutierrez in the top of the third to rob Ronny Cedeno of a shot to the gap. Here’s the video.

“You’ve seen him do it a lot. That was just tremendous,” said Eric Wedge. “He gets jumps on balls like most people don’t and puts himself in postion to make great plays like that. He just doesn’t have any fear out there. That was just a great play for us.”

Starting pitcher Joe Saunders, the beneficiary on the mound, called it “the play of the game.”

Shortstop Brendan Ryan, known for some pretty good leather himself, took it a step farther.

“Goosebumps moment,” said Ryan. “Opening Night, he makes the catch like that, the place just roars. That’s outstanding. You’re hoping someone is going to get that opportunity and come through. Usually it’s something on the offensive side that brings everyone to their feet, but he went a heck of a long ways for that.

” That was the Gold Glove stuff everybody knows he’s capable of and that’s something that can create momentum, too. We’re strong defensively and he just put the exclamation point on it there.”

And the man himself? Guti, as usual, played it pretty low key.

“I saw Saunders playing to the line (in right field) so I just went to go get it and the only chance I had to get it was to dive. I’m glad I caught it.”

And everyone was reminded once again why Gutierrez could be one of the keys to the season if he can stay healthy.

Here’s my game story on Mariners.com, as well as my notebook with all the news of the day, including Wedge talking about how he’s not yet ready to play Gutierrez every day.

Beautiful scene at Safeco for opener

photo

Sometimes a photo says it better than anything else. Gorgeous scene here at Safeco Field on Monday night for the home opener, with the huge new video board really setting everything else off.

Here’s what it looked like for the national anthem. Awesome.

Taking a close look at Ibanez’s critical at-bats

Seattle Mariners v Chicago White SoxSecond guessing a manager is as big a part of baseball as hot dogs and beer, so naturally there was some fan chatter today after the Mariners dropped a 4-3 decision to the White Sox in a game where they missed a few golden opportunities.

Going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position is usually a bad formula for success, but one situation that raised particular interest was a sixth-inning at-bat by Raul Ibanez when manager Eric Wedge left the veteran left-hander in with runners on first and second even after White Sox skipper Robin Ventura brought in lefty reliever Donnie Veal.

Ibanez wound up striking out. Should Wedge have pinch hit for Ibanez there? He did have plenty of right-handed sticks on the bench with Jason Bay, Jesus Montero, Franklin Gutierrez and Robert Andino.

His thoughts?

“Not at that point in time,” Wedge said postgame. “For the exact reason that he comes around again late with a chance against the right-hander and you feel pretty confident that’s going to come back around that way.

“It’s early in the season and you want to give these guys an opportunity. Raul has obviously been a clutch hitter most of his career. It looked like he had one pitch to hit, otherwise that guy pitched him pretty good.”

These things can be micro-analyzed to death, but I happen to agree with Wedge on this one. If you take Ibanez out in the sixth, you don’t have a lefty on your bench to face right-hander Jesse Crain when Ibanez’s spot came up again in the eighth with runners on first and second again.

Yeah, Ibanez struck out again in that situation. He went 1-for-4 on the day with a double and run scored, but whiffed in the two big late-inning situations.

“I left a couple chances out there,” Ibanez acknowledged. “I didn’t get it done. I’ve got to be better than that.”

But you can’t nitpick baseball to death. Guys don’t always come through, but that doesn’t mean the thought-process was wrong. It’s a tough game and the majority of time, the pitcher wins. Ibanez talked specifically about that situation afterward.

“The 2-0 fastball away started it. I had a pitch to hit in that situation after two sliders. Then he dropped a 3-1 breaking ball on me. Because that landed for a strike, I swung at the next one. Once he’s able to throw that for a strike, I had to be prepared to hit it and he made a good pitch. It could have gone either way if I’d taken it, but with guys out there I wasn’t going to take that chance.

“I would’t say I chased one. I’m still not sure if it was a strike or ball after viewing it. It could have gone either way. But I could have fouled it off maybe and I didn’t. I didn’t get it done.”

As for his final at-bat against the right-hander Crain?

“That one I chased out of the zone,” he said of his swing and miss on 95-mph fastballl that sent him packing. “He gave me a decent 1-0 pitch on the outer third,
that one I probably could have hit. Then he threw the big slow curveball
backdoor, then I chased one out of the zone. What else can you say? I’ve got to
be better than that.”

Ibanez has racked up a lot of big hits in his career, but he knows sometimes it just doesn’t happen. That’s the nature of the game.

Beavan eager for first start tonight

BeavanBlake1The Mariners are looking to turn recent history around against the White Sox tonight, with 24-year-old Blake Beavan getting his first start of the season.

Seattle is 4-24 against the White Sox in the past three years and 2-14 at U.S. Cellular Field, site of tonight’s 5:10 p.m. PT contest. It’s chilly in the Windy City, with the forecast for 39 degrees at first pitch.

After two months in Arizona and California, that’ll be a rude awakening. The other rude awakening could be U.S. Cellular, a very hitter-friendly park where the Mariners have taken their lumps in the past.

Beavan said he’s not worried about any of that though and is ready to roll.

“I’m just anxious to get out there and compete again under the lights and get going,” he said. “This is a fun team this year and there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation to get off to the start we want.”

Beavan is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts against the White Sox, including a loss at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 25 when he gave up seven hits and four runs – including two home runs – in five innings.

But Beavan has had great success in another tough pitcher’s park, Rangers Ballpark iN Arlington, and feels sometimes it helps him to face such circumstances.

“I don’t mind pitching in hitter ballparks. I don’t mind pitching anywhere,” said Beavan. “The more hitter-friendly, the more concentration and focus I have. Once the ball leaves your hand, that’s all the control you have. You understand what comes with where you’re  playing.

“At the end of the day, you can only make a good pitch. If they put a good swing on it, you know they have a chance for it to get out of the ballpark if you’re playing at certain fields and that’s the way Chicago is. You just take what you get and work from there. Some parks you just need to try to keep the ball more on the ground.”

Justin Smoak gets tonight off with Kendrys Morales getting his first start at first base. Here’s the full lineup:

Franklin Gutierrez CF
Michael Saunders RF
Kendrys Morales 1B
Michael Morse DH
Jesus Montero C
Kyle Seager 3B
Jason Bay LF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Brendan Ryan SS

Blake Beavan P

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