Mariners ace Felix Hernandez showed up at Yankee Stadium feeling fine on Wednesday afternoon after being taken out of Tuesday’s game following the sixth inning due to a tight back.
Hernandez tweaked his back while fielding a ground ball and turning and firing to second base in the sixth. He stayed in for the rest of that inning, but didn’t return for the seventh with a 3-1 lead and having thrown 97 pitches.
The Mariners wound up losing 4-3 to the Yankees and manager Eric Wedge said he definitely would have kept Hernandez in for another inning if the back issue hadn’t cropped up. But Wedge indicated Wednesday that things were looking fine a day later.
“He’s good, “Wedge said. “He said it was pretty sore this morning, but he feels good and [trainer Rick Griffin] felt he got him in a good place after the game last night and he’s feeling good today, so we should be fine.”
Will there be any changes to Hernandez’s preparation this week before his next scheduled start on Sunday in Cleveland?
“I don’t think so,” Wedge said. “I think we’re OK.”
Hernandez is 5-2 with an American League-leading 1.53 ERA after nine starts.
Hisashi Iwakuma, who is third in the AL in ERA at 1.74, gets the start against the Yankees this evening at Yankee Stadium in the 4:05 p.m. PT game.
Here are today’s lineups:
Second baseman Dustin Ackley isn’t in the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday as the Mariners open a nine-day road trip at Yankee Stadium in a 4:05 p.m. game, but manager Eric Wedge said that was strictly about playing matchups against standout CC Sabathia.
Wedge made a few moves with his lineup, not starting first baseman Justin Smoak or catcher Jesus Montero as well, while getting veteran Raul Ibanez in at designated hitter and using Robert Andino at second base while keeping Brendan Ryan at shortstop.
“It’s more of a matchup thing than anything,” Wedge said. “I wanted to get Raul in there and I wanted to get Andino and Ryan in there. They both had decent numbers against CC. I talked to both [Ackley] and Smoaker. ‘Don’t read into it, it’s just a matchup and wanting to get a few other guys in there and potentially have our best lineup in there today.”
The decision to play the left-handed hitting Ibanez against the southpaw Sabathia is interesting, but Ibanez has hit .286 (12-for-42) with two home runs and 10 RBIs against the Yankees ace. Andino has hit .348 (8-for-23) and Ryan is at .400 (4-for-10).
“Raul has faced him more than anybody,” Wedge said. “It’s just a knowledge base. There’s specific history there that they can pull from. Of course that goes both ways, but you trust your people and just certain matchups work better, that type of pitcher vs. that type of hitter or his stuff vs. that type of hitter. That’s just the way it works, so you try to put your best lineup out there.”
Wedge said he also takes Ibanez’s history of success at Yankee Stadium into account. The veteran hit .273 at the stadium last year when he was playing for the Yankees, with 14 of his 19 home runs coming in his home park.
The Yankees have put together a 24-14 start despite missing many of their key players. Now they’re getting Curtis Granderson back today as he’s starting for the first time this season.
This figures to be an interesting series for the Mariners, who are throwing Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma against the Bronx Bombers and could make a nice statement if they can win this series.
The Mariners have gone 4-0-1 in their last five series after opening the year 0-5-2 in their first seven series.
Here’s the full lineups today:
Mariners manager Eric Wedge had Kyle Seager in the three-hole in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the A’s and indicated the young third baseman could see more of that going forward as he looks to find the right mix.
Wedge hopes the move helps alleviate some of the pressure felt by designated hitter Kendrys Morales and right fielder Michael Morse, who he dropped down to the four and five spots for the first time.
“I’m playing around with it a little bit,” Wedge said. “I still stand by the fact that Morales and Morse are just trying to do too much. They know they’re the guys here and I think with that sometimes you put a little too much pressure on yourself to do too much. You see both of them chasing more than they should.
“And Kyle is a very mature young hitter. We’ve seen that. The reality is he’s probably more than [just a two-hole hitter]. And I trust him. There’s not too much we can give him that he can’t handle and he’s already proven that.”
Seager hit third in 69 games last season when he led the team in home runs and RBIs, but the feeling this year was that the new additions would allow him to move into a new role. As it’s played out, however, Wedge sees Seager’s versatility and ability to handle that kind of role as being helpful now in sorting things out for the new power hitters as they find their own comfort levels.
“I look at him as either a two or three-hole hitter,” Wedge said. “It just takes some time to figure out what everyone ultimately is going to be. With Morales and Morse, they’re they keys. Once we figure out where they belong, we can work everybody else off that.
“When you bring somebody over here and they’re the guy, it’s a little different for them. Kendrys is so good, the on-base percentage, he’s going to hit. He’s going to be fine in the end. But ultimately we need to be able to count on him every day. So it’s a matter of who works off who better. Morse-Morales? Morales-Morse? How does Seager play into that? How does [Justin] Smoak play into that? We have to figure all that out.”
Here’s the full lineups for Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. game:
Playing time has been sparse for Raul Ibanez recently after a slow start to his season, but the veteran outfielder has made the most of his limited recent opportunities and manager Eric Wedge had him back in the lineup for Friday’s series opener with the A’s.
Ibanez is hitting just .180 in 61 at-bats and has started just twice in the last 12 games. But more has been less for the 40-year-old as he’s gone 3-for-7 in that limited role after losing playing time following a 1-for-23 slump.
“It’s fine,” Ibanez said of his playing situation. “I’m not really worried about it. You just stay ready and work on your craft and nothing really changes. You stay prepared to do your job.”
Wedge hasn’t forgotten about the 18-year veteran, who laced a pinch hit RBI double on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
“I want to give him an opportunity,” Wedge said. “He hasn’t played a great deal lately. He played quite a bit early on, but we want to still give him an opportunity to get going. He had a big pinch hit for us the other night and had the one start on the road. I’m trying to get him back in there after an off day and hopefully he’ll do something to help us win the game.”
Ibanez has been in every situation in baseball, so trying to get sharp even while playing less doesn’t faze him.
“You just do it,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of thought into it. You just make it work. It’s pretty simple approach. Make it work.”
Here’s the full lineups for tonight’s 7:10 p.m. game:
My apologies for letting the blog go quiet for the past week, but I needed a break to gather myself and deal with some family matters while I skipped the last road trip.
Of course, even while I’m off, we have other writers filing three or four stories a day on Mariners.com, so the news is always covered. But I’ll be back in the saddle tonight myself as the Mariners return home for a quick three-game set with the A’s before heading out on the road again.
Here are the pitching matchups for the A’s series, which starts with Hisashi Iwakuma tonight against Dan Straily.
And I wasn’t completely away these last few days. Here’s a Mother’s Day piece I did on Kyle Seager’s mom, an interesting lady from North Carolina who has raised three outstanding ballplayers.
I’ll check in from the park this afternoon both here and with the daily updates on Mariners.com. Thanks again for your patience with the blog. It was good to get a little time to work on some personal things that sometimes get overwhelmed by the daily grind of an MLB beat.