June 2013

Ackley figures to miss a few days in short-handed OF

Dustin Ackley’s sprained right thumb wasn’t in a cast or any protective covering Sunday morning and the newly converted center fielder said he hopes to be back in a few days when the Mariners hit the road in Texas on Tuesday.

Playing just his second game in the outfield, the former second baseman jammed his thumb when he rolled over on his glove while making a diving attempt at an Alfonso Soriano line drive in the ninth inning of a game the Mariners eventually lost 4-3 in 11 innings.

“I think it’s more now just getting over the soreness of it,” Ackley said Sunday. “Hopefully that’s only a couple days. It kind of jammed back when it got caught up under there when my glove went down. Just one of those things where I just have to wait now. I can’t do a lot, just ice and hopefully the off day {Monday] will really help things. Maybe after the off day I’ll be ready to go.”

Ackley and fellow center fielder Michael Saunders are both dealing with injuries as Saunders was spiked on the middle finger of his right hand while diving back to third on a pickoff throw by the Cubs on Friday night. With Michael Morse and Franklin Gutierrez already on the disabled list, the Mariners only had three healthy outfielders Sunday with Jason Bay, Endy Chavez and Raul Ibanez.

As of Sunday morning, Saunders hadn’t swung a bat or thrown a ball since hurting his finger, but said he was going to test it out before the game and vowed to be ready if needed.

“I’m going to try to do some stuff,” Saunders said. “But no matter what, I’ll be available.”

Manager Eric Wedge said no roster moves were needed as both Ackley and Saunders are expected back shortly.

“Ack’s thumb looks pretty good,” he said. “It’s still going to be a couple days, but all things considered it could have been a lot worse. We’re trying to figure out what Saunders availability is right now. He’s still getting some treatment and doing some things.

“We just have to stay put with the guys,” Wedge said. “When things started happening, we had Brendan Ryan on call. He’s played out there before, so just in case.”

Ryan, one of the premier defensive shortstops in baseball, played three games in right field for St. Louis during his rookie season in 2008.

Mariners bringing up shortstop Brad Miller

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Eric Wedge spoke out in frustration about the Mariners continuing lack of offensive production following Wednesday’s loss to the Pirates and the club made a move to help with that situation on its off day Thursday.

Brad Miller, a 23-year-old shortstop out of Clemson University, will join the Mariners on Friday afternoon to begin his rookie campaign as Seattle continues a midseason youth movement.

Miller, riding a 22-game hitting streak at Triple-A Tacoma, was told after Thursday night’s game with the Rainiers that he was getting called up, according to Ryan Divish of the News Tribune.

Miller will join a Mariners roster that has already added two other top position prospects, second baseman Nick Franklin and catcher Mike Zunino, in the last month.

The club also just recalled Dustin Ackley from Tacoma on Tuesday and he’s expected to make his Major League debut in the outfield Friday night when the Mariners open a three-game set with the Cubs at Safeco Field.

The Mariners are last in the American League in runs per game and batting average (.236) and Miller has hit at every level of the Minors in his quick rise since being a second-round Draft pick out of Clemson in 2011.

He’s hit .334 in 219 games over three Minor League seasons, including .356 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 26 games for Tacoma since being promoted from Double-A Jackson this year.

Veteran Brendan Ryan has filled the Mariners shortstop duties the past three years and is one of the premier defenders in the Majors, but has a .217 average in 331 games for Seattle and is batting .196 this year on the heels of a .194 season in 2012.

The Mariners will need to move someone off both their 25- and 40-man rosters to make room for Miller. The club hasn’t made any announcement of Miller’s arrival yet, but the logical move with the 25-man Major League roster would be to send rookie shortstop Carlos Triunfel back to Tacoma as he’s hit just .083 in 24 at-bats while receiving limited playing time.

The left-handed hitting Miller was selected on Wednesday to play in the upcoming Futures Games during All-Star weekend in New York.

Miller hit .415 in 14 games for Class-A Clinton in 2011 after signing with the organization, then batted .339 in 97 games for Class-A High Desert and .320 in 40 games for Jackson last year. He hit .294 in 42 games for Jackson this year before getting moved up to Tacoma, where he reached base in all 26 games he played.

Ackley recalled from Tacoma as Gutierrez back on DL

Ackley1With oft-injured Franklin Gutierrez going back on the 15-day disabled list due to another hamstring issue, the Mariners recalled Dustin Ackley from Triple-A Tacoma before Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates and will play the former first-round pick primarily in the outfield.

Gutierrez reinjured his right hamstring in Sunday’s victory over the A’s. He tried working out with trainers Tuesday afternoon, but the decision to put him on the disabled list was made when that didn’t go well.

Gutierrez has played just 150 of Seattle’s 400 games since the start of the 2011 season and is now on his sixth DL stint in that span. He’d just come off the 60-day DL on Saturday and hit a home run and double that night before hurting himself in the sixth inning Sunday.

“I’m disappointed, like we all are,” said manager Eric Wedge. “Nobody is more disappointed than he is. I’m sure the frustration is just off the charts for him. I can only imagine. But it is what it is, so we’ll get back to work on it and go from there.”

Gutierrez had hit .267 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in 18 games this season. He was an American League Gold Glove outfielder in 2010, his last fully healthy season.

Ackley was optioned to Tacoma on May 26 after hitting .205 with one home run and eight RBIs in 45 games. The 25-year-old had played mostly at second base throughout his big league career, but made 12 starts in the outfield at Triple-A, including nine in center and three in left. In 25 games overall, he hit .365 with eight doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs for the Rainiers.

Ackley wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday as he didn’t arrive from Tacoma until after the team’s pregame batting practice, but will get his chance in an outfield where Michael Saunders has been struggling, Michael Morse is on the 15-day disabled list with a quadriceps injury, Jason Bay is just back from his own hamstring issue and Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez are 41 and 35 years old, respectively.

“He’s going to play,” Wedge said. “We’re going to get him in there. We’ll keep working him in the outfield, but you might see him in the infield if we need him there.”

Ackley played some outfield in college and summer ball before being moved to first base after Tommy John surgery while he was at North Carolina. The Mariners drafted him as an outfielder, but converted him to second base before his first full season of pro ball.

With rookie Nick Franklin playing well at second base, Ackley now figures to get most of his playing time either in center or left field.

“He’s been good,” Wedge said of the outfield reports from Tacoma. “He’s played free and easy, he moves well, reacts well. Again, I have not seen it, but I have no hesitation to throw him out there.”

It’s Ackley’s bat that got him selected second in the 2009 Draft, however, and the Mariners are encouraged by his performance at the plate in Tacoma.

“He’s earned it,” Wedge said of the youngster’s return. “You look at his at-bats and the consistency down there, I think he’s taken care of some things mentally that he needed to get beyond. And it’s paid for him. He’s a hitter. He’s always hit. He’s going to hit. He just needed to get back to where he needed to get to.”

Bay says he’s close to returning from sore hamstring

Jason Bay wasn’t in the lineup for a fourth straight game Thursday, but the Mariners outfielder said an ailing hamstring is nearing full recovery and he hopes to be able to return in a day or two.

“It feels 10 times better today,” Bay said prior to the series finale with the Angels.”It’s the most marked improvement I’ve had. It was never that bad to begin with, but it’s one of those things where you either miss a couple days now or a couple weeks later. The last couple days were stagnant, but today was by far the best day. So hopefully I’m a day or two away.”

Bay felt the hamstring tighten on Sunday when he was running to first on a double-play ball in Oakland.

“It’s pretty basic hamstring tightness,” he said. “Almost 35 doesn’t recover as fast as 25 used to, but I feel a lot better today.”

Bay is batting .222 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs in 53 games this season, though he’s struggled recently while hitting just .180 without a home run over his last 12 games after a two-homer game in Minnesota on June 1.

Smoak comes off DL; Liddi back to Tacoma

SmoakJustinSwingFirst baseman Justin Smoak was activated by the Mariners on Tuesday after 20 days on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, with infielder Alex Liddi optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to make room on the 25-man roster.

Smoak hit .238 (5-for-21) with two doubles and one RBI in five rehab games with Tacoma, including a 2-for-5 effort with a double on Monday in Sacramento.

The Mariners can use Smoak’s return, as first baseman Kendrys Morales has been limited to designated hitter duties in recent days by a sore back. Outfielder Michael Morse has also been filling in at first base, but he’s been slowed the past two weeks by a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg.

“It’s important,” manager Eric Wedge said of Smoak’s return. “He’s a fantastic first baseman and he was heading in the right direction offensively before he got hurt.”

Smoak, 26, was hitting .240 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 46 games before he injured the muscle in his right side on a checked swing on May 25. He made one appearance as a pinch hitter on May 29 before going on the 15-day disabled list.

Smoak’s on-base percentage of .350 is the highest of any Mariners starter other than rookie second baseman Nick Franklin, who has put up a .382 mark in his first 20 games.

Liddi hit .059 (1-for-17) in eight games in limited duty while filling in mostly at first base since being called up from Tacoma on May 29.

Zunino being called up by Mariners

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Mike Zunino, the third player selected in the 2012 Draft, is being called up by the Mariners on Tuesday to help bolster their short-handed catching situation, according to sources.

The move comes after Jesus Montero and Jesus Sucre both suffered recent injuries, leaving veteran Kelly Shoppach as the only experienced catcher available.

Shoppach, 33, has caught 54 of the 61 innings since Sucre hurt his hand last Tuesday, including every pitch in a 16-inning marathon on Wednesday.

Brandon Bantz, Zunino’s backup at Triple-A Tacoma, was promoted last week and started one game Saturday as the club initially thought Sucre’s absence would be temporary. But Sucre went on the 15-day disabled list Saturday when little progress was being made on his right hand after he’d been hit by a bat on a backswing.

Zunino, 22, has hit .238 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs in 47 games for Tacoma this year, with a .303 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage.

Zunino was drafted out of the University of Florida last year and is regarded as one of the premier catching prospects in baseball.

Montero opened the season as Seattle’s starting catcher, but was demoted to Tacoma two weeks ago and then underwent surgery this past week after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. He’s expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Zunino is flying from Las Vegas to meet the Mariners and is expected to arrive in time to be available for Tuesday night’s game against the Astros. No roster move will be made official until then and the club still hasn’t officially announced anything.

It seems likely that Bantz will be sent back down to Tacoma to make room for Zunino and provide some help for a Rainiers team that is thin at catcher as well, with Jason Jaramillo, a 30-year-old journeyman with three at-bats for the Rainiers being the only backstop on that roster at the moment.

Big men with big hearts — a tender scene at Safeco

SophiaSeagerSometimes there are days and scenes that remind us there are more important things going on than just baseball games and wins and losses. And yesterday was one of those at Safeco Field, when Sophia Robinson and her family came to meet some Mariners.

Sophia is a 4-year-old with a heart disease and the Make-A-Wish program set up a pregame gathering at Safeco Field so she and her family could hang out with some players as they prepared for the evening’s game with the Astros.

Of course, when it came to actually talking to players, Sophia — like most 4-year-olds — turned shy and and clung to her parents. Or played in the dirt on the first base line. So Felix Hernandez, who is great with kids, simply got down and played in the dirt with her.

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It was a cool scene and it played out again after Felix left and Michael Morse came along and then Kyle Seager. Morse, all 6-foot-5, 245 pounds of him, made friends with Sophia as well and Seager — who had a heart condition of his own as a child — spent a long time talking to the parents (pictured above).

Best of all, to me, was the fact the players got down to Sophia’s level and found a connection. It was a great reminder that we’re all in this together.

Smoak goes on DL as Bonderman activated

First baseman Justin Smoak was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday as the Mariners created a spot on their 25-man Major League roster for right-hander Jeremy Bonderman.

Bonderman was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and will be the starting pitcher in Sunday’s series finale with the Twins, making his first Major League appearance since Oct. 1, 2010 with the Tigers.

Infielder Vinnie Catricala was designated for assignment to make room for Bonderman on the 40-man roster.

Smoak has been out a week since feeling tightness in the oblique  muscle in his right side on May 25 against the Rangers. He did pinch hit on Wednesday against the Padres, so his DL stint will be retroactive to that date and will leave him sidelined until June 14.

Also, the Mariners have traded young infielder Francisco Martinez back to the TIgers for a player to be named or cash. Martinez was designated for assignment last week.

 

Bonderman eager for Sunday return to Majors

BondermanTattoosJeremy Bonderman joined the Mariners on Saturday, but won’t be officially added to the roster until Sunday morning prior to his first Major League start since 2010 while with the Tigers.

The veteran right-hander has been recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and will start Sunday’s 11:10 a.m. PT game against the Twins’ Scott Diamond. The Mariners will have to make a roster move to add Bonderman both to their 25-man Major League roster as well as their 40-man roster.

Alex Liddi seems the likely candidate to get sent back to Tacoma to make room on the 25-man. Liddi was brought up to provide insurance at first base with Justin Smoak and Michael Morse both sidelined, but he’s yet to play as Kendrys Morales has capably filled the first base duties.

Manager Eric Wedge said he hopes Smoak can return on Sunday against Twins lefty Scott Diamond, since his right oblique injury doesn’t hamper his right-handed swing. Morse is likely another day or two away from returning from a strained quad.

As for Bonderman, Wedge said the eight-year veteran is eager to get a return shot at the Majors after sitting out the past two seasons while having surgeries on his shoulder and elbow. Bonderman signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners last winter and competed for a rotation spot in spring, but wasn’t quite ready and spent the first two months at Tacoma.

“He’s under control, but you can tell he’s excited to be here,” Wedge said. “For a 30-year-old, he’s been through so much. He’s worked so hard to get back here, that’s been evident here for the last year. So good for him. He deserves the opportunity.”

Bonderman went 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA in 11 starts in Tacoma, pitching better as he went in his first regular-season action since his last start with the Tigers on Oct. 1, 2010 at Baltimore.

“It’s been good for him to be down there and pitch every fifth day,” Wedge said. “He’s been pretty consistent down there. His arm’s been good, his stuff’s been good. It’s just a matter of how it translates up here, really.”

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