July 2013

No deal: Zduriencik keeps all his cards at deadline

Jack Zduriencik took numerous calls on potential trades for some of his veteran players leading up to Wednesday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but in the end the Mariners general manager chose to stay pat with a club that has built some positive momentum with a 15-9 record in July.

“There were discussions,” Zduriencik said. “But at the end, I didn’t think there was the right situation for us at this time. There’s an obligation here to our fans and certainly to the players here on this team. They’ve played well recently.”

Zduriencik chose to hang on to veteran hitters Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez, as well as reliever Oliver Perez, starter Joe Saunders and shortstop Brendan Ryan, all players on one-year deals who could become free agents at season’s end in the hope of finishing strong and setting the right tone going forward.

“I think we have a good young big league club right now. You see that in front of your eyes,” he said. “To detract from it, I think it would have been devastating to some of the guys in this clubhouse. I think it would have been the wrong message to send. So you stay the course and watch this club play the next couple months.”

While the Mariners could lose those key veterans without any return, Zduriencik says there is a benefit to keep them for the final two months.

“When you let a guy leave, it’s harder to get a guy back,” he said. “Once you break your marriage up and you want to go back and ask that player to come back, it’s much harder to do. He probably feels somewhat betrayed. Now you have to start all over again.

“Having these guys here – certainly they have the right to walk – but we also have the first right to re-sign them if we choose,” he said. “And I think that’s important to a player, especially if they like Seattle. If they are saying, ‘I’d like to be part of this thing going forward. I like what’s going on. It would be great.’ Who knows, we may have the inside track on some of these players back here. That was a little bit of the thinking as well.”

In that vein, Zduriencik said he’s had communication already with some of the pending free agents.

“I think some of the players understand how we feel about them,” he said. “I’ve had indirect conversations with them. Some I’ve had direct, quite frankly. But I do think as we move forward from now til the end of the year, that will accelerate as we get closer to the end.”

 

Mariners coming to the fore in numerous rumors

The clock is ticking toward today’s 1 p.m. PT trade deadline and the Mariners are beginning to emerge as a team looking to make a move or two.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun is reporting that the Orioles are actively pursuing both Michael Morse and Oliver Perez in a possible package deal.

Several media outlets, including Jon Heyman of CBSSports.Com, are saying the Oroles are interested in getting Joe Saunders back. Heyman also says the Mariners are talking to the Rays about Morse, who just came off the disabled list yesterday after missing five weeks with a strained quad.

But Connolly says the Orioles aren’t interested in Saunders. Saunders pitched last night for Seattle in its 8-2 loss to the Red Sox and talked afterward about the looming trade deadline.

Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com says the Mariners are talking to teams about Perez and Tom Wilhelmsen.

In other words, the rumor mill is buzzing and clearly Jack Zduriencik is at least shopping to see what he can get for some of his players as the deadline approaches and the Mariners sit at 50-56 and 8 1/2 games out of a Wild-Card berth on July 31.

Morse ready and rarin’ to rejoin Mariners

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Right fielder Michael Morse returned from a five-week stint on the disabled list Tuesday, eager to rejoin a Mariners club that has caught fire in July.

Morse was immediately penciled into the starting lineup in right field and sixth in the batting order for the series opener against the Red Sox.

“I feel good. I feel healthy. I’m ready to go,” Morse said. “It’s good to be back. The guys have been playing great, it’s been fun to watch, and now I get a chance to be part of it.”

The Mariners went 18-13 during Morse’s stint on the DL after he finally succumbed to a strained right quadriceps muscle that had been hindering him for several weeks prior to that. The big slugger also played through a broken finger earlier in the season that slowed him after a hot start in April when he had nine home runs by May 1.

Morse was hitting .251 with 11 home runs and 23 RBIs in 56 games going into Tuesday’s return.

“It’s been a tough season,” he said. “I had a couple injuries here and there, the finger and now this quad. But that’s the season. Everybody plays with some injuries and stuff. I’m healthy now. I’ve got two more months to help out the team. My goal now is to try to help the team win as many ballgames as possible.”

Morse hit .250 (6-for-24) in six rehab games with Triple-A Tacoma with a double, triple, home run and two RBIs. He said his leg has felt fine since he joined the Rainiers and it’s just been a matter of regaining his timing.

“I feel good. Baseball-wise, I feel great,” he said. “No rust. We’ve been playing this game since we were kids. I don’t even think about it. My leg has felt good for a while now. I was just down there to play a little baseball.”

Wedge not expecting deadline deals

With his team riding a five-game winning streak going into Sunday’s series finale with the Astros and a young nucleus of players beginning to produce offensively, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he’s not anticipating or pushing for any deals before the July 31 trade deadline.

The Mariners are 45-52 and have several veterans on one-year deals who could be valued on the market, including lefty reliever Oliver Perez, outfielder Raul Ibanez, first baseman Kendrys Morales, shortstop Brendan Ryan and lefty starter Joe Saunders, but general manager Jack Zduriencik has said he’s not aggressively seeking trades and Wedge is in agreement.

“Jack and I have already talked about this,” Wedge said. “Unless it’s something that raises the bar, I don’t think we’re going to do anything. We’re not going to move somebody just to move somebody.

“Unless it’s something we feel like, again, it raises the bar – which depending on the team and their situation, it can happen; you don’t ever count on that happening. If not, we stand pat. We’ve got a good group of guys out there. It’s fun to watch them come to the ballpark every day right now.”

Mariners climbing up all-time HR streak list

The Mariners have hit home runs in 23 straight games going into Saturday’s 4:10 p.m. PT game in Houston. If they hit one tonight, they’ll be tied with the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the fifth-longest home run streak in MLB history (dating back to 1916) and just three back of the record 27 straight games with a homer by the 2002 Rangers.

Manager Eric Wedge said the mark is something to take pride in for a club that is tied for second in the Majors in most home runs this season.

“It’s something that’s never been done before with the Mariners,” he said. “There have been so many great teams and players here I think it says a lot about our current roster. It’s a level of consistency, which is rare, to be driving the ball and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. And you have to put together good ABs, a volume of good at-bats together to get your hits. It’s not just hitting the ball hard and making it go a long way. There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. I think it’s one hell of an accomplishment.”

The Mariners led all teams in home runs this spring in Cactus League play, breaking records along the way, but their leading home run hitter in spring was Michael Morse with nine and he’s been sidelined through the current streak with a strained hamstring. Franklin Gutierrez, tied for third in spring with five homers, is also on the DL.

Veterans Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales have been a key factor in the current streak, but rookies Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino have all been contributing as well.

“It’s interesting because you still had your Millers and Franklins and Zuninos there in spring training, even though they didn’t break with us early on,” Wedge said. “Those kind of things come into play a little bit. There are a couple guys that are hurt, not having a Gutierrez or Morse or even a [Jesus] Montero that you were counting on early to be some of your hitters, that says a lot about these other guys and how they’ve stepped up.”

One other interesting thing tonight, as Seattle faces former Mariners lefty Erik Bedard for the second time since he was traded away in 2011. Bedard threw four scoreless innings against the Mariners on April 9 in his first start of the season for Houston, but was removed after throwing 66 pitches.

He faces Hisashi Iwakuma, fresh off his first All-Star appearance.

Ibanez says he wants to stay with Mariners

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Raul Ibanez’s prodigious first half with the Mariners has resulted in his name coming up as a potential trade-deadline candidate to a contending team, but the 41-year-old outfielder said Friday he’s had no discussions on that topic with general manager Jack Zduriencik and isn’t looking to leave Seattle.

“I like being here,” Ibanez said prior to the Mariners’ series opener against the Astros on Friday. “I like being a part of this team and I’d like to win here.”

With Seattle sitting 11 games out of a Wild-Card playoff berth at the midseason break, would he be interested in getting dealt to a club with a better shot at the postseason?

“I would say it’s July and why can’t we do that here? That would be my response,” Ibanez said. “Why can’t we do that here? Yeah, I want to play in the playoffs right here. I think we’ve been playing good baseball the last couple of weeks, and I’d like to see that continue.”

Ibanez has been in the playoffs five of his 18 years in the Majors: once with Seattle in 2000, three times with the Phillies from 2009-11 – including their World Series team in ’09 — and last year when played a huge role for the Yankees.

But he’s never been traded in his career and didn’t sound eager to change that now after signing a one-year deal with Seattle and becoming the first player in Major League history with 20-plus homers and 50-plus RBIs at the All-Star break with his 24 and 56 first-half numbers.

“It’s never happened and that’s even more confirmation for me as to why I don’t think about it,” he said. “A lot of times you end up worrying and stressing about things that never happen. I try not to worry and stress and think about things like that. I try to do my job.”

Ibanez spent his All-Star break working out, swimming with his kids and staying busy.

“When you get to 40, you have to work out,” he said. “I always joke with these guys and say, ‘Inactivity is the enemy of middle-aged players.’”

He watched part of the All-Star Game, including the dramatic moment when last year’s Yankee teammate, Mariano Rivera, entered the game to an empty field and pitched in his final Midsummer Classic.

“That was awesome,” Ibanez said. “Just amazing. A great moment just for the game of baseball and everything that he’s done. Not just what he’s done, but how he’s done it. He’s the ultimate professional, first-class. Obviously the greatest relief pitcher ever, but also one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of being around. It was great. I was on the couch and I felt like standing up and clapping.”

Flurry of pitching moves Friday … and here’s why

Looking to bolster their bullpen after a rough series against the Red Sox, the Mariners recalled relievers Bobby LaFromboise and Hector Noesi from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday.

Erasmo Ramirez, who made his first start for Seattle in Thursday’s 8-7 loss, was optioned to Class-A Everett and long reliever Blake Beavan was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.

With the All-Star break coming next week, Ramirez would have had to sit for 12 days before making his next scheduled start if he’d stayed as the fifth man in the rotation. This move allows Ramirez to pitch on his normal rest next week, then be recalled in time to make his next start for the Mariners.

Tacoma is on its own All-Star break next week, but Ramirez can stay on rotation with Everett.

Beavan will be moved back into the starting rotation for Tacoma, which could give the Mariners another option down the road.

Players who are optioned to the Minors must stay down for a minimum of 10 days unless a player goes on the disabled list on the 25-man Major League roster to create an opening for their return.

LaFromboise and Noesi will be available out of the bullpen for Friday night’s series opener against the Angels at Safeco Field. Seattle’s relievers pitched 15 1/13 innings over the previous three games against Boston.

LaFromboise, 26, appeared in three games with Seattle earlier this season and allowed two runs in 2 1/3 innings. He was 4-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 29 games with Tacoma.

Noesi, 26, will be in his third stint with the Mariners this season. He’s gone 0-1 with a 4.74 ERA in 19 innings in seven games and can be used as a long reliever.

Beavan, 24, was 0-2 with a 6.13 ERA in 12 games with Seattle. This will be his second time joining Tacoma this season.

Ramirez, 23, gave up six hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in his first Major League start of the season Thursday after missing the first three months of the year with an elbow injury.

Erasmo Ramirez gets today’s start vs. Red Sox

Erasmo RamirezMugRight-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma by the Mariners on Thursday morning in order to start the afternoon’s game against the Red Sox in the final game of a four-game series.

The 23-year-old Nicaraguan will make his season debut in the 12:40 p.m. PT game, filling the spot created when the club designated veteran Jeremy Bonderman for assignment on Monday.

Right-handed reliever Carter Capps was optioned to Tacoma to make room on the 25-man roster.

Ramirez missed the first two months with a sore elbow that cropped up late in Spring Training, but was 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma in seven starts since returning on June 2.

Ramirez went 1-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 16 games with Seattle last year as a rookie. He began the year in the bullpen, then rejoined the team in midseason and was 1-3 with a 3.64 ERA in eight starts before going on the disabled list with a right elbow strain.

The youngster was competing for a starting job this spring when the elbow flared up again and he didn’t throw at all for about six weeks while letting that issue heal.

Ramirez signed with Seattle as an international free agent in 2007 and is one of only a handful of players from Nicaragua in the Major Leagues.

Capps, 22, is regarded as one of the Mariners promising power arms in the bullpen, but he’s struggled recently and is 2-2 with a 6.37 ERA in 35 1/3 innings over 33 appearances.

Capps has given up 14 runs in 7 1/3 innings (17.18 ERA) on 16 hits and five walks over his last seven appearances.

Here are today’s full lineups:
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Zduriencik says he’s not aggressively pursuing trades

Three weeks prior to the July 31 trade deadline, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik says he’s not actively pursuing deals yet despite his team being 10 games under .500 and 10 ½ games back in the American League Wild-Card race.

The Mariners potentially have several interesting trade chips, with left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, veteran outfielders Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse, Jason Bay and Franklin Gutierrez, designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales and shortstop Brendan Ryan all veteran players who’ll be free agents at the end of this season.

Seattle has gotten younger as the season has progressed, with three rookies – second baseman Nick Franklin, shortstop Brad Miller and catcher Mike Zunino – all taking over starting roles in the past month. But Zduriencik doesn’t sound ready to disband a club he thinks has yet to hit full stride after injuries to Gutierrez and Morse and disappointing starts from several others have the team at 40-50 even after a recent uptick with the youthful additions.

“In all fairness, I don’t think I’m going to be an aggressor,” Zduriencik said. “I’m not going to go out there and start shopping our players. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. We have three weeks before the trading deadline. Our goal is to put a healthy club on the field.

“You have to entertain calls when people call. And they are calling. You have to listen to what they have to say and you ultimately have to do what’s best for the organization. But we’ve been through a lot in the early part of this year, between struggles and injuries and setbacks. We’ve liked what’s happened this last week, but who knows?

“I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t predict one way or the other what is going to happen. But I’ll do my job, as I’m supposed to do. And if something makes sense, then you’re certainly going to listen.”

Ibanez and Morales are having strong seasons offensively and have provided needed middle-of-the-order production. Perez has been outstanding after re-inventing himself as a left-handed relief specialist the past two years, while Bay — another former Mets castoff — has provided some help as well in the outfield.

Morse got off to a hot start and is a legitimate power threat, but has dealt with a broken finger and now a strained quadriceps that has him on the 15-day disabled lists, though he’s expected back shortly. Gutierrez is also on the disabled list with a hamstring issue being the latest in his long list of health problems, while Ryan lost his starting shortstop role to Miller after struggling at the plate for a second straight year.

Last season Zduriencik was fairly active in the July trade market, dealing right fielder Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees on July 23 and reliever Brandon League to the Dodgers and reliever Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays on July 30 in deals that brought four Minor League prospects and outfielder Eric Thames in return.

The Mariners were 15 games under .500 at the All-Star break last year, though they pulled to 49-57 by the July 31 Trade deadline.

Hultzen to remain shut down 10 more days

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Danny Hultzen, the Mariners top left-handed pitching prospect, will remain shut down for about 10 more days as he continues recovering from irritation in his left shoulder, general manager Jack Zduriencik said Tuesday.

Hultzen, 23, is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts this season for Triple-A Tacoma, but has been shut down twice now with shoulder problems.

“We’re going to have Danny shut down for about 10 more days,” Zduriencik said. “He’ll start a throwing program. I’ve talked to trainers, doctors and pitching coaches. We’re going to make some adjustments to his routines. We’re going to look at a little bit of his mechanics. You never want to overhaul anybody, that’s dangerous with pitchers, but you might look at the programs he’s doing and try to make some alterations and see if that helps him.

“We’re prepared to do whatever it takes,” Zduriencik said. “Some of this is a process where you do one thing and see where that leads you and if it takes you to step two and step three. But we’re hoping when he starts throwing we’ll see positive results. What I’ve heard is the last couple days he’s felt pretty good.”

Zduriencik expects Hultzen to throw again this season, but is taking the cautious approach with the second player selected in the 2011 Draft.

“What we’ve been told is this isn’t something to get overly concerned about, but it is something we need to address,” Zduriencik said. “And we’re looking at a lot of different things with it. His strength and conditioning program, exercising program, how he throws between starts, we’ll look at all that.”

Zduriencik also said that Taijuan Walker, the club’s top right-handed pitching prospect, will have an innings limit this summer, though he declined to get into specifics. Walker has thrown 100 innings so far, 84 at Double-A Jackson and 16 in three starts at Tacoma, where he’s gone 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in three starts.

“We have a target number for Taijuan,” Zduriencik said. “He’s a young kid and you have to be careful with him. We’ll do what is in Taijuan’s best interest because ultimately that’s in our best interest, too. We just need Taijuan to continue to pitch and we’ll see how it all plays out.”

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