With Robinson Cano lined up to play designated hitter against the Rangers in today’s 11:05 a.m. PT game for the Mariners, Corey Hart went to manager Lloyd McClendon and said he was ready to play right field.
Hart hadn’t played in the outfield since July 21, 2012, while with the Brewers, prior to his two microfracture knee surgeries that wiped out all of 2013. But Hart worked in the outfield this spring and told McClendon he was ready to give it a run after starting at DH in 10 of Seattle’s first 14 games.
“He told me he’s feeling good and his knees are fine,” said McClendon, who had indicated earlier in the week that it would be a while before he played Hart in the outfield. “I’ve got to go with my player, too, he said he’s feeling pretty good. But we’ll watch him. We’ll keep an eye on him.”
Hart is no stranger to the outfield, with 793 career starts there while with the Brewers. Only in the past few years was he shifted more to first base. The Mariners hoped to play him there after signing him to a one-year deal in free agency, but a sore biceps in spring limited his work and McClendon doesn’t want to push his knees too quickly either.
“I’d much rather play in the field then not play in the field,” Hart said. “My arm hasn’t helped that issue, but you’ve got to start somewhere. So I’ll go out there and give Robbie a break and hopefully not have any issues.
“I’ve just been doing regular BP stuff in the outfield. Other than that, not a ton. But I’ve been out there before. I don’t think he’s expecting me to win any awards out there right now. He just wants me to catch it when it’s hit my direction.”
McClendon said Hart definitely wouldn’t play the outfield in the more-spacious right field in Miami this weekend, but there is a possibility he could play a game at first base when the Mariners lose the designated hitter in the interleague series.
With fill-in starter Blake Beavan going on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and top prospect Taijuan Walker shut down for at least two weeks after tests showed a “shoulder impingement” on Wednesday, the Mariners are searching again for a starter for Sunday’s upcoming interleague series finale at Miami.
Beavan started in place of injured left-hander James Paxton on Tuesday, but lasted just four innings in a 5-0 loss to the Rangers after his shoulder wouldn’t loosen up in a 63-pitch outing.
Walker, the No. 6 rated prospect in baseball by MLB.com, was a consideration to return from his own shoulder issues by Sunday, but he had his own rehab start with Triple-A Tacoma wiped out Tuesday when his shoulder felt tight before he even began throwing.
General manager Jack Zduriencik said Walker had an MRI on Wednesday in Seattle that showed the impingement.
“We’re going to back him off for two weeks and treat it and eventually work him back to the mound and start the progression again,” Zduriencik said.
Walker was slowed at the start of spring by shoulder soreness and was shut down completely for a week in early March before working his way back through a pair of Minor League rehab starts. He was scheduled to throw Tuesday in Tacoma, but never started warming up after feeling some tightness in his shoulder.
“I think it is the same general area,” Zduriencik said. “He just wasn’t comfortable. So we sent him for tests and now we’ll back him off and treat it and see where we’re at.”
The Mariners have been hit with a series of pitching issues, with Danny Hultzen, another premier prospect, already lost for the year following rotator cuff surgery and All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma still a couple weeks from returning from a sprained tendon in his finger.
“It’s amazing,” Zduriencik said. “Everybody in baseball seems to be going through the same type of things, but ours is a little more severe than most. Nevertheless, this will give others an opportunity.”
Among the current Tacoma pitchers, left-hander Anthony Fernandez, 23, is the one healthy starter who is on the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Brandon Maurer is another possibility and he has Major League experience, but Maurer is just returning from back problems and hasn’t pitched more than 3 1/3 innings this season.
Beavan also is going to be out at least two weeks now, which is a frustrating situation for the 25-year-old right-hander after he’d just been recalled after Paxton strained his left oblique muscle in his third start of the year.
Beavan said he essentially has “dead arm” from a knot in his shoulder that isn’t allowing him to throw freely.
“I just had no life on my ball,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I had a great opportunity to help these guys and fill the void of other guys being down. Now I’m in the same situation, but hopefully it’s something where in the next 10 days we can get out of there and slide back into the action and help us win some ballgames.”
Beavan is flying back to Seattle on Thursday to begin rehab treatment with trainers in Seattle.
Looking to bolster an offense that has totaled just seven runs over their last five games, the Mariners are recalling young infielder Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma in time to join the team for its Wednesday night game with the Rangers.
The Mariners have not confirmed the move, but Franklin was taken out of Tuesday’s game in Tacoma in the eighth inning and a source confirmed the youngster is enroute to Arlington as of Wednesday morning.
Franklin himself tweeted a message Wednesday morning indicating he was flying to Texas, with the letters TEX separated by airplane symbols.
Franklin, 23, was Seattle’s starting second baseman for the final four months of the season last year, but lost that job when the club signed Robinson Cano. He competed with Brad Miller for the shortstop position in Spring Training, but was sent to Tacoma after Miller had an outstanding spring.
The 2009 first-round Draft pick out of Orlando, Fla., hit .225 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 102 games for the Mariners last year.
Franklin, a switch hitter, was off to a torrid start in Tacoma, batting .395 with three doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games. He’d played six games at second base and five games at shortstop for the Rainiers, but it’s not clear where the Mariners intend to use him.
Miller is hitting .214 with three home runs and six RBIs in 13 games at shortstop, but the bigger need appears to be right field, where Logan Morrison, Stefen Romero and Michael Saunders have been splitting time so far this year.
Morrison has missed the past two games with a tight hamstring and could be a candidate for the 15-day disabled list, which would open up a roster spot and potential playing time for Franklin.
Franklin played a few innings in right field late in Spring Training and played some outfield while growing up in Florida, but didn’t see any action there in Tacoma and has been strictly at second base and shortstop in his six years in the Mariners farm system.
After getting off to a nice start offensively, the Mariners (7-6) have been shut out three times in their past five games and have fallen to 13th among the 15 American League teams in batting average (.230) and OPS (.663).
Their right fielders have combined to hit .200 with no home runs, three RBIs and a .506 OPS in 50 at-bats.
The Mariners face Texas tonight with Blake Beavan taking on Robbie Ross as Seattle looks to continue it’s nice road start this season, having won five of their first seven games away from Seattle.
But yeah, it’s hard not to peek ahead just a little to Wednesday, when Felix Hernandez is lined up to face Yu Darvish in a battle of two of the American League’s premier hurlers.
Not surprisingly, Hernandez is downplaying the matchup with Darvish, whom he beat twice in their only previous meetings Seattle in 2012 while posting a 0.53 ERA (one earned run in 17 innings).
“Is that a big deal?” Hernandez said when asked Tuesday about the impending battle of American League aces. “I just have to do my job. That’s all I’ve got to do. If he throws good, I’ve got to put up zeroes, too.”
Hernandez is more wary of facing the Rangers’ offense after going 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against the AL West rivals last year.
“Throwing against Texas pumps me up a little bit, yeah,” he said. “They’ve got me a couple times. I’ve got to do better.”
This will be a somewhat different Rangers lineup, however, particularly with former teammate and long-time friend Adrian Beltre on the 15-day disabled list.
“He said now you’re safe because I’m not playing,” Hernandez said. “It’ll still be fun. It’s kind of weird seeing him on the DL though because he doesn’t like to be on the DL. It’s the best for him, but I’ve known him for a long time and he doesn’t like to do that.”
As for tonight’s game? This is a big opportunity for Beavan, who could get another start Sunday in Miami if all goes well. Taijuan Walker is pitching tonight in a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma and could also slide into that Sunday game if he’s ready. But Beavan is already on this road trip and it’s conceivable the Mariners could wait a little longer for Walker’s debut and open him at home next week rather than fly him all the way to Miami for one start.
“As we speak now, I would say I’d probably go another start with [Beavan],” manager Lloyd McClendon said prior to Tuesday’s game. “But we’ll see how it goes tonight.”
McClendon saw both the good and bad Beavan this spring and knows what the youngster needs to do well.
“His stuff is plenty good,” said the skipper. “It’s not overpowering, but it’s Major League stuff. It’s just a matter of command, commanding the strike zone, working the four quadrants of the strike zone. When he threw well, that’s what he did. When he didn’t throw good, he just didn’t have that command and everything was elevated.”
Right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi was traded by the Mariners to the Rangers on Saturday for a player to be named or cash.
Noesi, 27, was designated for assignment by the Mariners on April 4, one day after giving up a walkoff home run to the A’s Coco Crisp on his second pitch in the 12th inning in Oakland.
Noesi pitched in two games for Seattle this year, giving up two hits and three runs in one inning. Over the past three seasons with Seattle, he combined to go 2-14 with a 6.13 ERA in 36 games, including 19 starts.
Noesi spent most of last season in Triple-A Tacoma, where he posted a 3-3 record with 5.83 ERA in 15 appearances (11 starts).
Noesi was acquired by Seattle along with Jesus Montero from the Yankees in exchange for right-hander Michael Pineda on Jan. 23, 2012.
Noesi is out of Minor League options. To make room on their 40-man roster, the Rangers transferred infielder Jurickson Profar from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. Profar is sidelined by a torn muscle in his right shoulder.
The Rangers will need to make a 25-man roster move when Noesi joins the club in Arlington, where Seattle opens a four-game series on Monday after wrapping up this weekend’s series with the A’s at Safeco Field.
New second baseman Robinson Cano has yet to hit a home run for the Mariners in 18 Cactus League games and the first eight regular-season outings. But that isn’t a concern to manager Lloyd McClendon or to Cano, who has said from the start that he’s not a home-run hitter, he’s a line-drive hitter.
Cano has averaged 28.4 homers a year over the past five seasons, which is excellent power for a second baseman. But indeed, even with the Yankees he hit just one home run in Spring Training last year and only had one spring with more than two homers in the Grapefruit League (he hit four in ’09).
As for the regular season, Cano hit his first bomb in his seventh game last year en route to a 27-homer season. He didn’t hit his first blast until his 12th game in 2012, then went on to a career-high 33.
“I’m not the least bit concerned about Robbie’s first home run,” McClendon said. “Check the book. They’ll be there. When it’s all said and done, his numbers will be right where they’re supposed to be. That’s a question we probably need to address so I don’t have to have this question anymore. Robinson Cano is one of the top arguably five hitters in all of baseball. He has been for the last nine years and that’s not going to change just because he put on a Seattle Mariners uniform.
“What I’d like to see Robbie do is lead the league in doubles,” said McClendon. “I don’t worry about home runs. His home runs will be there. I know we’re all waiting on it and I’m sure he is, too, but that’s not a concern.”
Cano is hitting .300 with two doubles and six walks in his first eight games with a team-leading .417 on-base percentage. For his career, Cano carries a .309 batting average and .355 on-base percentage.
He had the highest batting average and most hits, doubles and RBIs for any second baseman in the Majors since his debut in 2005. He’s second to Dan Uggla in home runs by a second baseman in that span (231 to 204).
It’s “Supreme Court” tonight at Safeco Field and the Mariners are expecting a crowd of 40,000, which should make for a fun spectacle when Felix Hernandez takes the mound for his first home start of the year.
The first 25,000 fans through the gates will receive a yellow Supreme Court T-shirt and K-card to wave every time Hernandez gets a two-strike count, as normally happens in the special King’s Court section down the left field line.
It’s always an event when The King is on the mound and he’s been outstanding this season with a 2-0 start and 1.88 ERA in wins at Anaheim and Oakland. Hernandez has never gone 3-0 in his first three starts of the season. If he does, the Mariners will equal their third-best start in franchise history at 6-3.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has never witnessed a King’s Court, but he knows the score.
“I hope they’re holding up a lot of strikeout signs,” he said. “I’m excited to see Felix pitch. He’s throwing the ball extremely well. I couldn’t be happier. And hopefully it’ll continue tonight.”
McClendon takes nothing for granted though.
“Obviously when you’ve got your guy on the mound, you feel good about the matchup going in,” he said. “But you still have to go out and perform. We all know that Felix is very good, but we also know he’s not going to win it by himself. We’ve got to go out and perform, but we feel good about it.”
Erasmo Ramirez will pitch Saturday, Chris Young starts Sunday and Roenis Elias is slated for Monday’s series opener in Texas as Seattle opens a seven-game road trip. McClendon said the team still hasn’t determined who will start Tuesday with James Paxton now on the DL.
McClendon said both Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan threw well in Minor League starts on Wednesday. He said a decision would likely come in the next 24 hours. Reading between the lines, it sounded like McClendon was leaning toward bringing Beavan up for at least one start to give Walker a little more time to prepare.
“One thing we have to be careful about with this process, when we do decide if it’s Walker or somebody else is, we want to be cautious with Taijuan and make sure he’s ready to compete at this level,” McClendon said. “When I talk about competing, the game is a little bit more stressful at this level than at the Minor League level in the number of pitches that you throw, the outs that you get at this level are harder to get. We have to take all that into account when we decide whether or not we’re going to bring him or somebody else. We’re still talking about all of that.
“It has nothing to do with his lack of big-league experience. I think it has everything to do with the lack of work in Spring Training and the amount of innings he had because of the injury in Spring Training. We have to make sure that if he’s the guy we’re going to bring, then he’s got to be ready to compete at this level and there are no bars or limitations.”
On the injury front, Paxton had an injection Thursday and McClendon said it’ll now be “another 7-8 days before they re-evaluate and start a rehab program with him.”
Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session on Saturday – an expected 50 pitches — and is still “a couple bullpens away from live action. We need to build his pitches up before we get him out and doing that.”
McClendon said Brandon Maurer ideally will be moved into the starting rotation for Triple-A Tacoma after striking out nine in 3 1/3 innings of relief on Thursday, with the goal of building his innings up as well after missing much of spring with a back injury.
Rookie southpaw James Paxton was removed from Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Angels on Opening Night at Safeco Field with no outs in the top of the sixth due to a slightly strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder.
Paxton will have an MRI test Wednesday to determine the severity of the injury. Mariners officials are concerned about the situation, but Paxton didn’t think it was too serious after initial tests during the game.
“It’s just a little strain,” said the 25-year-old Canadian. “I’m going to go get an MRI to see what exactly is going on in there, but I just want to be careful right now. My strength is still good, they said, so I just want to get it checked out.”
Mariners reliever Stephen Pryor missed almost all of 2013 after partially tearing his lat muscle and then having complications when he tried to return midseason, but Paxton’s preliminary diagnosis indicated a strain and not a tear.
Paxton was taken out after throwing just 60 pitches. After giving up back-to-back home runs in the first to Albert Pujols and David Freese, Paxton had retired 14 straight before a leadoff single in the sixth by Kole Calhoun.
Paxton departed with a 4-3 lead and the bullpen shut the Angels out to preserve his win. He’s 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA on the season and 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his six-game career.
Manager Lloyd McClendon and trainer Rob Nodine hustled to the mound after the youngster shook his left arm following a first-pitch ball to Mike Trout following Calhoun’s base hit. McClendon said they were watching carefully after Paxton had reacted to another pitch in the fifth.
“I saw him shaking his arm,” McClendon said. “I went out, that kind of alarmed me a little bit. I knew something was up, then he told us. I think it happened the inning before, because he shook his arm once in kind of a weird way. I talked to him on the bench and he said, ‘No, I’m ok.’ He went back out and I didn’t see that.”
“In the fifth inning there, the last batter, I just felt a little tweak,” Paxton said. “I felt fine between innings, so I didn’t think it was going to be anything. I threw those cutters to the first hitter Calhoun, and that was fine. I just felt it again when I threw the fastball to Trout.”
After a quick conversation, Paxton walked off the field with Nodine as reliever Yoervis Medina was called in from the bullpen. Paxton allowed four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in his five-plus innings.
Paxton came into the contest 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in five career starts, including four last year as a September callup. According to Elias, he was just the second pitcher in Major League history to go 4-0 or 5-0 in his first five games, all starts, with an ERA under 1.25. The other was Boo Ferriss of the Red Sox, who went 5-0 with a 0.60 ERA in 1945.
Designated hitter Corey Hart wasn’t in the Mariners lineup in Sunday’s series finale with the A’s as manager Lloyd McClendon looks to get the right-hander a quick two-day break to help a sore right bicep muscle continue to recover.
Hart didn’t play in the season opener, but was at designated hitter the next four games in a row until Sunday, when Logan Morrison got the start at DH and Michael Saunders opened in right field.
Hart missed a week toward the end of Spring Training due to soreness in his right arm, which didn’t help as he sought to regain his timing after missing all of 2013 following two knee surgeries. He’s hit .167 (3-for-18) with one home run and one RBI.
The Mariners are off Monday prior to Tuesday’s home debut against the Angels, so McClendon wanted to take advantage.
“It’s a great opportunity to get him two days off, get him freshened up and ready for the home opener,” said McClendon. “I think the light is starting flick a little bit for him. You can see the hands starting to quicken up, he’s starting to recognize breaking balls a little better. He’s still not quite over the hump with the tissue issue with his bicep, but he’s getting there. I just want to be careful with him and keep him moving forward. The opportunity to give him two days off just makes sense.”
McClendon said the sore arm doesn’t hinder Hart’s throwing, just his swing, so that isn’t an issue in when he might play right field. For now, McClendon has revolved Saunders, Morrison and rookie Stefen Romero in right, with Romero’s use limited so far because the club has faced only two left-handed starters.
McClendon likes having Morrison’s bat in the lineup against right-handers, bringing Saunders in for late-inning defense when both Morrison and Romero have started. Saunders replaced Morrison in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-1 win and immediately caught a tough, low-sinking line drive.
Morrison immediately turned to McClendon in the dugout and told him he’d made the right move.
“When Saunders caught that ball he said, ‘That was one heck of a move, Skip, getting me out of there,’” McClendon said with a laugh. “But he’s been fine. He plays the outfield a little better than I thought he would. I’ve been pleased with it. He’ll be back out there.”
As for Saunders?
“Michael is a tremendous defensive outfielder than can play all three positions,” McClendon said. “There’s a certain comfort with having him in the outfield. I’d be lying if I said if I had a chance to DH Morrison or Hart and play Michael in the outfield that I’d rather do it the other way around. He gives us the best defensive outfield to have him out there. But to this point, everything has worked pretty nicely for us.”
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said all went well with Taijuan Walker’s first Minor League rehab start Friday for Class-A High Desert and the club’s top pitching prospect will make at least one more rehab start this coming week.
Walker, 21, allowed four hits with two runs (one earned) while throwing 72 pitches in 4 1/3 innings in at 5-4 victory over Inland Empire. The Mariners top prospect had one walk with seven strikeouts as he returns from a sore shoulder that sidelined him earlier this spring.
“Everything went great,” McClendon said. “He was clean. No setbacks. We’ll continue to move forward.”
McClendon said it hasn’t been determined yet where Walker will make his next start, though he said it’ll be at a warm-weather site. If all goes well, Walker could potentially then return to the Mariners, but McClendon wasn’t committing to that yet.
“We’ll see,” McClendon said. “I would say he’ll throw 85-90 pitches next and we’ll see how he feels after that one.”
All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma hasn’t started throwing off a mound yet, but is scheduled for another long-toss session on flat ground Sunday. If all goes well, he’ll throw his first bullpen outing mid-week and begin building up his arm strength after missing all of spring with a sprained tendon in his right middle finger.
McClendon said Iwakuma likely will do his Minor League rehab stint in Triple-A once he’s ready, which will likely be toward the end of April.
“By the time he’s ready, I would think the weather will probably be pretty decent, for the most part,” McClendon said. “We will probably see him in Tacoma.”