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Mariners to open 2017 season in Houston

For the eighth time in nine years, the Mariners will open the season on the road as Major League Baseball announced the club’s 2017 opener will be April 3 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Seattle’s home opener will also be against the Astros on April 10 at Safeco Field, according to the tentative schedule that was released Wednesday. That initial homestand will also include three games with Texas and three with Miami, but the Mariners play just nine of their first 26 games at home.

The Mariners 40th anniversary season will conclude on the road for the first time since 2012, with a six-game trip to Oakland (Sept. 25-27) and Anaheim (Sept. 29-Oct. 1).

Seattle faces the National League East in Interleague play, which means in addition to the Marlins in April, the Mariners will host the Phillies on June 27-28 and the Mets on July 28-30. They’ll travel to Philadelphia on May 9-10, to Washington, D.C. to face the Nationals on May 23-25 and Atlanta on Aug. 21-23 for three games in the Braves new SunTrust Park.

The Mariners won’t face the Padres in Interleague play this year, instead getting matched with the Rockies for two games at Coors Field on May 29-30 and two at Safeco on May 31-June 1.

The Mariners will be home to celebrate two of the summer’s major holidays – July 4 vs. the Royals and Labor Day on Sept. 4 vs. the Astros.

The season’s longest homestand will be 11 games against the Rockies, Rays, Twins and Blue Jays from May 31 to June 11, while the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets will be in Seattle during a 10-game stand from July 20-30.

The toughest road trip figures to be a four-city, 12-game East Coast trek to face the Rays, Braves, Yankees and Orioles from Aug. 18-30. After lengthy homestands in June and July, the Mariners are on the road for 20 of 27 games in August.

September is again heavy on American League West matchups as the Mariners will face the A’s, Astros, Angels and Rangers in 25 of the last 28 games. The only non-division team down the stretch is the Indians, who visit Safeco Field on September 22-24 for the final home series of the year.

Start times for the games will be announced when the schedule is finalized in January.

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Cano headed back to All-Star Game

CanoRobinson Cano is headed back to the Midsummer Classic and the veteran second baseman couldn’t be happier after proving he’s still one of the elite players in the game with a sterling first half with the Mariners. Cano was the only Seattle player selected for the American League All-Star team that was announced Tuesday.

Cano will be a reserve on the AL squad for the game in San Diego next Tuesday. It will be the seventh All-Star appearance for the 33-year-old, who became the all-time leading home run hitter among second baseman in AL history earlier this year and has led a Mariners resurgence that has Seattle contending for an AL Wild-Card spot heading into the second half of the season.

“It’s one of the achievements you want,” Cano said after learning of his selection. “That’s a memory that everyone is always excited about. For me, it means a lot more because this year I’m going to be able to bring my son and he’s going to be able to enjoy that. It’ll be a great moment, just me and my son there.”

Cano said he’ll consider participating in the Home Run Derby as well, which he won in 2011 and also participated in during the 2012 and ’13 All-Star festivities.

Cano saw his string of five consecutive All-Star starts snapped last year when he endured a rough first half and hit the break batting just .251 with six homers and 30 RBIs. But since that time, Cano has returned to his old self, batting .316 with 34 homers and 103 RBIs in 153 games, including .303 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs in 83 games this year.

“Obviously Robbie has had a great first half for us and really led our team,” manager Scott Servais said. “He had that home run binge early in the season and he’s been out there every day. It’s nice to see him back healthy this year. I’m really excited for him to get this opportunity. He’s certainly deserved it.”

Per Baseball-Reference.com, Cano is tied for fifth in the AL in position player WAR at 3.6, behind only Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve and Manny Machado. Altuve won the fan’s vote as the AL’s starting second baseman, with Cano finishing second.

“I love watching him,” Cano said of the Astros second baesman. “He hits the ball hard, does something and he’s out there every day. The numbers he’s putting up are unbelievable. The last two years he’s raking. Not just second basemen, everybody would love to have that kind of season.”

Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz was not selected to the AL team despite his 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and .280 batting average and third baseman Kyle Seager also didn’t make it despite hitting .274 with 16 homers, 54 RBIs and ranking 10th in position player WAR in the AL at 3.5.

“They both have the numbers to go, but that’s something out of my hands,” Cano said. “And it’s not over yet. People get hurt, you have the Final Vote. I hope they make it. It’s always good to have a teammate with you.”

Seager’s younger brother, Corey, who is having a big season as a rookie shortstop with the Dodgers, was selected to his first All-Star game as a National League reserve.

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez saw his string of six straight All-Star selections snapped as he’s missed the past five weeks with a strained right calf.

The bartender is back with Mariners

WilhelmsenChangeTom Wilhelmsen’s unique storyline with the Mariners took a new turn on Wednesday as the former bartender-turned-closer re-signed with the club on a one-year deal and joined the team in Detroit.

Wilhelmsen had 67 saves and a 2.97 ERA in 267 appearances with Seattle from 2011-15 after making a comeback in baseball following a five-year stint out of the game, but struggled badly in Texas this year after being traded to the Rangers. He was released by Texas last week after declining an outright to Triple-A in a move that forfeited about $1.8 million in remaining salary this season.

“He’ll be active on the roster today,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “We just want to get him back to where he was just last year. It’s not like we’re far removed from Tom Wilhelmsen being a very good Major League pitcher.

“Of all the offseason moves we made, trading Tom was one of the most difficult,” Dipto said. “He was a very stable and controllable bullpen guy. He’s comfortable here and we’re glad to get him back.”

To make room for Wilhelmsen, Seattle optioned right-hander Jonathan Aro to Triple-A Tacoma and transferred Charlie Furbush to the 60-day disabled list.

Wilhelmsen was traded to Texas along with outfielder James Jones and infielder Patrick Kivlehan in November in exchange for center fielder Leonys Martin and reliever Anthony Bass. Kivlehan also has rejoined the Mariners, reacquired in a trade for reliever Justin DeFratus, while Bass was released and is pitching in Japan.
Wilhelmsen, 32, was the Mariners’ primary closer in 2012-13, saving a combined 53 games. He was 2-2 with 13 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 53 games with Seattle last season, but was 2-3 with a 10.55 ERA in 21 appearances for Texas.

“We feel it was some combination of confidence, command and pitch selection,” Dipoto said of Wilhelmsen’s difficulties in Texas. “I don’t know if we’re any more magical than the Rangers in tapping that, but Tom has worked well here before, his teammates trust him and all the staff and everyone who’ve worked with him for years really like him.

“In the world of veteran Major League pitchers who have well-above average stuff and has a [Minor League] option, it was kind of a no-brainer for us. He fits.”

Wilhelmsen could be optioned to the Minors by the Mariners, since he does have an option remaining and is on their 40-man roster. The Rangers designated him for assignment last week, taking him off their 40-man roster, and thus opening the door for him to decline their outright assignment to Triple-A after he cleared waivers.

Thirteen newcomers on Mariners final 25-man roster

PeraltaJoel.jpgThe Mariners will open the 2016 season with 13 new players on their 25-man roster as general manager Jerry Dipoto finalized the club’s Opening Day plans on Sunday by placing pitchers Charlie Furbush and Evan Scribner on the 15-day disabled list, designating catcher Rob Brantly for assignment and reassigning four other players to Minor League camp.

Veteran right-handed reliever Joel Peralta (pictured) was selected from Triple-A Tacoma and added to the 40-man roster, the lone non-roster invitee who made the club.

None of the moves were unexpected as right-handed relievers Donn Roach and Blake Parker, first baseman Efren Navarro and outfielder Daniel Robertson – all non-roster invitees – were reassigned to the Minors. Brantly, who was on the 40-man roster, was DFA’d and the club now has 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the Minors.

Brantly, claimed off waivers three weeks ago from the White Sox, is out of Minor League options and must clear waivers in order for the Mariners to keep him.

The move with Brantly makes official the club’s decision to go with Steve Clevenger as the backup catcher. That was the only position battle still up in the air over the final week. Robertson played well all spring, but it was apparent from the start that he was on the outside of the number’s game in the outfield, while Navarro has been viewed as veteran insurance at first base.

Roach had an outstanding spring and emerged as a strong contender for a bullpen role, but his fate was sealed when Dipoto traded for Padres right-hander Nick Vincent on Thursday and said he’d fill the final relief opening.

Furbush is dealing with tendinitis in his left shoulder and Scribner has a strained right lat muscle. Both have been sidelined all spring and they’ll open the year on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 25, though neither is expected to be ready until May at the earliest.

With Sunday’s moves, the club will go into Monday’s 1:05 p.m. PT opener against the Rangers with this roster:

Starting pitchers: Right-handers Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Nathan Karns and left-hander Wade Miley.

Bullpen: Right-handers Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Tony Zych, Joel Peralta and Vincent; and left-handers Vidal Nuno and Mike Montgomery.

Catchers: Chris Iannetta and Clevenger.

Infielders: Adam Lind, Robinson Cano, Ketel Marte, Kyle Seager, Dae-Ho Lee and Luis Sardinas.

Outfielders: Nelson Cruz, Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin, Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez.

Of the newcomers, Dipoto traded for Miley, Karns, Benoit, Vincent, Clevenger, Lind, Sardinas and Martin, while signing Cishek, Iannetta, Aoki, Lee and Peralta  as free agents.

Furbush to begin injection therapy on shoulder

FurbushBPMariners left-hander Charlie Furbush will begin a series of blood injections called Regenokine therapy on Wednesday with the hope of speeding the healing process in his sore left shoulder, though the veteran reliever will start the season on the disabled list and is likely several months from being ready for games.

Furbush had a partial tear in his left rotator cuff last season, but doctors elected not to do surgery and just let the shoulder heal on its own. But after continued tightness in the left triceps area following his early throwing sessions this spring, the 29-year-old was shut down and says he’s probably three weeks or so from starting up a new throwing program.

The Regenokine therapy was used by Lakers star Kobe Bryant to help some knee issues several years ago, but Furbush doesn’t believe it’s been used much yet for Major League pitchers.

“It’s a series of injections to hopefully relieve everything,” he said. “We’ll give it a whirl. They brought it up, but it’s definitely something that other athletes have tried and seen some good results, so I’m hoping I’m part of that study.

“I don’t know of any other pitchers that have done it off the top of my head, but I don’t mind being one of the first if that’s the case.”

The procedure is similar to the more-commonly known platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy that other athletes have used to promote healing.

“Hopefully we get great results and I’ll be back on the mound in no time,” Furbush said. “I’m just eager to try something and see if I can relieve that last little bit and get over the hump. I was pretty close before and I got a little tightness. If I can get over that, I should be good to go.”

The Mariners were hoping Furbush could fill the role of left-handed setup man this season. He posted a 2.08 ERA while holding left-handed hitters to a .105 batting average in 33 outings last year before going on the disabled list on July 9.

With Furbush out, Vidal Nuno and converted starter Mike Montgomery will be the lefty relievers on the Opening Day roster. But Furbush hopes to rejoin the club as soon as he can build up his arm strength again.

“I’m just ready to help the team win,” he said. “Seeing spring go by, I’ve been champing at the bit to get back because I know I can get out there and get the job done. I just have to make sure I do everything right and try to maintain my health and get back on the field as soon as I can.”

Dae-Ho Lee added to 40-man roster

Dae-HoLeeMarch2Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee was added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster on Sunday prior to an opt-out in the contract he signed in February, meaning it’s likely the 33-year-old has won the backup first base job for Seattle.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said “there is a good chance” Lee will be on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster, though Sunday’s decision only involved placing him on the 40-man Major League roster, which is now completely full.

The Mariners also informed veteran right-handed reliever Joel Peralta, another non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal, that he’ll be added to the 40-man roster as well, though technically that won’t happen until a spot is cleared.

Dipoto said there’d be no word on first baseman Jesus Montero’s situation until Monday. Montero left camp on Saturday and his locker is now cleared out, which indicates the club is likely waiting to see if he clears the 48-hour waiver window before finalizing his status.

Lee, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder who hit 31 home runs in Japan last year, showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the club, according to Dipoto. The veteran has struggled at times against quality pitching in Cactus League games, but the Mariners feel he’ll be fine there and answered their questions in other areas by showing some surprising athleticism for a big man.

Lee and Stefen Romero are the two remaining right-handed hitting options at first base to platoon with lefty Adam Lind. Romero has had a strong camp, but he does have a Minor League option remaining.

“Dae-Ho has the history of hitting left-handers and I think he’s given us reason to believe in Spring Training,” Dipoto said. “He’s very prepared, very calm in the batter’s box and I think he’s gotten better every step of the way as we’ve gone along.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise – the defense and particularly the baserunning. He runs the bases really smart. His defense has been much better than we anticipated at first base and we do have confidence in his history of handling left-handed pitching, which is the role we’re trying to fill.”

Peralta, who just turned 40, earned a spot in the bullpen after an injury-shortened 2015 with the Dodgers when he posted a 4.34 ERA in 33 outings. He had a career 3.94 ERA in 589 outings for six different teams.

“Joel is a gamer,” Dipoto said. “He makes a difference in our clubhouse. I think Joel is a leader in the bullpen. He also showed physically, he’s been 90-92 [mph] all spring and his split-finger is a weapon. He’s a guy that gets righties and lefties out, kind of a reverse splits type, and especially in a bullpen that is going to start without Charlie Furbush, the idea that a Joel Peralta is capable of coming in and getting the better left-handed hitters in the league and having strikeout stuff really helps.”

Dipoto said he’s not sure how soon Furbush might be ready as the lefty will be undergoing a non-surgical medical procedure soon to help alleviate tightness in his throwing shoulder.

“Our hope is once we get him out there he can stay out there and we’re not in a rush for that to be Opening Day or April 15,” Dipoto said. “We’d just like it to be sooner rather than later.”

Heredia among seven sent down on Sunday

HerediaGuillermo.JPGRecently signed Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia was among seven Mariners sent down to Minor League camp on Sunday as the club reduced its Spring Training roster to 51 players.

Heredia, 25, hasn’t played in the past two years due to his defection to Mexico, but is regarded as a speedy center fielder with a good glove. After spraining an ankle in his first week in camp, Heredia made his Cactus League debut on Friday with one inning on defense and then had two at-bats late in Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the Dodgers, going 0-for-1 with a sacrifice bunt.

Since he is on the 40-man roster, Heredia was officially optioned to Double-A Jackson. Six other non-roster invitees were reassigned to Minor League camp – left-handed reliever Paul Fry, catchers Marcus Littlewood and Steve Lerud, infielders Benji Gonzalez and Tyler Smith and outfielder Dario Pizzano.

Lerud, 31, is the only one in the group with Major League experience. He played nine games with the Phillies in 2012-13 and spent last year with the Nationals’ Triple-A Syracuse club before signing with Seattle as a Minor League free agent.

Fry, Littlewood, Gonzalez, Smith and Pizzano are all Mariners’ Minor Leaguers who were invited to camp this spring. Fry’s departure leaves Seattle with just three left-handed relievers in camp in Charlie Furbush, Vidal Nuno and David Rollins, though starter Mike Montgomery could be used in that role as well.

The club is now down to five catchers, with Chris Iannetta, Steve Clevenger, Mike Zunino, Steven Baron and newly-acquired Rob Brantly.

There are eight outfielders still competing for five spots – Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin, Seth Smith, Franklin Gutierrez, Nelson Cruz, Stefen Romero, Boog Powell and non-roster invitee Daniel Robertson.

The Mariners now have 39 roster players, 10 non-roster invitees and two players on the 60-day disabled list still in Major League camp. They’ll need to get down to 25 before Opening Day on April 4 in Texas.

Pictures from Peoria: The latest edition

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Danny Hultzen, on the comeback trail again, is hoping to get his first Cactus League action next week as he converts to a bullpen role. Here he’s throwing live batting practice to some Minor League hitters on Saturday.

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A lot of people are eager to see Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee, who is trying to win a job as the backup first baseman and DH.

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The ever-ready Kyle Seager gets in his work at third base during infield drills.

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Hisashi Iwakuma played catch on Saturday in preparation for his first Cactus League start Sunday against the Rangers in Surprise.

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Hats off to Cody Martin, a right-hander from Gonzaga University who pitched for the Braves and A’s last season.

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Robinson Cano says he’s feeling “way, way better” physically this spring and his early play has backed that up.

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Young shortstop Ketel Marte fields a grounder during infield work.

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Former big-league pitcher Pete Harnisch, now a special assistant in player development, makes a point to right-hander Cody Parker after a bullpen session.

 

 

 

Pictures from Peoria: Tuesday edition

Moyer-MartinOld friend Jamie Moyer arrived in camp as a guest instructor and immediately went to work with some tips after Cody Martin threw a bullpen session.

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New first baseman Adam Lind soaks up another 85-degree day in Peoria.

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Former Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus is one of several veterans fighting for bullpen spots in what looks to be a most-interesting competition this spring.

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Nelson Cruz knows what to do with his glove when he’s not in right field.

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You Tube baseball comic Domingo Ayala had fun at Mariners camp on Tuesday …

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… and Ayala shared some of his bling with Kyle Seager.

StottlemyerMelPitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. chats with starter Wade Miley.

GutierrezFranklinFranklin Gutierrez is quietly going about his business .. and staying healthy to date .. and will start at DH in the Mariners’ Cactus League opener on Wednesday.

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Catcher Steve Clevenger, acquired from the Orioles this offseason, has been one of the many friendly new faces in camp.

 

Pictures from Peoria: The stars arrive

The Mariners held their first full-squad workout in Peoria, Ariz., on Thursday. Here are some scenes from around camp …

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New left fielder Nori Aoki went about his business on his first day.

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Things were looking up for Robinson Cano, who says he’s ready to get off to a fast start after offseason surgery to repair a double hernia.

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You want to talk about hitting? Try listening in to this conversation between a pair of Mariners Hall of Famers, Edgar Martinez and Alvin Davis.

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Big Korean slugger Dae Ho Lee said it’s his “dream come true” to try out for a Major League club. He’s competing for a backup first base job at age 33.

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Kyle Seager is ready for action at third base.

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Veteran outfielder Seth Smith said everybody was excited for this camp because of the new staff, players and front-office.

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Good buddies Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez shared a hug before workouts began.