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Wilhelmsen takes another step in rehab process

WilhelmsenChangeMariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen played catch up to about 120 feet on Tuesday at Globe Life Park in Arlington as he took another step toward returning from a hyperextended right elbow that has sidelined him the past two and a half weeks.

Wilhelmsen is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list as soon as he’s fully recovered, with a mid-May return likely if all goes as expected. The 31-year-old right-hander threw for about 25 minutes in the outfield prior to Seattle’s game with the Rangers and will have a similar session on Thursday before he’s scheduled to take to the mound in Houston on Friday for a bullpen session.

If all goes well this week, Wilhelmsen could throw another bullpen or a simulated game early next week in Anaheim before being sent out an a Minor League rehab assignment about the time the Mariners return home at the end of their current 10-game road trip.

Wilhelmsen said his arm felt great on Tuesday and the hard part now is sticking with the rehab program set up by the team’s training staff.

“I’m ready to go,” Wilhelmsen said. “I’m pretty eager. Once everything is feeling good, you want to get right back into it.”

Wilhelmsen made just two appearances this season, allowing two runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings, before injuring his arm when he got accidentally twisted backward by teammate Danny Farquhar as Farquhar ran by while he was stretching in the bullpen in Oakland on April 11.

Wilhelmsen was a critical part of last year’s bullpen success as he posted a 2.27 ERA in 79 1/3 innings over 57 appearances.

• While Nelson Cruz hit .382 with nine homers and 19 RBIs in his first 14 games in right field compared to .100 with no homers and two RBIs in his initial five games at designated hitter, manager Lloyd McClendon said that hasn’t played into his decision to use the 34-year-old more in the outfield than many expected so far.

“When I think he needs a day for his legs, I give it to him,” said McClendon, who had Cruz at DH in Tuesday’s game. “If not, I’m going to play him in the outfield. I reassess it every day. I have to make sure I keep him healthy. I have to be smart about it.”

• Broadcasters Aaron Goldsmith and Dave Sims are flipping roles for the Rangers and upcoming Astros series, with Goldsmith moving into the TV booth alongside Mike Blowers and Sims taking radio duties alongside Rick Rizzs. The Mariners will use that alignment at various times this year as a change of pace.

Thunderstorm makes for adventurous trip to Dallas

After a turbulent ride and a late-night diversion to San Antonio due to heavy thunderstorms in Texas, the Mariners charter plane from Seattle arrived at Love Field in Dallas about 3:30 a.m. CT on Monday.

The Mariners originally were scheduled to arrive in Dallas around midnight after losing an 11-inning, 4-2 game to the Twins at Safeco Field on Sunday afternoon, but one attempt at landing was aborted and the plane was sent to San Antonio – about 280 miles to the south – to refuel and wait for the weather to clear.

The team and traveling party spent about two hours on the runway at San Antonio before being allowed to make the bumpy flight back to Dallas, where they finally landed at 3:25 a.m. and eventually reached their hotel just before 5 a.m.

“Worst flight ever. #thankGoditsover” tweeted outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

Broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith tweeted that “the team pilot earned a merit badge tonight.”

And pitcher Taijuan Walker, who is scheduled to start Monday night’s game, offered a simple: “Wooo” on his Twitter account.

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The Rangers also had some travel issues as they were diverted to Austin on their flight home from Anaheim.

The two teams are scheduled for a three-game series starting Monday at 5:05 p.m. CT at Globe Life Park.

While the weather cleared on Monday morning, the forecast calls for more thunderstorms in the Arlington area on Monday evening, with rain projected through Tuesday afternoon.

Iwakuma goes on 15-day DL with strained lat

IwakumaMariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, one of the top starters in the American League the past three seasons, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a strained lat muscle behind his right shoulder.

Left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to temporarily fill Iwakuma’s spot on the 25-man roster.

Iwakuma, 33, had gone 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in his first three starts and was removed after just 71 pitches in his last outing, though he said he felt fine physically afterward even though his velocity has been down this year. He allowed four runs and five hits — including a pair of solo home runs — in 5 1/3 innings in that no-decision to the Astros on Monday and wasn’t sharp in his first two starts against the Angels and Dodgers either.

Iwakuma had been scheduled to make his next start in Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Twins, but the decision to place him on the DL came after he played catch prior to Friday’s game at Safeco Field. He was to undergo an MRI test on Friday night to further evaluate the injury. The move is retroactive to April 21, so he’ll be eligible to return on May 6.

No announcement has been made on who will make Sunday’s start, though left-hander Roenis Elias would be the logical choice to be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.

Iwakuma was 15-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 28 starts last season and 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts in 2013, when he was named to the American League All-Star team. After moving into the Mariners rotation on July 2, 2012, Iwakuma had the ninth-lowest ERA in the Majors at 2.97 from that point to the end of last season.

Over the last two seasons, Iwakuma’s WHIP of 1.026 was the fifth lowest in the Majors among qualified starters, but that number was 1.408 in his first three games this year and he’d allowed five home runs in 16 1/3 innings.

Elias went 10-12 with a 3.85 ERA in 29 starts for Seattle as a rookie last season, but didn’t make the rotation this spring and started the season in Tacoma. He’s 2-0 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts for the Rainiers. His last start came on Monday, so he’d be on line to start Sunday if that’s the direction the Mariners choose.

Luetge presumably will be used to bolster the bullpen on a short-term basis until Iwakuma’s starting spot is filled. He’s posted a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over five appearances for Tacoma.

Carlos Quentin signed to Minor League deal

Colorado Rockies v San Diego PadresTwo-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Quentin has signed a Minor League Deal with the Mariners and will report to Triple-A Tacoma, the club announced Wednesday.

Quentin, 32, was released by the Braves on April 14 after being acquired nine days earlier as part of a trade that sent Cameron Maybin and Matt Wisler to Atlanta for Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr.

Quentin dealt with knee issues much of the past two years and hit .177 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 50 games last season for San Diego. He had two stints on the disabled list, missing 39 games at the start of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee and 58 games at the end of the year due to soreness in the same knee.

He’s a career .252/.347/.484 hitter with 154 home runs and 491 RBIs in nine Major League seasons with the Diamondbacks (2006-07), White Sox (2008-2011) and Padres (2012-14) after being drafted out of Stanford in the first round in 2003 by Arizona.

Quentin was an American League All-Star and Silver Slugger winner in 2008 with the White Sox when he hit .288 with 36 homers and 100 RBIs. He earned his second All-Star berth in 2011 when he batted .254 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs, his fourth straight season with 20-plus homers.

The Braves are responsible for the $8 million on Quentin’s contract for this season, minus the Major League minimum of just over $500,000 that Seattle will assume.

Quentin is a right-handed hitter who has played strictly left and right field in his career, though he could be worked some at first base in Tacoma to increase his options.

Paxton’s ERA hiked by scoring change

PaxtonPicAn official scoring change by Major League Baseball has added five earned runs to James Paxton’s start on Sunday, raising the Mariners left-hander’s ERA from 5.40 to 8.40 in one swoop.

Paxton allowed seven runs in the second inning of Sunday’s 11-10 victory over the Rangers, but only two of the runs were initially ruled as earned due to an error charged to shortstop Willie Bloomquist on a ground ball by Elvis Andrus.

But the Rangers appealed the scoring on the play to MLB and the league agreed that Andrus should have been awarded a single on the slow roller to Bloomquist, whose throw pulled first baseman Logan Morrison off the bag after he charged in to field the ball behind the mound.

Andrus was the second batter in the inning and Paxton wound up allowing singles to the first four hitters and eight hits overall in the frame before being replaced after 2 2/3 innings.

The scoring change shifted Paxton from nine earned runs in 15 innings to 14 earned runs in his first three starts.

Seattle’s team ERA also climbed from 4.68 to 5.03 with the change.

Major League Baseball often overrules scoring changes when teams appeal decisions. Last year, a late-season scoring change lowered Felix Hernandez’s ERA enough so that he won the American League ERA title.

The Paxton change was one of two made by MLB affecting the Mariners on Tuesday. The league also announced a change in Seattle’s April 15 game against the Dodgers, crediting Austin Jackson with a base hit and taking away an error from Adrian Gonzalez.

That change raised Jackson’s batting average from .250 to .268 and added an earned run to the line of Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson.

Cruz clubs his way to AL Player of Week honor

CruzFirstDayNelson Cruz wasted no time making an impact on the Mariners offense and the big slugger’s imprint was noticed as the 34-year-old right fielder earned American League Player of the Week honors on Monday for his powerful performance over the previous seven days.

Cruz was selected for the week of April 13-19, during which he hit .500 (12-for-24) with six home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs and a 1.806 OPS in six games.

It is the fourth AL Player of the Week honor for Cruz in his 11-year career and first with the Mariners after signing a four-year, $57 million deal in December.

In six games against the Dodgers and Rangers, Cruz had a hit in every game and reached base 15 times either by hit or walk, capped by a two-homer day on Sunday that he capped off with a walk-off single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in an 11-10 victory over Texas.

In the six games, Cruz led the Majors in home runs, RBIs and OPS, as well as with his 1.250 slugging percentage and 30 total bases. He also was second in the Majors in runs (7), tied for third in hits (12) and had the third-highest batting average (.500) and on-base percentage (.556) among qualified AL hitters.

Cruz won AL Player of the Week honors twice last season with the Orioles, on June 2 and Sept. 8, and once with the Rangers on May 24, 2010.

After going 1-for-15 with no RBIs in his first four games with Seattle, Cruz has gone on a tear. Heading into Monday’s series opener with the Astros at Safeco Field, he’s leading the Majors with eight home runs while hitting .354 (17-for-48) with 14 RBIs and a 1.258 OPS.

Cruz is the first player in the Majors with eight home runs in the first 12 games of the season since Alex Rodriguez did the same in 2007 for the Yankees on his way to a 54-homer, 156-RBI MVP season.

Cruz is the first Mariner to win AL Player of the Week honors since Kyle Seager was selected on June 29 last season. Seager earned the award twice last year (also on April 27), while Felix Hernandez also was selected on June 8.

Felix cleared to start on schedule Saturday

FelixMarch4Mariners ace Felix Hernandez will make his next start on schedule Saturday against the Rangers at Safeco Field, despite a sore quadriceps muscle in his right leg that cut short his last outing.

Hernandez threw a flat-ground session on Wednesday, but manager Lloyd McClendon didn’t bother waiting for that workout to proclaim the 29-year-old fit for duty this weekend when the Mariners return home.

“My conversation with Felix is he’s fine,” McClendon said. “He’s ready to go.”

That means the Mariners will stay in order with their initial rotation. Fifth-starter J.A. Happ is lined up for the series opener on Friday against new Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo at 7:10 p.m. PT.

Hernandez will take the hill on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. PT against right-hander Colby Lewis, with James Paxton drawing the series finale Sunday at 1:10 p.m. PT against Ross Detwiler in a duel of lefties.

Hernandez was taken out of his last start after five innings when his right leg tightened up. He stretched the quad muscle while reaching for a throw to first on a double-play earlier in the game on a pop up caught by Mike Zunino after he’d hustled over to cover the bag when Zunino and first baseman Logan Morrison pursued the ball in foul territory.

The A’s racked up eight hits and three runs off Hernandez in his five frames and he departed with a 3-0 deficit, but Seattle came from behind for an 8-7 win in 10 innings. Hernandez is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his first two starts.

The Rangers series kicks off a nine-game homestand for Seattle. If the Mariners continue staying in rotation, Hernandez will then pitch Friday, April 24, against the Twins before facing Texas again on the road on April 29.

• Zunino jammed his left wrist on the game-ending tag attempt at the plate in Seattle’s 7-6 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday, but said he felt fine on Wednesday and was back in the lineup for the series finale. Zunino has played in all of Seattle’s first nine games, including eight starts, but McClendon said the young catcher will be fine with the team having two off days in the next eight days.

McClendon waiting to see on Felix’s next start

FelixDrillsFelix Hernandez is on schedule to make his next start Saturday, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon will wait to see how his ace’s tender right quadriceps muscle feels in a throwing session on Wednesday before finalizing Seattle’s pitching plans for this weekend’s series against the Rangers at Safeco Field.

Hernandez was removed after five innings in his last start on Sunday in Oakland after feeling some tightness in his leg. He also twisted his ankle in the first inning of that start and said that affected his performance as he allowed three runs and eight hits with just one strikeout in his second start of the season.

“He played catch yesterday and felt fine,” McClendon said prior to Tuesday’s game with the Dodgers. “He’ll throw tomorrow and we’ll make a decision. I don’t foresee any setbacks, but I just want to cover myself.”

Hernandez indicated he still feels some soreness in the quad muscle, which continues receiving treatment.

“My ankle is fine,” he said. “My ankle is better than my leg.”

But the 29-year-old said he fully expects to pitch on Saturday and McClendon indicated that was his plan as well “as we speak,” though he noted the Mariners have off days the next two Thursdays, which provides some flexibility if he needs to skip a start with any of his hurlers.

If the Mariners stay in rotation, J.A. Happ will pitch Friday’s series opener against the Rangers, followed by Hernandez on Saturday and James Paxton on Sunday. Hisashi Iwakuma would open the Astros series on Monday, followed by Taijuan Walker on Tuesday. But with the off day Thursday, it would be possible to skip Hernandez and move everyone else up a day and still keep them on a normal five-day rotation.

Hernandez has been one of baseball’s most durable pitchers over the course of his career. He’s started 30 or more games for nine years in a row and pitched 200-plus innings each of the last seven seasons.

Wilhelmsen placed on 15-day DL with elbow issue

Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a hyperextended right elbow, with fellow right-hander Dominic Leone recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take his place in the bullpen.

Wilhelmsen, 31, has appeared in two games this season and given up five hits and two runs in 2 2/3 innings. His DL move is retroactive to April 11, which is the day after his last appearance in Oakland, so he’ll be eligible to return on April 26.

Wilhelmsen played a critical role in the Mariners’ bullpen last season when he was 3-2 with one save and a 2.27 ERA in 57 appearances, including two starts. He held opposing batters to .171 batting average in 79 1/3 innings.

Leone will be in uniform and available for Monday night’s series opener against the Dodgers. The 23-year-old made one appearance with Triple-A Tacoma, throwing a scoreless inning with one strikeout on Friday in El Paso.

The 23-year-old also opened last year in Tacoma before being called up the first week to replace Hector Noesi. He wound up posting an 8-2 record and 2.17 ERA in 66 1/3 innings over 57 appearances as a rookie, but didn’t make the Mariners Opening Day roster this season when Carson Smith was selected for the final bullpen spot.

Happ helps stabilize Mariners early rotation

Seattle Mariners v Oakland AthleticsA Mariners rotation expected to be one of baseball’s best had some rough times in its first turn, but veteran J.A. Happ helped solidify things with a strong outing in Saturday’s 5-4 victory over the A’s.

Even with Happ throwing a quality start with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball, Seattle’s starters had the fifth-worst ERA among Major League Baseball’s 30 teams with their 5.45 ERA after the first outing for each of the five hurlers.

That number was hiked by Taijuan Walker’s rugged debut and a shaky start by Hisashi Iwakuma after Felix Hernandez and James Paxton opened the season with strong showings. Both Iwakuma and Walker aloewd five runs in their first two innings alone, so Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon was relieved when Happ – his fifth starter – threw six scoreless frames with just three hits and had retired 13 in a row until the A’s pieced together four singles and a pair of runs in the seventh.

“That was a much-needed start, I can tell you that,” McClendon said. “Our bullpen had been a little bit overworked to that point. For him to come out and give us those innings was special for us.”

Happ didn’t have a very good Cactus League showing in his first impression with Seattle since being acquired from the Blue Jays, but as evident by Walker’s rough start after a fabulous spring, those things don’t much matter once the regular season begins. And Happ was extremely effective when it counted.

“I thought his secondary stuff was very good,” McClendon said. “He threw some good changeups, good breaking balls. His fastball was 92-93. He did a nice job. I think they found holes [in the seventh]. His velocity didn’t fade. He made quality pitches. That’s just baseball.”

• McClendon said he hasn’t decided – or at least wasn’t prepared to say – who will sit out on Monday through Wednesday when the Mariners play an Interleague series at Dodger Stadium. But don’t expect Nelson Cruz to miss playing time. Though Cruz was expected to play primarily at designated hitter, he’s started four of Seattle’s first six games in right field because of Seth Smith’s sore groin muscle and will likely be there against the Dodgers as well.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say Cruz will be in the lineup,” McClendon said.

• McClendon wasn’t pleased with reliever Danny Farquhar’s pitch selection on Saturday when he gave up two runs on two hits in the eighth to cough up Seattle’s lead after Cruz’s three-run homer provided a 4-2 advantage. But the skipper said part of that was on catcher Mike Zunino and said he’d talk to both players about their approach against some of the A’s hitters.

“Yesterday was not Danny-like,” McClendon said on Sunday. “He’s much better than that. That’s why he was in there in that situation and I expect more. And he’ll give me more. He’s a better pitcher than he showed yesterday.”

• Smith was back at DH in Sunday’s series finale with the A’s as McClendon continues to be careful with the 32-year-old as he returns from the sore groin. Smith hasn’t had any trouble swinging the bat though as he’s hit .833 (5-for-6) in his two healthy games so far. Here’s the full lineups for Sunday:

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