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Montero among four players cut Friday

Montero, Jesus (2)

Former top catching prospect Jesus Montero, who is attempting to convert to first base this spring, was one of four Mariners players cut from their Major League camp on Friday as the club continued whittling down the contenders for its Opening Day roster.

Montero, 24, was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma along with young outfielders Xavier Avery and James Jones. Those three players are all on the Mariners’ 40-man roster.

The other player cut Friday was shortstop Chris Taylor, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, so technically he was reassigned to Minor League camp. All four will continue working out in the adjacent Minor League complex and can still play in Cactus League games, if they’re called up for that duty in the remaining 17 days of camp.

Montero was the Mariners starting catcher at the start of 2013 after being acquired from the Yankees in a trade for Michael Pineda the year before, but struggled both with the bat and behind the plate and was sent down to Tacoma after hitting .208 in 29 games.

After playing 19 games in Triple-A last year, Montero injured his knee and then was hit with a 50-game suspension in the Biogenesis case. He came to camp this spring carrying extra weight, but has worked to lose that in the past few weeks and has hit well, batting .310 with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in 29 at-bats over 12 games.

First base hasn’t gone nearly as smoothly and the former catcher committed two errors in the same inning of Wednesday’s game with the Cubs, but he’ll get a chance to work more on that in Tacoma.

Avery and Jones both played well this spring, but lost out in the numbers game in the outfield. The club still has seven outfielders in camp – Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Michael Saunders, Corey Hart, Stefen Romero, Endy Chavez and Cole Gillespie, while utility man Willie Bloomquist and first baseman Logan Morrison can also play some outfield.

Jones hit .265 with a home run and six RBIs in 34 at-bats, while Avery batted .240 with five RBIs and three stolen bases in 25 at-bats.

Taylor, 23, was last year’s Mariners Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .314 between Class-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, but didn’t figure in the big-league team’s plans yet with Nick Franklin and Brad Miller competing for the shortstop job. He hit .158 with a double, a home run and five RBIs in 19 at-bats this spring.

The Mariners have 40 players remaining in their Major League camp, with 29 of those on the 40-man roster and the other 11 being non-roster invitees.

Lots of health updates out of Mariners camp

Hart, CoreyThings are progressing on a couple health fronts for the Mariners, as manager Lloyd McClendon has Corey Hart back in the lineup for tonight’s 6:40 p.m. game against the Rockies at first base after the big man had missed the last five days with a stiff back and sore forearm.

The good news there is Hart’s knees have held up fine, which was the big question this spring after he sat out all of last year with the Brewers following a pair of microfracture surgeries.

“His legs are fine. It’s his back that has been bothering him, but that seems to have cleared up,” McClendon said. “He hasn’t had any problems out of the knees.”

McClendon knocked on his wood desk at that point. And he’s hoping for a couple knocks from Hart in tonight’s game as well as he’s hit just .111 (2-for-16) so far while getting his timing back following his long layoff from game action.

“I think he’s coming along fine,” McClendon said. “He probably tried to do a little too much early. We looked at some film and made some adjustments. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a real good day today. We’ll see how it goes, but I think  you’ll see him swing a little better today.”

In other health news, reliever Stephen Pryor will throw live batting practice today, which is another step forward for the hard-throwing right-hander as he returns from surgery to repair the lat muscle behind his throwing shoulder.

“He threw a simulated last week and that went well,” McClendon said. “We’ll see how it goes. He’s progressing well. He’s throwing under control. It’s firm. He feels real good about where he is. We just have to stay with the program.”

And that holds true for the Mariners’ two injured starters as well. Taijuan Walker felt good on Friday after his initial bullpen session the day before as he returns from an inflamed shoulder that shut him down completely for a week.

Walker will throw long toss again today and Saturday, then another bullpen on Sunday.

“He’s frustrated. He wants to move faster,” McClendon said. “But he’ll stay with the program.”

As for Hisashi Iwakuma? Last year’s ace hasn’t thrown a pitch yet this spring after spraining the tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand right before camp opened after catching it in a net while jumping to field a ball over his head during a pitching drill.

Iwakuma will see the doctor on Tuesday for more tests and the Mariners have their fingers crossed. If all goes well, Iwakuma could be told that the splint on his finger can come off and he can begin gripping a ball and throwing again, which would allow him to start rebuilding his arm strength.

“Hopefully we’ll have good news on Monday,” McClendon said.

Neither Walker nor Iwakuma will be ready for the start of the regular season, which is now just 17 days away. But if all goes well, they both could return sometime in April and only miss a couple starts each.

McClendon hasn’t posted a lineup yet for tonight, but did say that Robinson Cano will not play after starting the last four in a row.

Thursday’s Game 18 recap: Mariners 6, D-backs 3

BeavanPlayer of the Game: Blake Beavan continues making a strong bid for a starting berth as he’s thrown well in a spring where the Mariners are looking for depth in a rotation that will open the season without Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker. Beavan allowed five hits and one run over 4 2/3 innings with no walks and four strikeouts. The 25-year-old threw 79 pitches and lowered his Cactus League ERA to 2.13 in five outings.

Stat of the Game: Robinson Cano went 2-for-4, which lowered his spring batting average 10 points to .609. Cano laced two singles and had two RBIs as he continued his impressive start. Since returning from a four-day layoff following root canal surgery, Cano has gone 8-for-11 with a pair of doubles in four straight games.

Storyline: The Mariners jumped on Arizona’s Archie Bradley, the D-backs top pitching prospect, for five hits and four runs in two innings to take the early lead and then watched as their own pitchers – Beavan and Hector Noesi – held Arizona to one run over the first seven frames before Yoervis Medina and Zach Miner each gave up a run in the final two innings.

Worth noting: Logan Morrison hit his first home run of the spring and went 2-for-4 while playing first base. Morrison raised his spring average to .303 and is making his case for playing time at designated hitter and backup first baseman. If Corey Hart can play the outfield this season, Morrison appears the most likely candidate for DH time at this point.

Quote of the Day: “For me, the list was a circle. There was nobody at the front of it other than Felix. But he’s done well. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen.” –McClendon after it was suggested Beavan wasn’t at the top of any media lists of potential starting candidates when camp opened.

Next: Felix Hernandez makes his third Cactus League start Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT as the Mariners travel to Scottsdale to face the Rockies at Salt River Fields. Hernandez gave up four hits and four runs in 2 1/3 innings in his last outing against the Rangers, but said he feels strong as he prepares for his club-record seventh Opening Day start. Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled to pitch in relief and will get an extended outing as he’s competing for a starting rotation berth. Right fielder Corey Hart is expected to return to the lineup after being sidelined since Saturday with a stiff lower back. The game will be carried live on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Here is today’s boxscore.

Here’s a feature story I wrote on the relationship between McClendon and Willie Bloomquist, that goes back to their days together in the Arizona Fall League in 2000.

And here is my notebook with today’s news of the day from camp.

Taijuan Walker ‘relieved’ after bullpen session


Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker said he “had a big smile on my face” after throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session Thursday, his first time pitching off a mound since being completely shut down for a week on Feb. 28 with bursitis in his right shoulder.

Walker has played catch and long toss over the last week to build his arm strength back up, but getting up on a mound was a big step in his return as the Mariners are hoping to regain the services of their top young pitching prospect sometime in April.

“Today was a great relief,” said the 21-year-old, who is the No. 6 ranked prospect in baseball by “I finally feel normal again. I can finally go out and just be normal and play catch and not worry about anything.

“I’m excited. It kind of feels like I just got here. It feels really good.”

Walker, 21, was expected to land a rotation berth this spring after going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three late-season starts last year. But he arrived at Spring Training with a sore shoulder after working hard to prepare himself for camp and was eventually shut down for seven after tests showed some inflammation, but no structural damage.

The youngster from Yucaipa, Calif., had thrown two bullpen sessions before being shut down, but said he felt like he was starting over now with a fresh arm. Thursday’s session was tightly controlled as he threw 25 fastballs, with no breaking balls, and didn’t go full out.

“I just wanted to go out and get the feel for it and feel myself out,” he said. “It felt good. I did get after it about the last 10 or so and it felt real good.”

Manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters earlier in the morning the session would be “private,” which is difficult to do at the Mariners open practice facility. But Walker did throw earlier than normal, before the media was out on the field.

“It’s nothing different,” McClendon said. “I just don’t want to turn this into a sideshow. I understand the inquiries about him and people wondering about his health. But he’s fine. He just needs to go back to being one of the regular guys. TV cameras and reporters in there for his bullpen session, he doesn’t need that right now. He needs to get back into his groove.”

Walker said he wasn’t worried about any distractions, however.

“No, not really. I just want to go out and get healthy,” he said. “The media is always going to be there. I just want to go out there and pitch and feel normal again and throw without any pain or soreness.”

Walker will play light catch on Friday to see how the shoulder responded, then throw a 40-pitch bullpen in another day or two if all goes as planned. Eventually he’ll advance to live batting practice or simulated game action against hitters before being able to throw in games.

The Mariners have already said he won’t be ready for the start of the season on March 31 and presumably will need several weeks or more beyond that to build his arm strength up to be able to start and throw six or seven innings in a Major League game.

Walker knows that is all somewhat out of his control at this point.

“Definitely the sooner, the better,” he said. “But I just have to listen to those guys in the training room. Whatever they say goes.”

Beavan starting today; Walker throwing bullpen

I’m back in Arizona following a four-day hiatus in Seattle, so the blog will be back in daily order. And we’re right back at it with an afternoon game against the D-backs at 1:05 p.m. today at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.

Blake Beavan is on the hill today, looking to keep his name in the rotation battle. But some of the pitching intrigue today will also be on the practice complex in Peoria when Taijuan Walker throws his first bullpen session since being shutdown on Feb. 28 with bursitis in his shoulder.

Corey Hart isn’t in today’s lineup again, sidelined since Saturday with a sore forearm.

Here’s the full lineup for the game, which will be available on Audio on for free, while being tape delayed on 710 ESPN Seattle tonight at 7 p.m.

Endy Chavez CF
Willie Bloomquist 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Justin Smoak DH
Logan Morrison 1B
Nick Franklin SS
Dustin Ackley LF
Michael Saunders RF
Mike Zunino C

Blake Beavan RHP

Bonus photos from Peoria

My apologies for the quiet blog the last couple days. I’ve flown home to Seattle to spend a little time with the family before gearing up for the final three weeks of camp and then the regular season. But veteran John Schlegel is more-than-capably filling in on the beat with all the Mariners news on until my return on Thursday.

And to keep the blog fresh in the meantime, here are some pictures I took earlier in camp that I haven’t had a chance to unveil yet:

Felix Hernandez and catcher Mike Zunino have been working together regularly and seem to be building a good rapport.
Felix, Zunino hug

Brad Miller has had a strong camp so far as he competes head-to-head with Nick Franklin for the shortstop job.
Miller, Brad (2)

Veteran lefty reliever Joe Beimel is one of several non-roster invitees who appear to have strong shots at making the 25-man roster.
Beimel, Joe

Scott Baker is another non-roster guy that has done very well and has an excellent chance at making the starting rotation.
Baker, Scott

First-base coach Andy Van Slyke (left) and third base coach Rich Donnelly have brought a lot of personality and experience to Lloyd McClendon’s new staff.
VanSlyke, Donnelly

Young shortstop Chris Taylor, last year’s Mariners Minor League Player of the Year, has impressed coaches with his defensive ability and solid play.
Taylor, Chris

Things were looking up in this drill for infielder Willie Bloomquist and right fielder Corey Hart as they converge on a pop-up.

Saturday’s Game 11 recap: Mariners 18, Giants 3

Ramirez, Erasmo

Player of the Game: The Mariners offense cranked out 18 hits and 18 runs, but the most impressive player in Saturday afternoon’s game was Erasmo Ramirez, who blew through four scoreless innings of work with just one single, one walk and four strikeouts. Ramirez seems to be solidifying his rotation berth with a strong start to spring and is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA, having allowed just seven hits and one earned run in 8 2/3 innings in three games.

Stat of the Game: A dozen different Mariners had hits and a dozen players scored runs in the blowout win. Dustin Ackley led the hit parade with a 3-for-4 day that included a triple and double with two RBIs.

Storyline: The Mariners beat up on a couple pretty good pitchers in their split-squad win over the Giants. They racked up six hits and seven runs (five earned) in 2 1/3 innings against Ryan Vogelsong, who is expected to be San Francisco’s fifth starter this season. And Mariners backups banged closer Sergio Romo around for five runs on three hits and two walks without an out in the eighth, though Romo apparently was working on other pitches besides his favored slider.

Worth noting: D.J. Peterson, last June’s first-round Draft pick, came in at third base in the sixth inning and went 1-for-1 with a sacrifice fly and two RBIs, putting him at .571 (4-for-7) with a homer and four RBIs in late-inning duties over the past four games. Peterson isn’t even in the Major League camp and is just getting some experience as one of several Minor League callups in the early Cactus League games, but he was scheduled to start Saturday night’s split-squad game against the Dodgers until coming down with an upset stomach that led to him being removed from the afternoon game in the ninth inning. Manager Lloyd McClendon said he didn’t think Peterson would be able to play in the nightcap against the Dodgers.

Quote of the Day: “We had a lot of good things happen. Obviously the pitching was good under these conditions. The guys played extremely well in the field. We just continue to run ‘em out there and they’ll either eliminate themselves or separate themselves. Pitching wise, we’ll just keep running them out there and see what happens.” –McClendon after the 18-3 win.

Next: The Mariners play their second split-squad game Saturday night against the Dodgers at 6:05 p.m. at Glendale with Blake Beavan getting the start in a game that will be televised live on MLB Network. Then Felix Hernandez makes his second start of the spring on Sunday as the Mariners host the Rangers at 1:05 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium. The Mariners ace threw two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut Tuesday against the Dodgers and is on schedule for his club-record seventh Opening Day start on March 31 in Anaheim. Second baseman Robinson Cano hasn’t played since root canal surgery on Wednesday and his status remains uncertain for Sunday, but Corey Hart is expected to get his second outfield start of the season as he works back cautiously after missing last year following two knee surgeries.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

And here’s today’s notebook with all the news from camp.

Some Saturday observations from McClendon

McClendon bubble

Skipper Lloyd McClendon had some interesting observations on a couple topics this morning.

On D.J. Peterson getting another look today with his first start in Cactus League play: “Get his feet wet a little bit.  It’s an opportunity to show what he can do. It’s highly … this kid isn’t going to make the club. But it’s not bad to get kids over here. Marte is a pretty exciting young man. Another kid, Smith, Blash, we’ve got some talent over there. Let’s get ‘em over here and see what they can do.”

On whether Nick Franklin or Brad Miller are separating themselves in the shortstop battle to date: “No, I’d say they’re quite equal.”

On whether the team’s outfield defense will be okay with questions regarding the mobility of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison (who could play some outfield later this spring): “I don’t know if I can answer that now, but as far as concerns, it can’t be any worse than it was last year. We had a horrible defensive outfield last year. I think we have options that will make it better this year. That’s all I can tell you. I can’t tell you my thought process, that wouldn’t be fair. I will say this. It will be better.”

On Abraham Almonte, who continues getting the majority of starts at center field and in the leadoff role: “I like the total package. Switch hitter, gives you speed on the bases, can score from first, he’s got some pop. Andy (Van Slyke) has done a nice job with him in the outfield. You can see the improvement and his movement laterally. The total package is pretty good.”

On Robinson Cano, who is at the Mariners facility today as he recovers from the root canal surgery he had on Wednesday, though he’s not playing for a third straight day: “He’s still a little swollen, a little drugged up. He’s better. My guess is there’s an outside chance he’ll play tomorrow. I doubt it. More than likely he’ll do a light workout and some biking and stuff like that and swing sin the cage. But we’ll see how he’s feeling. I’m leaning toward (Monday), but we’ll see how the next 24 hours go.”

No Cano, but lots of baseball today

Lots of baseball today for the Mariners with a day-night split squad situation. Both games will be shown on the MLB Network, with tonight’s 6:05 p.m. PT contest against the Dodgers at Glendale being a live telecast.

The afternoon’s 12:05 p.m. PT game against the Giants in Scottsdale will be shown on tape delay on the MLB Network at 1 a.m. Sunday morning, but you can listen to that one live on 710 ESPN Seattle radio.

No Robinson Cano today in either game as the new second baseman sits out for the third straight day after root canal surgery on Wednesday.

Starting pitchers are being stretched out further as they hit their third outings. Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled for four innings against the Giants and Blake Beavan is slated for four against the Dodgers, while Hector Noesi continues being stretched out as well and will get three innings in relief in the afternoon game.

D.J. Peterson, last year’s first-round Draft pick, makes his first Cactus League start in the nightcap as he continues getting some bonus playing time this spring. Peterson isn’t in the Major League camp, but has played in three games (3-for-6 with a home run) in some late-inning duty and now will get to face a big-league starter in Josh Beckett for the Dodgers.

Ryan Vogelsong will be on the hill for the Giants in the afternoon game, with Buster Posey catching.

Here are the full lineups for the Mariners:

Endy Chavez CF
Brad Miller SS
Ty Kelly 2B
Corey Hart DH
Logan Morrison 1B
Michael Saunders RF
Dustin Ackley LF
Willie Bloomquist 3B
John Buck C

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

Abraham Almonte CF
Kyle Seager DH
Nick Franklin SS
Justin Smoak 1B
D.J. Peterson 3B
Stefen Romero LF
James Jones RF
Carlos Triunfel 2B
Humberto Quintero C

Blake Beavan RHP

Friday’s Game 10 recap: Reds 10, Mariners 9


Player of the Game: On a day the Mariners starters struggled to get anything going early, 2013 first-round Draft pick D.J. Peterson provided some late highlights with his first home run in a 2-for-3 day. Peterson now has gone 3-for-6 with two RBIs in three spring appearances the last few days. The young third baseman has performed well, but keep things in perspective. He isn’t in Major League camp and is getting some late-inning Cactus League at-bats with a few other Minor League callups against mostly other young prospects. But it’s been a great experience for Peterson and he’s making the most of it.

Stat of the Game: The Mariners were 7-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The noteworthy thing there being they put 19 runners in scoring position in nine innings with 13 hits and seven walks. The only downside was they couldn’t deliver on early opportunities against Reds starter Brett Marshall, who threw three shutout innings despite allowing four hits and three walks.

Storyline: Randy Wolf started his second game as a non-roster invite getting a good look as he returns from Tommy John surgery and the results weren’t pretty as he allowed four runs on three hits – two home runs and a triple – while walking two in his three frames. Wolf wasn’t pleased with the final line, but said the ironic thing was his arm felt better than when he tossed two shutout innings in his debut. Lloyd McClendon said he isn’t judging the results of every outing, particularly this early, but Wolf acknowledged he’s in a tougher position than normal, needing to show what he can do in camp in order to win a job.

Worth noting: Abraham Almonte continues getting every chance to show what he can do as a leadoff candidate and center fielder. And the youngster made a nice running catch in center and has looked good in the field, but he’s not produced much at the plate yet and is hitting .105 (2-for-19) after grounding out four times in four at-bats Friday.

Quote of the Day: “He’s an interesting young man. We’re just trying to get his feet wet a little bit. He seems like he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s certainly not overmatched or overwhelmed.” –McClendon on Peterson after the first-round pick went 2-for-3.

Next: Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez makes his third Cactus League start Saturday as the Mariners travel to Scottsdale to face the Giants in a 12:05 p.m. PT split-squad game. Blake Beavan, also making his third appearance, will then start the night game against the Dodgers at 6:05 p.m. PT in Glendale. The night game will be televised live on the MLB Network, with the afternoon game against the Giants being broadcast on MLB Network on a delayed basis Sunday morning at 1 a.m. PT.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

Here’s the feature story I wrote this morning on super utility player Willie Bloomquist..

Here’s the news on third base coach John Stearns stepping down due to ongoing health issues.

And here’s today’s notebook, with news of the day from camp.


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