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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.

Cano sidelined, plus other morning news

Cano, Robinson 2Robinson Cano isn’t in the lineup for a second straight day on Friday and the explanation is simple. The Mariners new second baseman had root canal surgery on Wednesday afternoon and will be on a day-to-day basis regarding his return.

Cano is off to a nice start, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with three runs and three RBIs in five games.

Carlos Triunfel gets the start at second today against the Reds in the 12:05 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium after Willie Bloomquist played there on Thursday.

Corey Hart makes his outfield debut today, getting his first game action in right field after playing strictly designated hitter in previous games. The Mariners have brought him along carefully as he returns from a pair of microfracture knee surgeries that forced him to sit out all of 2013 with the Brewers.

How pleased is he with Hart’s progress so far?

“I’ll let you know at the end of the day,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “At some point we need to get him out there. It’s early and you always want to be cautious. But we need to see where he’s at.”

Left-hander Randy Wolf gets his second spring start on the mound today as he continues working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He’s expected to throw three innings after putting up a pair of scoreless frames in his debut against the Indians on Sunday.

Here’s the full lineup for the game, which will be carried live on 710 ESPN Seattle radio.

Abraham Almonte CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Nick Franklin SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Corey Hart RF
Logan Morrison DH
Dustin Ackley LF
Mike Zunino C
Carlos Triunfel 2B

Randy Wolf LHP

The other news of the morning was an announcement by John Stearns that he was stepping down as third-base coach due to health reasons, with Rich Donnelly taking his place. You can read that story here.

M’s switch 3B coaches as Stearns steps down

After dealing with a tough recovery from hiatal hernia surgery for the past two weeks, Mariners third base coach John Stearns announced he’s stepping down from that position Friday and will be replaced for the upcoming season by Triple-A Tacoma manager Rich Donnelly.

Stearns, 62, said he isn’t close to being ready to resume baseball activities and felt it wouldn’t be fair to the team to disrupt the start of their season by forcing a change in the third-base coaching position at a later date.

Stearns will be reassigned to a pro scouting position once he returns, general manager Jack Zduriencik said. Zduriencik indicated the team will name its new Tacoma manager in several days.

Stearns, a four-time National League All-Star catcher during his playing days with the Phillies and Mets, has been in the Mariners organization the past two years. Stearns originally was hired by the Mariners to work in their pro scouting department and was the Minor League catching coordinator in 2012 and the first part of last season before working briefly as the Mariners third base coach and then taking over as Tacoma’s manager in May.

“It kills me because the thing we all want to do in this business is be in the big leagues,” Stearns said. “I’ve got 20-some years in the big leagues and about 20 in the Minors. I want to come back at my age and have another shot, but I didn’t want to do it at the expense of the players and the organization. I think I can get healthy, but it’s going to be later on.”

“The continuity issue here is the major factor,” Zduriencik said. “We all feel bad for John. It’s tough on him to do this, but it’s his decision. He came forward and said he just didn’t think it was the right thing.”

Donnelly, 67, is a veteran of 27 years as a Major League coach, including 14 as a third base coach. He coached third base for the Pirates from 1993-95, the Marlins from 1997-98, the Rockies from 1999-2002, the Brewers from 2003-05 and the Dodgers in 2006-07.

“As we move forward, the most important thing is making sure John gets healthy and can be productive again,” said manager Lloyd McClendon, who has long histories with both Stearns and Donnelly.

Thursday’s Game 9 recap: Mariners 7, ChiSox 4

Baker, ScottPlayer of the Game: Veteran right-hander Scott Baker had another solid start, going three innings and allowing one run on three hits. Baker, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2012, threw 32 pitches and continued looking like a viable candidate for a rotation berth as a non-roster invitee. The 32-year-old did benefit from three excellent defensive plays behind him – diving catches by right fielder Xavier Avery and center fielder Endy Chavez and a nice backhand stop by shortstop Brad Miller – but he’s a control pitcher who counts on the defense making plays behind him. So far, so good.

Stat of the Game: With Baker’s one run in three frames, Mariners starters have now posted a 1.25 ERA in nine starts this spring (three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings).

Storyline: The Mariners only started three regular position players in this one, so the primary focus was on getting solid efforts from Baker and new closer Fernando Rodney, who made his spring debut. Rodney allowed a run on two hits, but was working on his fastball location and said he felt strong and just needs more games now to get sharp. Seattle won it with five runs in the final three frames with help from some of their young hitters, including an RBI triple by Stephen Romero for his first hit in 17 at-bats this spring.

Worth noting: D.J. Peterson, last year’s first-round Draft pick, got his first hit in a Major League contest with an RBI single in the seventh. Peterson has been in Minor League camp, with the Mariners not wanting to push him too fast after he broke his jaw when hit by a pitch last August. But the young third baseman was given a chance to play Thursday and came through.

Quote of the Day: “I’m still shaking a little bit. It’s awesome being around these big-league guys. I’ve been watching some of these guys for five, six years. I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous at all.” –Peterson after getting his first hit for the Mariners.

Next: Veteran lefty Randy Wolf makes his second start of the spring when the Mariners host the Reds on Friday at 12:05 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Wolf, 37, threw two scoreless innings on Sunday against the Indians in his first game since Oct. 20, 2012. He’s scheduled for three innings, with Logan Kensing, Carson Smith, Dominic Leone, Nick Hill, Yoervis Medina and Ramon Ramirez also slated for one inning apiece.The game will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Here’s today’s boxscore.

Here’s a feature story I wrote this morning on exciting outfield prospect James Jones, who has caught Lloyd McClendon’s eye with his play this spring.

And here’s a link to the daily notebook, with today’s news from camp.

Walker says all good after first throwing session

Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, one of baseball’s top young prospects, returned from a week-long layoff to rest his sore shoulder by playing some light catch on Thursday. And the 21-year-old said all went well after a frustrating seven days on the sidelines.

“It felt good, really good,” said Walker, who was diagnosed with bursitis in his throwing shoulder last week after feeling soreness in the first two weeks of camp. “It was just 60 feet, so not really getting out there. But it was a test to see how I felt and it felt good.”

Walker, who is expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the regular season, admitted he was anxious about even playing catch after the shoulder had given him problems ever since his arrival at camp.

“I was a little nervous about it, especially being out for seven days,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. But I was pretty happy with the results.”

The Mariners believe Walker just overthrew getting ready for camp, wanting to come in ready to compete for a rotation berth. Tests didn’t show any structural damage last week, just inflammation, and the expectation is he should be fine once he builds his arm strength up again with a slow throwing program in the coming weeks.

Walker said he’ll move back a little and play catch at about 75-90 feet on Friday and continue that process until getting cleared to throw bullpens and eventually throw to live hitters in batting practice and simulated games.

Even being sidelined for a week was a tough pill to swallow for the youngster.

“It sucks being out for a period of time,” he said. “It felt like seven days was months. I was getting bored at the end. I was looking forward to this day all week. I couldn’t imagine being out longer, especially watching everyone go out there and compete and have fun. You’re just sitting there. It’s mentally tough because you want to e out there and push through it, but at same time you need you have to take it slow.”

Taijuan plays catch, plus today’s lineup

Taijuan Walker just played catch for a few minutes this morning, the first time he’s thrown since being shut down seven days earlier with inflammation in his right shoulder. It was a very short session, just warm-up tosses from about 45 feet, while all the pitchers began their warm-ups before the morning workout.

Then Walker chatted with pitching coach Rick Waits and assistant trainer Matt Toth and called it good. The fact head trainer Rick Griffin wasn’t there seems a pretty good indication the Mariners didn’t think this was too critical a step.

I’m sure there’ll be many more eyes on Walker when he starts throwing long toss and then when he gets on the mound for bullpen sessions and eventually graduates to throwing to live hitters again. That process will take several weeks, before the 21-year-old can even think about pitching in games.

Once he is cleared for game action, the Mariners will want to build his innings up to where he can throw six or seven frames before he pitches in a regular-season outing. All of which is why you shouldn’t anticipate Walker being ready for the start of the season, instead shooting for sometime in mid-April at the very earliest.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty routine morning at camp as the Mariners prepare for a 12:05 p.m. PT game against the White Sox in Glendale. Fernando Rodney will make his Cactus League debut in relief of starter Scott Baker, so that will be worth watching as well.

The only live radio broadcast on this one will be on through the audio link on Gameday and there is no television or delayed radio broadcasts tonight.

Here’s the lineup, which will be facing White Sox starter John Danks:

Endy Chavez CF
Stefen Romero LF
Kyle Seager 3B
Corey Hart DH
Jesus Montero 1B
Brad Miller SS
Xavier Avery RF
John Buck C
Willie Bloomquist 2B

Scott Baker RHP


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