Mariners closing Venezulean operations

The Mariners are consolidating their Latin American developmental program into their new baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and will no longer field a team and operations in Venezuela, the club announced Monday.

Beginning with the upcoming 2015 season, the Mariners will field two teams in the Dominican Summer League, but won’t have a club in the Venezuelan Summer League.

The Mariners opened a new academy in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic last year that is designed to house up to 80 players.

“The Mariners player development program in Latin America will be consolidated in our state-of-the-art facility in the Dominican Republic,” said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “Our plan all along has been to centralize our efforts. By bringing our operation under one umbrella, we will be much more efficient and effective in the development of young players, who will all compete on our two teams in the Dominican Summer League.

“We will continue to be heavily invested in our scouting efforts throughout Latin American and particularly in Venezuela, where we have a great tradition and have experienced much success.”

The Mariners were one of just five Major League clubs with teams still playing in the Venezuelan Summer League.

Cano leaves camp following grandfather’s death

Second baseman Robinson Cano left the Mariners camp on Sunday for personal reasons and manager Lloyd McClendon said he wasn’t sure on the timetable for the return of the six-time All-Star.

“His grandfather passed away and I’m not sure when he’s coming back,” McClendon said.

Cano flew home to the Dominican Republic after learning of his grandfather’s death on Saturday.

Cano has played in two Cactus League games this spring, going 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored.

Willie Bloomquist, originally slated to play first base in Sunday’s game against the Reds at Goodyear, instead will shift to second base to take Cano’s spot and rookie D.J. Peterson gets the start at first base.

In other Sunday news from Mariners camp:

— Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was taken out of Saturday’s split squad game in Glendale after three innings and will be sidelined for several days with tightness in his right groin muscle. Gutierrez is attempting to come back after sitting out all of 2014 to deal with health issues and has gone 0-for-5 in his first two outings.

“That’s to be expected,” McClendon said of Gutierrez having soreness after playing back-to-back games. “He’s been off almost two years. This is a grind down here. We’ll give him a couple days off and try to get him back out there.”

— Left-hander Danny Hultzen is scheduled to pitch an inning in relief on Wednesday against against the Rockies in Peoria in what will be his first real game action since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2013.

— The Mariners have announced that Opening Day on April 6 against the Angels at Safeco Field is already a virtual sellout, with only some scattered single tickets remaining.

— J.A. Happ makes his Mariners debut in today’s 1:05 p.m. PT game against the Reds at Goodyear, while closer Fernando Rodney also is slated for his first appearance of the spring. Also pitching in relief will be Yoervis Medina, Joe Saunders, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge and Mayckol Guaipe.

The game is a radio only broadcast in the Seattle area. Here are the full lineups:

RedsLineup

Felix moved to Tuesday; Paxton aiming for 17th

FelixLIveBPFelix Hernandez’s first Cactus League start has been moved up a day to Tuesday, meaning the Mariners ace will face the Rockies in Scottsdale in his spring debut, and manager Lloyd McClendon also announced positive news on injured starter James Paxton as Seattle’s pitching plans continue to fall into place.

Hernandez initially had been slated to face the Rockies on Wednesday in Peoria, but McClendon adjusted the pitching rotation Saturday.

Newly acquired left-hander J.A. Happ is slated for his Mariners debut on Sunday against the Reds in Goodyear, Taijuan Walker will make his second spring start Monday against the Indians in Peoria and Hernandez will now follow on Tuesday in a 1:10 p.m. PT start at Salt River Fields.

McClendon also said Paxton will likely make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday, March 17 against the White Sox in Glendale as he works back from a bruised forearm that has sidelined him since before the start of camp.

Paxton threw his first bullpen session on Friday and will have one more bullpen early next week, throw one live batting practice session and then transition into games.

“He threw extremely well. Really, really well yesterday,” McClendon said. “He feels great.”

If Paxton does progress without any delays, he’d be on line to make four spring starts before regular-season play begins.

The Mariners could potentially go with four starters the first week since they have an off day on April 9 after their initial three-game homestand against the Angels.

“We’ve talked about it and really haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” McClendon said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. There’s a chance we could just go with four. It’s nice to have those off days early. We’ll see what happens.”

In other news Saturday:

— Willie Bloomquist didn’t have any issues with his surgically repaired knee after going 2-for-2 in his first Cactus League game on Friday and will be back in the lineup Sunday against the Reds, this time at first base, according to McClendon.

— Well-regarded middle infield prospect Ketel Marte committed four errors in two games on Thursday and Friday at second and shortstop, but McClendon said he wasn’t worried about the 21-year-old and thinks he’s just pressing early trying to make an impression.

“He’s a switch-hitter. He slashes it from both sides, he can steal bases. He’s going to hit and hit for a little power. And he plays the middle very well,” McClendon said. “There’s a lot to like. With a young player like Marte, they come to camp and want to impress and they probably think the manger is ticked off because they made an error. But that’s not the case. You just have to relax and play. I’ll keep running him out there. One of these days he’s going to catch one.”

— While the Mariners have a big group of left-handed relievers in camp and are looking to find a second southpaw to team with Charlie Furbush in the bullpen, it’s not set in stone that they have to go with two when the regular season opens.

“Is it a possibility we’d go with just one? Sure it is,” McClendon said. “We’ve got right-handers that can get lefties out. One in particular is [Danny] Farquhar. He’s devastating against left-handers. I prefer to have two because of the workload. But is it a 100 percent necessity, no.”

— It’s a split-squad day today with many of the regular veterans facing the D-backs at Peoria in a game with Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound. But several starters — including Kyle Seager — are headed to Glendale to face the White Sox with Jordan Pries getting the start.

Neither game is on ROOT Sports TV, but the Peoria game will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN radio in Seattle.

Here are the full lineups:

Dbacks

WhiteSox

Felix to start Wednesday, plus other news from camp

FelixMarch4Felix Hernandez will make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday when the Mariners host the Rockies in a 12:05 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium.

Per his usual Spring Training routine, Hernandez will be the last of Seattle’s healthy pitchers to make his debut. The Mariners ace takes a slightly slower approach than most in spring due to the heavy workload he accumulates during the regular season. The 28-year-old is the only active pitcher in the Majors to have totaled 200-plus innings and 200-plus strikeouts for each of the last six seasons.

Hernandez will then be on line for four more spring starts before making his club-record eighth Opening Day start on April 6 against the Angels at Safeco Field. The Angels have already announced Jered Weaver will be their Opening Day starter in the 1:10 p.m. PT contest.

Manager Lloyd McClendon also said Friday that closer Fernando Rodney is slated for his Cactus League debut on Sunday when the Mariners travel to Goodyear to face the Reds.

“They’re both well ahead of schedule,” McClendon said.

In other Friday news:

— Left-hander James Paxton threw his first bullpen session of the spring on Friday as he returns from a bruised forearm suffered when he fell doing agility drills prior to the start of camp. Paxton threw 30 pitches — all fastballs — and said everything felt fine. He’ll throw another bullpen in a few days before facing live batters.

— Edgar Olmos was in camp with the Mariners for the first time Friday after the Rangers reversed their waiver claim on the southpaw reliever due to health issues, but isn’t ready to begin throwing yet. Tests on Friday showed inflammation in the 24-year-old’s left shoulder and it remains to be seen when he’ll be able to start a throwing program. Because Major League Baseball voided the Rangers’ waiver claim, Olmos was automatically returned to Seattle’s 40-man roster.

— Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez will play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday as the Mariners look to see if he’s ready to return following a year off due to health issues.

We need to find out what he’s capable of doing,” McClendon said. “He actually looks pretty good. He’s moving around pretty good, swinging the bat well. We all know he’s a very talented young man. His biggest problem is just staying on the field and we need to find out if he can do that.”

— Kyle Seager said he’s been overwhelmed by the early response to his efforts with the Vs. Cancer charity fundraiser in conjunction with former North Carolina teammate Chase Jones. Seager has promised to match the donations of the first 100 pledges and said the initial goal of $30,000 was almost met after just three days.

“It’s been exploding way faster than we could have even hoped for,” he said. “That’s a testament to the fans we have and just how loyal they are. It’s not just about baseball. They’re just good people.”

To make a pledge, fans can go to the foundation’s website at Seagervscancer.org.

— Rickie Weeks makes his left-field debut today against the Dodgers in the 12:05 p.m. PT game at Camelback Ranch in Glendale nd Willie Bloomquist will play the first several innings as well as he returns from knee surgery. Here’s the full lineups:

LineupMarch5

Olmos returned to Mariners; Choi DFA’d

The on-again, off-again saga of Edgar Olmos with the Mariners continued Thursday as the left-handed pitcher was returned to Seattle’s 40-man roster after Major League Baseball voided a Rangers waiver claim on him following a dispute over the health of his shoulder.

The Rangers claimed Olmos off waivers on Feb. 24, but then asked to have that reversed based on their belief that he has an impingement in his throwing shoulder.

Seattle had designated Olmos for assignment earlier in the month to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Rickie Weeks, but now returns the 24-year-old to their own Major League roster.

To make room on the 40-man squad, Seattle designated first baseman Ji-Man Choi for assignment. Choi broke his leg while leaping for a high throw in Wednesday’s Cactus League opener and underwent surgery Thursday in Phoenix to repair a fractured fibula in his right leg and a torn deltoid ligament.

Seattle now has 10 days to trade, release or outright Choi’s contract to the Minors. Should Choi clear waivers, he could be outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma and spend the season rehabbing his injured leg.

Olmos originally was claimed by Seattle off waivers from the Marlins on Nov. 20, but had yet to arrive at Mariners camp when he was placed on waivers again and claimed by Texas. The 6-foot-4 southpaw from California was 3-3 with three saves and a 4.06 ERA in 51 relief appearances with Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans last season.

Olmos pitched five games in relief for the Marlins in 2013, allowing seven hits and nine runs (four earned) in five innings.

Choi undergoing surgery, plus a good-looking lineup

ChoiJiManMariners first base prospect Ji-Man Choi will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a broken right leg after injuring himself leaping for a high throw in Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against the Padres.

Choi will likely be sidelined four-to-six months, according to manager Lloyd McClendon, after fracturing his fibula, which is the long, thin bone in the lower leg.

“He clipped a little bit, spun around and landed on his ankle. It was an unfortunate play,” McClendon said of the ninth-inning mishap on a high throw from shortstop Tyler Smith.

Choi, a 23-year-old from South Korea, played in 70 games at Triple-A Tacoma last year in a season shortened by a 50-game suspension following a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. He was likely ticketed for Tacoma again this year, but he was one of several first basemen in camp providing depth behind starter Logan Morrison.

Choi hit .283 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 237 at-bats for Tacoma in 2014 after a strong ’13 season in which he batted .295 with 18 homers and 85 RBIs in 122 games split between Class A High Desert, Double-A Jackson and Tacoma.

“He’s a nice talent,” McClendon said. “He can swing the bat. It’s unfortunate.”

Choi had to be carted off the field after falling in a heap near the first-base bag.

“That was tough,” teammate D.J. Peterson said. “I didn’t know what happened or how bad it was, I just know instantly he started reaching for it. That’s unfortunate. You never want to see that for anybody.”

In other Thursday news:

— The Mariners are still waiting to clear up the situation with left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos, whose waiver claim by the Rangers was reversed Wednesday due to issues with his shoulder. The Rangers claimed Olmos off waivers last week, but then made the unusual move of returning the 24-year-old after discovering he had an impingement in his throwing shoulder. The Mariners originally claimed Olmos off waivers from the Marlins on Nov. 20, but designated him for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot after signing Rickie Weeks last month.

— After playing all reserves in Wednesday’s Cactus League opener, McClendon put together a lineup for Thursday’s rematch with the Padres that looked very close to a potential regular starting nine against a right-handed pitcher. McClendon said he’ll begin dividing up his veterans in coming days, but wanted to get most of them time together on Thursday since the schedule has road games on Friday and Sunday and a split-squad situation Saturday.

Here’s the lineups for Thursday’s game, which will be broadcast live on ROOT Sports and MLB.TV:

LineupMarch5

Cactus League Game 1: Mariners 4, Padres 3 (10)

Player of the game: In a contest played mostly by Seattle’s prospects, Taijuan Walker stood out with his two scoreless innings to open the game. Walker appears ready to do battle for a rotation berth and this was a solid first step as he gave up just a leadoff single in a 32-pitch outing that included strikeouts of Matt Kemp and Jedd Gyorko.

Main storyline: Manager Lloyd McClendon chose to hold back all his veterans in the opener, but the Mariners more than held their own against a Padres lineup that featured much of San Diego’s top talent. D.J. Peterson cracked a home run in his first at-bat of the spring in the first inning for the early lead and Patrick Kivlehan drove in the winning run in the 10th with a sharp single to right field that was misplayed for an error that allowed Tyler Marlette to cross the plate.

News of note: Young first baseman Ji-Man Choi suffered a fractured fibula (the long, thin bone in the lower leg) when he landed awkwardly while trying to snare a high throw from shortstop Tyler Smith in the ninth inning. Choi had to be carted off and likely will miss most or all of the upcoming season with what looked like an ugly injury.

Up next: The same two teams play Thursday at 12:05 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium with Roenis Elias getting the start for Seattle. McClendon said he’ll play a lot of his veterans in this one, which will again be broadcast live on ROOT Sports and MLB.TV.

You can see today’s boxscore here.

Choi breaks leg while landing awkwardly in opener

ChoJiManMariners first base prospect Ji-Man Choi broke the fibula bone in his right leg on Wednesday after landing awkwardly trying to haul in an errant throw in the ninth inning of Seattle’s 4-3 victory over the Padres in their Cactus League opener.

Choi, a 23-year-old from South Korea, was carted off the field after going down in a heap at the first-base bag following his leaping attempt to pull in a high toss from shortstop Tyler Smith.

“That’s a tough break,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “It was almost a little freakish. He went up and came down on the opposite foot and fractured his [lower leg]. It’s a little tough. He just landed awkwardly.”

Choi played 70 games at Triple-A Tacoma last year in a season shortened by a 50-game suspension following a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. He was likely ticketed for Tacoma again this year, but was one of several first basemen in camp providing depth behind starter Logan Morrison.

Choi hit .283 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 237 at-bats for Tacoma last year after a strong 2013 season in which he batted .295 with 18 homers and 85 RBIs in 122 games split between Class-A High Desert, Double-A Jackson and Tacoma.

Choi is one of three first basemen on Seattle’s 40-man roster, along with Morrison and Jesus Montero. But McClendon has talked of using newly acquired veteran Rickie Weeks as a backup first base option and Willie Bloomquist can also play that position.

And so it begins … first Cactus League lineup

LIneupMarch4

Manager Lloyd McClendon isn’t rolling out a lot of his starters for today’s first Cactus League game, but fans will get a chance to see the slimmed-down Jesus Montero at first base and a number of the club’s top young prospects when they take on the Padres at 12:05 p.m. PT.

The game will be broadcast live on ROOT Sports and MLB.TV.

“The one thing you have to be careful and really conscious of is you want to keep your horses strong for the entire season and this is just the start of hopefully 162-plus,” McClendon said. “You’ve got to build. You don’t want to run them right of the gate and start playing them six-seven innings and they leave here and they’re fatigued and worn down. We’ll pace them. They’ll play tomorrow. They’ll probably have a day off after that and then we’ll continue to build.”

Taijuan Walker will throw the first two innings, or about 30 pitches max, with relievers then to pick up an inning apiece. Right-handers Sam Gaviglio, Carson Smith and Dominic Leone and lefties Mike Kickham, David Rollins and Rafael Perez are slated for bullpen action today

Chris Taylor gets the start at shortstop and Brad Miller likely goes there tomorrow as that battle begins playing out. Those two will often alternate days, but McClendon said there will also be games when one of them plays second base. And yes, young Ketel Marte will get some time at short this spring as well.

“He’s a very talented individual,” McClendon said. “He’s come quite a long way in a short period of time and I can see why. He’s got a lot of talent and is pretty poised for a kid who is 20 years old.”

McClendon will be among those interested in seeing how Montero looks now in game situations at 230 pounds, having dropped about 45 pounds from 2014.

“I haven’t seen much yet,” he said. “We’ve just been in batting practice for most part and ground balls in the infield. I saw a little last year. I’m excited to see him play and how far he’s progressed.”

In other Wednesday news:

— Felix Hernandez will throw his first live batting practice session this morning. McClendon said he may then throw another live session later in the week or go right into an inning of work in a game situation, depending how he feels.

— After throwing his first live BP on Tuesday, Danny Hultzen could see his first game action later this week as he returns from a year rehab for shoulder surgery.

— Left-hander James Paxton played long toss on Tuesday and was fine. He’ll take today off, throw on flat ground again Thursday and is scheduled for his first bullpen session on Friday as he returns from a bruised forearm.

— The Rangers are returning lefty reliever Edgar Olmos to the Mariners after claiming him off waivers last week. Olmos has had a shoulder impingement and hasn’t been able to throw since joining Texas. The Mariners acquired Olmos off waivers from the Marlins in December, but Texas picked him up after Seattle dropped him from its 40-man roster just prior to camp.

Latest pictures from Peoria: Some fun in the sun

The sun returned Tuesday and the Mariners were back out on the field for their last day of practice before Cactus League play opens Wednesday.

PopFly

Third baseman Kyle Seager (right) and shortstop Chris Taylor converge on a fly ball during pop-up drills.

BakerJohnBat

Backup catching candidate John Baker tries to quiet the roaring crowd before taking batting practice. Okay, not really sure what he was doing. But it’s an interesting picture.

CanoThrow

Robinson Cano fires to third base during infield drills.

WeeksBatFlip

Rickie Weeks works on his bat toss.

HultzenLiveBP

Danny Hultzen threw live batting practice for the first time this spring as he returns from a year’s absence with shoulder surgery.

GutiBat

Franklin Gutierrez continues working his way back following his own year off to recover from illness.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 126 other followers