For the seventh time in eight years, the Mariners will open their season on the road next April when they kick off their 2016 campaign in Arlington against the American League West rival Rangers.
Major League Baseball released its tentative 2016 schedule on Tuesday and the Mariners are lined up to face Texas in a three-game series starting Monday, April 4. Seattle’s home opener will be Friday, April 8, at 7:10 p.m. PT against Oakland at Safeco Field.
The Mariners broke a six-year run of opening on the road this year when they started the season at Safeco Field against the Angels.
Seattle’s opening homestand will feature the A’s and Rangers and the Mariners then will head back on the road for a nine-game, 10-day trip to face the Yankees, Indians and Angels.
Next season’s Interleague matchup has the AL West facing the National League Central. The Cardinals come to Safeco for a weekend series on June 24-26, followed by the Pirates on June 28-29 and the Brewers on Aug. 19-21.
The Mariners will travel to Pittsburgh on June 26-27 and have a three-game set against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 29-31.
Seattle’s annual back-to-back Interleague series against the Padres will be at Safeco Field on May 30-31 and then Petco Field in San Diego on June 1-2.
Other Safeco Field highlights next year will include the Red Sox in town for four games from Aug. 1-4 and the Yankees for a three-game series on Aug. 22-24. The season concludes with a four-game series against the A’s at Safeco from Sept 29-Oct. 2.
The final schedule, including all start times, will be released by MLB in January. Here’s the Mariners’ complete tentative schedule:
David Rollins, the Mariners Rule 5 Draft pick last December from the Astros, was one of three players added to Seattle’s 25-man roster on Saturday morning to complete a flurry of moves that began after Friday’s 9-5 victory over the A’s.
Rollins, a left-handed reliever who drew an 80-game suspension after testing positive for an anabolic steroid during Spring Training, had to be added to the 25-man roster on Saturday or put through waivers and offered back to the Astros, per Rule 5 Draft rules now that he’s no longer suspended.
The 25-year-old pitched well enough the past two weeks in Triple-A Tacoma to convince the Mariners he’s worth the roster spot for now at least, as he threw 9 1/3 scoreless innings in seven appearances to continue the outstanding work he’d done in spring.
Also added Saturday were right-handed reliever Mayckol Guiape and outfielder James Jones, both recalled from Tacoma. All three are available for Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. PT game against the A’s.
Guiape takes the bullpen opening created by Friday’s decision to option veteran Tom Wilhelmsen to Tacoma after his rough recent performance. Rollins replaces left-hander Vidal Nuno, who was also sent down Friday night.
Jones is most likely a short-term addition, giving manager Lloyd McClendon an extra speed option on the bench this weekend before veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is activated off the disabled list on Monday to start against the Tigers at Safeco Field.
Roenis Elias, who started 13 games after Iwakuma went on the DL with a strained lat muscle in April, was the third pitcher optioned to Tacoma after Friday’s 9-5 win over the A’s.
Manager Lloyd McClendon noted Friday night that Elias probably didn’t deserve to be sent down after pitching fairly well in place of Iwakuma, but the Mariners have pretty good depth in their rotation. In addition to ace Felix Hernandez — who is pitching Saturday against the A’s — Taijuan Walker has been on a tear and veteran lefty J.A. Happ has pitched better than hsi record indicates due to lack of run support and doesn’t have any Minor League options anyway.
The other choice would have ben to send Mike Montgomery back to Tacoma, but he’s thrown back-to-back shutouts and posted a 1.62 ERA in place of the injured James Paxton, who isn’t expected back until August at the earliest as he deals with a strained finger tendon.
Infielder Chris Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday in time to join the Mariners as they open a four-game series with the A’s, while veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist was designated for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster.
Bloomquist says he’s not ready to retire and hopes a spot opens for him on another Major League club that has more of an opportunity for him to contribute in the final half of the season.
“For me honestly, it’s a mixture of emotions,” Bloomquist said by phone while cleaning out his locker at Safeco Field after flying home Thursday. “I’m doing great. I’m not disappointed or mad at anyone. I’ve been around this game long enough to understand the business side. Sometimes moves have to happen. I get it.
“Obviously I’m tremendously grateful for the Mariners organization. They’re the guys that drafted me and brought me back. I grew up here. I was a Mariners fan and I’ll always be a Mariners fan. To be able to play in the big leagues for 7 ½ years in Seattle, who can say that? It’s been awesome. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
That said, Bloomquist doesn’t want his career to end on a season where he’s hit just .159 with one double and four RBIs in 69 at-bats over 35 games.
“I hate leaving Seattle because I love Seattle,” he said. “But I’m not going out like this. That’s not going to happen. I’ve worked too hard and I cartainly hope to get another shot.”
Bloomquist, 37, missed the last month of 2014 after microfracture knee surgery, but worked hard over the winter to be ready for the start of Spring Training and says health is not an issue.
“I was expecting big things not only from myself, but my team as well,” Bloomquist said. “So to have this happen, it stinks. It’s not fun. I’m hoping there’s another opportunity that will be better than this situation that I’m personally in right now.
“I love to compete. I understand my role, I get all that. But for me to sit and watch and not do what I think I’m capable of doing and have proved I’m capable of doing has been very frustrating. I know I’m hitting .160, but I’m not going to judge myself on 60 at-bats. I know I’m better than that.”
Bloomquist said he’s loved playing for manager Lloyd McClendon, who he calls one of his favorite managers ever. But he wants to play and acknowledged the situation in Seattle – with Robinson Cano at second, Kyle Seager at third, youngsters like Taylor and Brad Miller at short and a big group of outfielders – didn’t leave him much of a spot.
“I still have an extreme fuel and fire in my life,” Bloomquist said. “I’m looking forward to getting to a team that sees a value in me. I know my numbers are awful. They’re downright atrocious. But I also know what I’m capable of doing and hopefully the phone will ring and I’ll get an opportunity.”
Taylor, 24, is rejoining the Mariners for the second time this season. He played 20 games at shortstop earlier this year but put up just a .159/.221/.206 line and was optioned back to Tacoma.
Taylor hit .287 in 47 games with the Mariners as a rookie in 2014 and is regarded as a strong defender. He batted .289 with nine doubles, four triples, two home runs and 16 RBIs in 48 games for Tacoma this year.
Bloomquist is a career .269 hitter in 1,055 Major League games. He signed back with Seattle on a two-year, $5.8 million deal last year and hit .278 in 47 games in 2014 before missing the final month.
Infielder Chris Taylor will be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday in time to join the Mariners as they open a four-game series with the A’s, while veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist has been designated for assignment.
Taylor, 24, will be rejoining the Mariners for the second time this season. He played 20 games at shortstop earlier this year but put up just a .159/.221/.206 line and was optioned back to Tacoma. Rainiers manager Pat Listach told The News Tribune that Taylor was being promoted after he was pulled from Tacoma’s game on Wednesday night.
Taylor hit .287 in 47 games as a rookie in 2014 and is regarded as a strong defender. He batted .289 with nine doubles, four triples, two home runs and 16 RBIs in 48 games for Tacoma.
Bloomquist, 37, is a 14-year Major League veteran who is in his second stint with the Mariners team that drafted him in 1999 and gave him his start in the Majors from 2002-08. The versatile Bloomquist is a career .269 hitter in 1,055 Major League games, but has hit just .159 with one double and four RBIs in 69 at-bats over 35 games this season.
Bloomquist signed back with Seattle on a two-year, $5.8 million deal last year and hit .278 in 47 games in 2014 before missing the final month following knee surgery. He is being paid $3 million this season.
Bloomquist wound up playing 622 games over nine years with Seattle, his hometown team after growing up in Bremerton, Wash., and attending South Kitsap High before going on to Arizona State University.
He played just 12 games as a late-season call-up in 2002, then began his versatile career in earnest in 2003 when he played at all four infield positions as well as left field and designated hitter. In his career – which also included stints with the Royals, D-backs and Reds – Bloomquist appeared in 339 games in the outfield, 305 at shortstop, 142 at third base, 141 at second, 47 at first and 46 at DH.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said reports on right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma’s rehab start Thursday were that the 34-year-old pitched “okay” and he’ll make another Minor League start for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday against Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium before a decision is made on his possible return.
Iwakuma threw four scoreless innings with three hits, one walk and four strikeouts in 68 pitches against Reno in his second rehab outing since straining the lat muscle behind his right shoulder in his third start of the season with Seattle on April 20.
“He continues to improve and move forward,” McClendon said. “His first two innings were kind of tough, a little erratic, and his mechanics were off. But he seemed to settle down and threw a little better in the fourth inning.
“He’s progressing. He’s healthy. He touched 91 mph a few times and was at 87-91, so that’s encouraging.”
If Iwakuma is deemed ready to return after his Tuesday start, he’d be line to rejoin the rotation about when the Mariners return home to start a seven-game homestand before the All-Star break. That raises an interesting situation, however, as Roenis Elias filled in extremely well for Iwakuma before hitting a rough stretch his last three outings.
Elias is still 4-5 with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts and young lefty Mike Montgomery has been even better (2-2, 2.04) in five starts since replacing the injured James Paxton.
“That’s a nice problem to have,” McClendon said of the rotation depth. “Right now we’re still in the process of figuring out what we’re going to do when he comes back. We don’t have those answers yet.”
• Paxton played catch at Safeco Field on Friday in his first throwing session since going on the 15-day disabled list on May 29 with a strained middle finger on his left hand. Paxton will need to build up his arm after missing a month and seems unlikely to be ready until late July or August at the earliest.
• McClendon said the plan at this point is to keep all his starters in line after Monday’s off day and just give everyone the extra day off, which would mean Montgomery and Elias facing the Padres on Tuesday and Wednesday in San Diego’s two-game Interleague series, followed by Taijuan Walker, J.A. Happ, Felix Hernandez and Montgomery in a four-game set in Oakland to end the trip.
That would set Hernandez up to pitch once more before the All-Star break, on July 8 against the Tigers at Safeco Field. The Mariners ace then would be in line to pitch five days later in the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, where he seems a sure-fire choice for the American League squad with his current 10-4 mark and 3.24 ERA. Hernandez started last year’s All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
• Major League Baseball made a scoring change from Montgomery’s last start, his 7-0 complete-game victory over the Royals on Tuesday, giving Montgomery one more hit – and a five-hit shutout – and taking an error away from first baseman Logan Morrison.
Outfielder James Jones was optioned back to Tacoma on Tuesday to open a spot on the 25-man roster.
Gutierrez, 32, has hit .317 with seven home runs, 31 RBIs and a .902 OPS in 48 games for Tacoma after not playing at all in 2014 while dealing with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a nerve condition that has affected him the last several years.
Gutierrez was a Gold Glove center fielder for the Mariners in 2010, but has played primarily left field and designated hitter this season for Tacoma.
Gutierrez has appeared in 762 Major League games with the Indians (2005-08) and Mariners (2009-13). In five seasons with the Mariners he hit .255 with 45 home runs and 194 RBIs and set an American League record with 846 consecutive errorless chances from Aug. 21, 2009-Sept. 11, 2012.
After playing in 305 games combined in 2009-10, Gutierrez missed significant time on the disabled list from 2011-2013, appearing in 173 games.
Jones, 26, appeared in seven games with the Mariners after being recalled from Tacoma on June 15. He was 0-for-8 with a stolen base. In 48 games with Tacoma, Jones hit .264 with 15 stolen bases.
Robinson Cano was scratched from the Mariners lineup on Thursday with a stiff lower back and Kyle Seager was also a late scratch due to an illness believed to be food poisoning as Seattle lost two All-Star players for its Interleague series finale with the Giants.
Cano was replaced at second base by left fielder Dustin Ackley, who began his Major League career at second base and has played 281 games there, but none since Sept.13, 2013.
Veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist took Seager’s spot at third base.
Cano has been struggling offensively in his second season in Seattle, hitting .237 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 64 games. But this was the first time he’s been sidelined by any sort of health issue.
Seager, a 2014 All-Star and Gold Glove winner, has batted .272 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs in 66 games. He’s played in 192 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the Majors.
Cano was initially in the lineup in the No. 3 spot and Seager was slated to bat fifth. Instead, manager Lloyd McClendon moved Nelson Cruz up to the third spot and put Seth Smith in the cleanup role with Mark Trumbo batting fifth.
Here’s the new lineups:
Outfielder James Jones, who played 108 games for the Mariners last year as a rookie, was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Monday to fill the position player opening created by the weekend release of Rickie Weeks.
Jones, 26, hit .250 with a team-leading 27 stolen bases last year in 312 at-bats. He’s spent the first 10 weeks of this season in Tacoma, batting .264 with 15 stolen bases in 48 games.
Weeks was designated for assignment on Saturday, with the team initially bringing up reliever Danny Farquhar to bolster a bullpen that needed help after several short outings from starters. Farquhar was optioned back to Tacoma on Sunday after pitching in two games and Jones now takes his spot on the 25-man roster.
Jones, a fourth-round Draft pick out of Long Island University in 2009, had the second-most stolen bases of any rookie in the Majors last year behind Billy Hamilton of the Reds and his 96.4 percent success rate (27 of 28) was the second-highest mark for a rookie with 20-plus attempts since 1970 behind Quintin Berry of Detroit, who was 21-for-21 in 2012.
Jones started 72 games for Seattle last season, 69 in center, two in right and one in left, with 46 runs, nine doubles, five triples and nine RBIs.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has six doubles, four triples, one home run and 13 RBIs with 29 runs this year in Tacoma and has been successful on 15-of-19 stolen base attempts.
Jones should provide a needed speed element for a Mariners squad that ranks 11th in the American League with 24 stolen bases this year and are last in stolen base percentage at 51 percent, having been thrown out 23 times.
The Mariners recalled right-handed reliever Danny Farquhar on Saturday to bolster their overworked bullpen and designated veteran utility man Rickie Weeks for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster.
Farquhar went 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in five appearances for Triple-A Tacoma after being sent down three weeks ago following a rough start to his season in Seattle. The 28-year-old was 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 20 outings for the Mariners this year after being a huge part of last season’s bullpen success.
Seattle is short-handed in the bullpen after starters J.A. Happ and Felix Hernandez combined to go just 2 2/3 innings in the previous two games, with Hernandez lasting just one-third of an inning in Friday’s 10-0 loss to the Astros.
Weeks signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Mariners just prior to Spring Training and Seattle hoped to convert the long-time second baseman into a versatile player who could platoon in left field and help out at designated hitter and possibly first base.
But Weeks struggled defensively in the outfield, never got in a game in the infield and hit just .167 (14-for-84) with two home runs and nine RBIs in 37 games.
“Rickie is a professional and went about his business in the locker room in a very professional manner and was a positive influence on a lot of guys,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It just didn’t work out on the field, for whatever reason. With the stress we had on the bullpen, it was just a move we had to make.”
Once the Mariners traded for another right-handed outfield/first base bat in Mark Trumbo, Weeks’ role was even further reduced.
“Playing time was certainly going to be diminished quite a bit,” McClendon said.
Weeks, 32, was a 2011 All-Star for the Brewers and spent his first 11 seasons in tjhe Majors playing second base for Milwaukee. The Mariners now have 10 days to trade, release or outright his contract to the Minor Leagues.
Farquhar started one game for Tacoma and pitched two-plus innings in his last three outings as the Mariners looked to give him a chance to regain the form that allowed him to post a 2.66 ERA in 66 appearances in 2014.
“He got better,” McClendon said. “We just wanted him to get out and pitch and gain his control back, get his feel for his pitches back.”
The Mariners now have an eight-man bullpen, but it remains to be seen if they’ll stick with one less position player on the bench heading into an Interleague road series with the Giants on Monday.
Fernando Rodney still isn’t ready to return to the closer’s role for the Mariners, but manager Lloyd McClendon believes the 38-year-old reliever is headed in the right direction after a pair of non-save appearances in Seattle’s last series in Cleveland.
Rookie Carson Smith has closed in the Mariners’ last two save situations, with Rodney pitching the ninth inning in a 9-3 blowout win on Wednesday and the eighth in a 6-0 loss on Thursday to the Indians.
Rodney owns a 6.75 ERA in 26 appearances and blew saves in two of his last three opportunities before McClendon made the switch to Smith, who has a 1.38 ERA in 27 games coming into Friday’s series opener against the Astros.
Rodney has been working on refining some things with pitching coach Rick Waits while throwing in lower-impact situations. He allowed two hits and a run in Wednesday’s win, then threw a hitless inning with one walk on Thursday.
“I don’t think he’s quite ready to go back to the closer’s role,” McClendon said. “We’ll use him where we think it fits the best. He’s getting better. He’s still working on things every day. It’s coming. It’s not quite there yet.”
In other Mariners news on Friday:
• Hisashi Iwakuma emerged from Thursday’s bullpen session in Tacoma without any problems and will now throw a simulated game of about 45 pitches on Monday in Everett against Class-A hitters, since both the Mariners and Rainiers will be on the road early next week.
Iwakuma, sidelined since April 23 with a strained right lat muscle, could be ready for a Minor League rehab start next Saturday for Tacoma if all goes well, McClendon said. The Rainiers play in Albuquerque that day.
• McClendon had Nelson Cruz back at designated hitter on Friday after sitting out two games with back spasms. But the skipper said he won’t hesitate to continue playing Cruz in right field and doesn’t feel that played any part in his back problem.
Cruz had started 37 games in right field and 21 at DH before being sidelined the last two games of the Indians series after feeling his back tighten during an at-bat on Tuesday.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with his play in right field,” McClendon said. “The concern about him playing right field is his hamstring. The back is just something that came up. It was a spasm. He took a funny swing and it caught him. I don’t have any concerns in that area.”
• McClendon said the Mariners are still waiting on results from the latest tests on left-hander James Paxton’s strained tendon in his left middle finger before clearing him to begin throwing. Paxton has been sidelined the past two weeks.
• Looking for a premier pitching matchup? When the Mariners return home for their next homestand on Wednesday, it’ll be Felix Hernandez vs. Giants star Madison Bumgarner in the 7:10 p.m. Interleague series opener at Safeco Field.
• Hernandez is gunning to become the first Major Leaguer to 10 wins this season as Seattle opens its three-game series in Houston on Friday at 4:10 p.m. PT at Minute Maid Park. The Mariners have a chance to pick up some ground on the AL West-leading Astros, who have lost seven straight.
“They’re important games, sure,” acknowledged McClendon. “You’d like to come out of here winning the series. That’s important for us at this stage of the season. I would say it’s probably the most-important series we’ve played to date. I can’t say it’s the biggest series of the year, but it’s important that we play well here.”
The Mariners, currently 6 1/2 games back, face the Astros in six of their next 10 games.