Ramirez to start Tuesday, plus other rotation news

Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez will be recalled by the Mariners and start Tuesday night’s game against the Mets at Safeco Field, filling a rotation spot that has been open since Taijuan Walker was sent down prior to the All-Star break.

Ramirez, 24, has gone 1-4 with a 4.58 ERA in 11 starts for Seattle in previous stints with the club this season. The youngster from Nicaragua is 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA in nine starts for Tacoma.

The Mariners haven’t listed a starter yet for Wednesday’s series finale with the Mets, though they’ve announced they’ll push veteran right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez back a day.

Walker pitched five innings of one-run ball for Tacoma on Friday at Reno, so he’d be available to throw on regular rest on Wednesday if the Mariners choose to recall him.

Iwakuma will start Thursday’s series opener with the Orioles, with Hernandez now slated to pitch Friday, followed by Chris Young and Roenis Elias on Saturday and Sunday.

Ramirez will be officially added to the 25-man roster on Tuesday, when the club will need to make another move to clear his spot.

Romero recalled as Luetge sent back to Tacoma

Rookie outfielder Stefen Romero was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma by the Mariners on Thursday and will travel with the team to Anaheim for Friday’s series opener to start the second half of the season.

Left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge was optioned back to Triple-A to make room on the 25-man roster.

Romero, 25, hit .283 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 11 games for Tacoma after being sent down on June 29. He hit .196 with 11 extra-base hits, including three home runs, and 11 RBIs in 51 games for Seattle to start the season.

Luetge, 27, was recalled from Tacoma on July 10 to give the Mariners an extra reliever in their all-bullpen start against the Twins. He pitched one scoreless inning in that day’s 4-2 loss to the Twins, but didn’t appear in the weekend series against the A’s.

Luetge has been with the Mariners on three different stints this season and has a 5.40 ERA in 3 1/3 innings over four games. He’s 3-1 with two saves and a 3.40 ERA in 26 outings with Tacoma.

Romero provides a right-handed hitting outfielder for a club that has been shy in that department since designating Cole Gillespie for assignment on July 4. The only full-time outfielders on the club since then have been left-handed hitting Dustin Ackley, James Jones, Endy Chavez and Michael Saunders, who is now on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique injury.

The Mariners also announced they’ve transferred the rehab assignment of right-hander pitcher Blake Beavan from Class-A High Desert to Tacoma. Beavan has been out since mid-April with a shoulder injury, but made one two-inning start for High Desert last week.

McClendon sets post-break rotation … except Walker


Manager Lloyd McClendon has set his pitching rotation for the Mariners coming out of the All-Star break, but those plans conspicuously don’t include top prospect Taijuan Walker just yet.

Hisashi Iwakuma will start Friday’s series opener in Anaheim, with Felix Hernandez pitching Saturday to give him an extra day after Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

McClendon said veteran right-hander Chris Young will start Sunday’s series finale in Anaheim, with rookie southpaw Roenis Elias facing the Mets when Seattle opens a seven-game homestand on Monday, July 21.

But McClendon said his fifth starter – which was expected to be Walker – was still not determined. The 21-year-old was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to make two starts to stay fresh over the break, but his manager didn’t sound pleased with Walker’s approach after he threw five innings in a 7-2 victory over Fresno on Saturday night.

Walker allowed four hits with one run, one walk and one strikeout in that contest and is slated to pitch again Thursday in Reno. That would line him up to return the following Tuesday against the Mets on normal schedule, but McClendon wasn’t in the mood to praise Walker when asked about what appeared on paper to be a pretty good start for the youngster.

“I guess I see things differently than most people,” McClendon said. “I don’t see that as a good outing. Five innings, 83 pitches and one strikeout, that’s not a good outing to me. And I’m not trying to bash the kid.

“But how we go about our business and the level of expectations from the Minor Leagues all the way up to the big leagues, it’s got to change. Five innings, 83 pitches, one strikeout, that’s not a good outing. I’m sorry. Not for me. And you can write it. I’m sure his agent will be calling, mad at me. But we’ve got to do better.”

Walker was expected to challenge for a rotation berth coming out of Spring Training this year, but missed considerable time with a sore shoulder. He was finally called up from Tacoma at the end of June and went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts before being sent back down rather than make his expected start Saturday against the A’s so that the Mariners could give the veteran Young the final game of the first half instead.

Rodney added to AL All-Star team

Rodney, Fernando

Mariners closer Fernando Rodney, who leads the American League with 27 saves and has helped solidify the league’s best bullpen with his 1.98 ERA in 38 appearances, was added to the American League All-Star team on Saturday as the replacement for Rays starter David Price.

“I’m going to have fun. I’ll throw my arrow. No matter what inning I pitch, I’ll throw it,” said Rodney, who pulls out his imaginary bow after every save.

Price originally was slated to throw Saturday, but was pushed back to Sunday due to illness and thus opted out of Tuesday’s All-Star Game in order to avoid pitching on just one day’s rest.

Rodney drew the call from Red Sox manager John Farrell, giving the Mariners four All-Star representatives as he joins Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager to give Seattle its largest contingent since five Seattle players were chosen in 2003.

“When you see something happen like that, you have to understand what’s going on,” Rodney said of his late addition. “I knew I had maybe the numbers to be there. I’m happy to be there with that group of people.”

The AL squad now includes six relievers, as Rodney joins Kansas City’s Greg Holland (24 saves, 1.87 ERA), Minnesota’s Glen Perkins (22 saves, 3.05 ERA), Oakland’s Sean Doolittle (13 saves, 2.98 ERA), New York’s Dellin Betances (1 save, 1.46 ERA) and Boston’s Koji Uehara (18 saves, 1.65 ERA), who was added to the team to take the place of injured Yankees starter Yasahiro Tanaka.

Rodney was also an All-Star in 2012 with the Rays when he had 25 saves and a 0.93 ERA at the break on the way to a career-best 48-win, 0.60 ERA season when he was AL Comeback Player of the Year and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting.

That year, he accompanied Price as the Rays’ representatives. This year, he’s replacing his former teammate.

“He gave me a break,” Rodney said. “I love him.”

Rodney’s 27 saves are the most for any Mariner closer prior to the All-Star break, with Kazahiro Sasaki having 29 in 2001 on the way to his franchise-record 45 in that 116-win season.

The 2003 Mariners team landed five All-Stars with Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez, Jamie Moyer, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Bret Boone. Since then, the most Seattle selections until this was three in 2011 when Hernandez, Brandon League and Michael Pineda made the team.

Smoak recalled as Saunders goes on DL

First baseman Justin Smoak was recalled by the Mariners and inserted into Friday night’s lineup against the A’s after the club placed outfielder Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list.

Saunders strained his left oblique during an at-bat in the eighth inning of Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Twins. An MRI test on Friday revealed the strained muscle in Saunders’ stomach and the 27-year-old will now be sidelined at least until July 25, which means he’ll miss a minimum of 11 games around the All-Star break.

It’s the second DL stint of the season for Saunders, who was previously sidelined from June 12-27 with inflammation in his right shoulder. Saunders was hitting .276 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 65 games, including a .313 mark with five homers and 21 RBIs in 31 games since May 16.

Smoak was recalled from Tacoma after batting .284 with four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs in 19 games. He initially was sent down to the Rainiers on a rehab assignment after being placed on the disabled list with a strained left quad on June 11, but remained in Tacoma when the Mariners chose to stay with Logan Morrison at first base.

But Smoak has heated up in the 10 games with Tacoma, hitting .325 with a double and two home runs. He’s hit .632 (12-for-19) with two home runs in his last four games.

Smoak, who was back in the lineup at first base for Friday’s series opener with the A’s, hit .208 with seven home runs in 63 games with Seattle before going on the DL.

Why a bullpen start tonight and Felix tomorrow?

Minnesota Twins v Seattle Mariners

There seems to be some confusion as to why Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is going with a bullpen day tonight in the series finale with the Twins, with Tom Wilhelmsen making his first Major League start.

But McClendon’s reasoning is simple. He wanted to push ace right-hander Felix Hernandez’s final start before the All-Star break back one day so he could face the division-rival A’s instead of going Thursday on normal rest.

McClendon says there were several thoughts behind that decision, not the least of which was lining his best pitcher up against one of the team’s currently ahead of them in the playoff chase.

“It’s a combination of things,” McClendon said. “It gives him an extra day’s rest, it gives me my best pitchers against our divisional rival and it also sets thing up for the second half.”

The Mariners also will skip 21-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker’s normal start on Saturday, instead lining up veterans Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young to pitch the final two weekend games before the All-Star break. But McClendon said he’s not turning the series against Oakland into an all-or-nothing situation.

“I’m really not. I’m just doing what any other manager would do at the end of the first half,” he said. “You have an opportunity to put your best and most-experienced pitchers out there, you do it. Whether it’s Oakland or Pittsburgh or anybody else. You just put your best out there to finish up the first half. I learned a long time ago, you don’t put importance on one series. What happens if we get swept? The season is over? That’s why you don’t do that. My motto is take one day at a time and I mean that. It sounds cliché, but that’s the way I feel. One day at a time.”

But clearly the Mariners feel better about that day if Hernandez is on the mound. The 28-year-old is having the best first half of his 10-year career and was just named to his fifth All-Star game, where he’s a prime contender to be the starting pitcher for the American League.

Hernandez is 10-2 with a 2.11 ERA and has a shot to break a Mariners record for the lowest ERA prior to the All-Star break of 2.20 set by Randy Johnson in 1997.

Hernandez is 17-7 with a 2.64 ERA in 32 career starts against Oakland, including 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in three outings this year. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner downplayed the impact of having his start shifted so he could face the A’s once again.

“It’s good for me, but I just have to go out there and do my job,” Hernandez said. “It’s no different than any other game. I just have to give my team a chance to win. That’s all I’ve got to do.”

Chavez back in leadoff spot tonight vs. Twins

After sitting out the first two games of the Twins series, veteran Endy Chavez is back in the leadoff role for Wednesday night’s contest with the Twins as manager Lloyd McClendon looks to re-ignite an offense that scored just two runs in those two games.

Chavez is hitting .245 for the season, but he’s batted .281 over his last 18 games. And in the 19 games he’s led off this season, the 36-year-old is 10-for-19 (.526) in his first at-bat.

The Mariners are 20-9 when Chavez has appeared in a game and McClendon acknowledges the spark that the 170-pounder has provided.

“He’s a veteran guy that gives your lineup a little presence,” McClendon said. “He’s not a power guy by any means, but he’s done a nice job for us.”

Pryor up, Walker down as M’s set up weekend plans

The Mariners recalled right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor from Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday and optioned starter Taijuan Walker to Tacoma to set up their pitching prior to the All-Star break.

Pryor gives the Mariners a ninth reliever as they head into a Thursday game against the Twins with an expected all-bullpen start, though that hasn’t yet been announced by manager Lloyd McClendon.

But Pryor’s addition provides extra support in a bullpen that already was carrying an extra arm, while Walker will now be able to start on his normal rest in Tacoma to stay sharp over next week’s All-Star break.

The Mariners are currently listing a TBA for Thursday’s start, but will likely go with a group of relievers from a bullpen that leads the American League in ERA this season. Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon Maurer are both capable of pitching three-inning stints.

McClendon has already announced that Felix Hernandez has been pushed back a day to start Friday’s series opener against the A’s. Walker had tentatively been projected to start Saturday, but his absence sets Hisashi Iwakuma up to start that day on normal rest and Chris Young to do the same on Sunday.

Pryor will be available for Wednesday night’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Twins. The 24-year-old is 2-1 with one save and a 4.91 ERA in 21 games for Tacoma after spending most of last season in the disabled list following surgery to repair a torn lat muscle.

Pryor appeared in 33 games with the Mariners from 2012-13 with a 2.97 ERA in 30 1/3 innings while averaging 10.09 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. He worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings over seven relief outings to start the 2013 season before spending the rest of the season on the disabled list.

Walker, the Mariners top prospect, went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts since being recalled on June 30 after spending the first two months of the season on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.

Seager back in cleanup role Tuesday

Seattle Mariners v New York YankeesAfter dropping Kyle Seager out of the cleanup spot for the first four games following Corey Hart’s return from the disabled list, manager Lloyd McClendon had his All-Star third baseman back at No. 4 in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Twins.

Seager has hit .296 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 21 games batting cleanup this year with an .880 OPS. The Mariners won two of four games with Hart back in that spot, but the right-hander was just 2-for-14 (.143) and McClendon made the decision to drop him to sixth on Tuesday below Seager and Logan Morrison with another right-hander on the mound for the Twins in Phil Hughes.

“Obviously Seager hitting behind Robbie with a righty on the mound makes sense,” McClendon said. “LoMo is swinging the bat well. And it takes a little of the pressure off Corey as well out of that four-spot against a right-hander. Hopefully we can get him to relax a little more down there and maybe get a few more pitches to hit.”

The Mariners are 13-8 with Seager hitting fourth, 3-1 with Morrison there and 17-17 with Hart.

“Seager did a great job hitting there,” McClendon said. “So did LoMo. So I like those three guys lining up against the righty.”

McClendon said he’s still not ready to announce Thursday’s starter against the Twins, which opened up when Felix Hernandez was pushed back a day to face the A’s on Friday.

McClendon said he’ll likely reveal that decision on Wednesday. But while the skipper keeps saying he has options, all signs point to the club going with an all bullpen day and taking advantage of having eight current relievers — and an upcoming All-Star break after Sunday — to piece together a group to face the Twins.

Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon Maurer are both capable of throwing three innings, which would then just leave a few more innings for the ‘pen to pick up if all went well. But McClendon would presumably want to see how much his bullpen is needed the next two nights before making that call.

Erasmo Ramirez would be the logical option from Tacoma, but he threw six innings and 79 pitches in his last outing Sunday for the Rainiers and thus would have to throw on just three day’s rest. Jordan Pries, another Tacoma pitcher who has been throwing well (5-5, 2.97 ERA in 15 starts) is starting Tuesday night in Salt Lake City, so he’s definitely not in consideration.

Sucre recalled to take Buck’s place

Jesus Sucre, a 26-year-old catcher who had a brief stint with the Mariners last season, was recalled from Triple-A by the club on Tuesday to fill the roster opening created after veteran backup John Buck was designated for assignment Monday night.

Sucre played eight games for Seattle between May 24 and June 4 last season before injuring his left hand. He hit .192 with three RBIs in 26 at-bats.

The Venezuela native is considered a strong defensive backstop and was batting .274 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 48 games this season for Tacoma. He has throw out 21 of 41 attempted base stealers and has gunned down 43 percent of attempted stolen bases in his Minor League career, which began with the Braves as a free agent in 2006.

Over his last 10 games, Sucre has hit .375 (15-for-40) with seven runs, five doubles, one home run and two RBIs.

Mike Zunino, the Mariners 2012 first-round Draft pick, is performing very well as the starting catcher. Zunino is an excellent defender while providing 13 home runs, the most of any backstop in the American League. But Zunino has played in 71 of the team’s first 89 games and it appears the club is looking for a stronger defensive presence with Sucre as the backup.

“We have a catcher in Triple-A that is turning the corner and doing a pretty darn good job,” manager Lloyd McClendon said Monday night in announcing Buck’s departure. “We just felt it was time. We think this move makes us a better club.”

Buck, 34, hit .226 with one home run and six RBIs in 84 at-bats in 27 games after signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Mariners. The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright the contract of the 11-year veteran.


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