Results tagged ‘ Eric Wedge ’

Could Jack Wilson really be headed to second base?

Sunday’s proclamation by manager Eric Wedge that Brendan Ryan will be working primarily at shortstop this spring in an open competition with Jack Wilson should come as no huge surprise, given the Mariners traded for the former St. Louis defensive standout to provide some depth there.

WilsonJackSS.jpgMore surprising was Wedge saying Wilson would be working some at second base, given Wilson has played 1,219 games in his 10-year career … and all have been at shortstop.

Wilson pulled a new second baseman’s glove out of his locker Sunday and said he’s working her in. And, yeah, he said his gloves are always a “her,” though he doesn’t name them.

Wilson didn’t sound thrilled about being asked to try a new position, but he’s a class act and a team guy and if he gets beat out by a better player, he understands. He also gets why the Mariners aren’t just handing him the shortstop job, given his injury struggles since his arrival a year and a half ago from Pittsburgh.

But Wilson also says he’s feeling healthier than he has in a long while and he’s lost a noticeable 15 pounds, which he thinks will help his hamstrings as well. So this one will be interesting to watch this spring. When healthy, Wilson is a very good shortstop, even if Mariners fans haven’t seen much of that guy yet.

Wedge told Wilson he wanted him to take some reps at second just to provide more options, though he said it would be “a reach” at this point to envision Ryan at short and Wilson at second on a regular basis.

“I told him I’m not sure how it’s going to play out,” Wedge said. “I want to take a good look at the Ryan kid. Both of those guys are going to be somewhere and whatever is best for our ballclub is what we’re going to do.”

Adam Kennedy figures prominently in the plans and if the veteran hits well this spring, it’s not hard to see him being the Opening Day second baseman and holder of that position until Dustin Ackley’s eventual promotion. Unless Ackley makes the team out of camp, of course.

Wedge said Kennedy will work at second, first and third, in that order, and noted he played 51 games at first base last season for the Nationals. Most of that was as a late-inning defensive replacement, as he started just four times at first. But he could easily provide backup to Justin Smoak.

Ryan, meanwhile, will also get some work as third in order to provide backup to Chone Figgins.

Figgins, of course, got the shot at second base last year and his transition didn’t go as smoothly as hoped. Which is why he’s back at third now. Could Wilson handle the switch to a spot he hasn’t played since his freshman year in college in ’97?

“I’ve played around over there. It’s kind of fun and different,” he said. “But if it came down to switching, there would be a lot of work to learn that. It depends on the time frame they have if it becomes a reality. But it’s one of those things they’re asking you to go out and try. And you’ve got to do what your team asks.”

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Spring Training Day 2: Felix makes his entry

FelixDrills.jpgMariners pitchers and catchers hit the field for their second day of work on Tuesday and again were greeted by gorgeous blue skies and 80-degree weather. Better yet? The first sight of Felix Hernandez on the mound.

Their reigning Cy Young Award winner was one of 14 pitchers to throw 10-minute bullpen sessions in front of new skipper Eric Wedge and his staff, as well as some interested onlookers.

How’d he look?

“Like Felix,’ Wedge said. “He’s a special pitcher with special ability. He looked good. The first couple times you just let them get their feet under them and let them get their work in. For me it’s a little different because this is the first time seeing most of these guys throw live. But I’m not quick to judge. Just give them time to get into it.”

The Mariners have split the pitching staff in two, with each group throwing bullpens on alternate days this week. Tuesday’s first group was Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Luke French, Jamey Wright and Brandon League.

They were followed by Justin Miller, Chris Ray, Cesar Jimenez and David Pauley. The final group consisted of Chris Smith, Royce Ring, Tom Wilhelmsen, Jose Flores and Chris Seddon.

Flores, the Rule 5 draft pick out of the Indians organization, is a solidly built 6-3, 215-pounder who throws hard. At 21, it’ll be interesting to see if he can make the jump from Class A to stick with the club this year.

Of the other newcomers who threw Tuesday, Ring jumped out … not because of his size at a generously listed 6-foot, but because of his extreme sidearm delivery. At 30, he’s bounced among four organizations in the past six years as a lefty specialist, something the Mariners didn’t really have last year. 

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NO GROUNDHOGS YET

While Spring Training drills are notoriously repetitive, Wedge said there should be no mistaking the importance of the Pitchers Fielding Practice drills and bullpen work being done early in camp.

“You just have to understand that repetition is necessary,” he said. “You practice something over and over and over to master it. And that’s what we’re going to do. It shouldn’t be tedious because you’re up there running through your PFP or whatever work you’re doing.

“It’s your job to get better and be the best you can be with it because ultimately it’s going to come into play in game time.”

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VISA OR MASTERCARD?

Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, the one pitcher not in camp thus far, is expected to join the club on Wednesday after clearing his visa issue getting out of Venezuela.

Once he’s in, the Mariners will have 33 pitchers in camp, though only 31 are taking part in full workouts. Closer David Aardsma is still about two weeks from beginning to throw. Setup man Shawn Kelley, on the mend from partial Tommy John surgery, is already playing catch every other day and said he’ll soon be moving up to long toss as he proceeds toward an expected June return.

One man missing for the next two days will be GM Jack Zduriencik, who has flown back to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of life-long friend Chuck Tanner.

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JUNIOR’S RETURN

The story of the day, of course, was the announcement that Ken Griffey Jr. will be returning to the club as a special consultant. What exactly that details is still being ironed out, with the key thing being that Griffey wants to remain involved with the franchise going forward.

Team president Chuck Armstrong told me via e-mail tonight how important that is for everyone involved with the organization.

“It’s not an overstatement to say he helped save baseball in Seattle and made Safeco Field possible,” Armstrong said. “Having him back home in the Mariner family feels right. He started in our organization and had hsi best career seasons with us. This is where Ken belongs.”

You can also read my full story on Griffey Jr’s return here. I’ll also have a story on former Orioles closer Chris Ray and his bid to win a late-inning relief role later tonight on the website. And don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter at GregJohnsMLB.

Felix Hernandez photo above taken by Charlie Riedel/Associated Press.

Spring Training Day 1: Bedard, Pineda lead the way

MarinersStretchPeoria.jpgMariners pitchers and catchers stretch out before taking the field for first time Monday in Peoria, Ariz. (Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP)

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13 days until first Spring Training game.

46 days until Opening Day in Oakland.

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It was a picture-perfect day in Peoria as the Mariners hit their practice diamonds for the first time under manager Eric Wedge. You can’t ask for much more than blue skies and 80 degrees in mid-February.

Plenty of optimism to go around as well on Day 1 as Erik Bedard and Michael Pineda — two pitchers who could play significant roles if the Mariners are to surprise people this season — were in the first group of five pitchers to throw bullpen sessions.

Pineda, all 6-foot-5, 250 pounds of him, looked massive on the mound. Long, powerful legs and an imposing 22-year-old throwing hard. He’s going to be interesting to watch for everybody.

“Oh, he’s big,” Wedge said of his first impression. “I remember J.R. Richard. He was a big guy. I’d met [Pineda] a few times and talked to him in street clothes, but he looked even bigger in uniform. Then he gets up on top of that mound and he looks like he can reach out and touch you. He looked good. I liked it.”

Bedard worked much slower, a veteran move for a guy coming off shoulder problems who knows he’s not going to win or lose his job in the first bullpen session of spring. But Bedard also threw well, including some nice curve balls, which is not something everyone unveils in their first session.

You can read my full story on Bedard’s return here.

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ALMOST A FULL DECK

The only pitcher missing among the 33 expected in camp was non-roster invitee Yusmeiro Petit, who had visa problems and is still in Venezula. He’s expected later this week.

Closer David Aardsma and setup man Shawn Kelley also sat out as expected. Aardsma remains on crutches, though he hopes to begin putting weight on his surgically-repaired hip on Wednesday. Kelley isn’t expected back until about June as he recovers from partial Tommy John surgery.

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THE WEDGE RULES

The new skipper informed the team of a couple expectations at their first team meeting Monday. No cell phones in the clubhouse, no earrings on the field, be on time.

And, no, the mustached-man doesn’t have a rule against facial hair.

“I don’t get caught up in how they look,” he said. “It’s more about how they play and act.”

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THE KING WEIGHS IN

Felix Hernandez throws his first bullpen on Tuesday and is eager to get started. The Cy Young winner seems very relaxed and ready this spring, taking on a visibly bigger leadership role in the clubhouse and in dealing with the media.

He talked with Bedard over the offseason about staying with Seattle and says the veteran lefty has become one of his best friends on the team.

“When he’s healthy, we’re going to be good. Me and him together and all those other guys, we can be good,” Hernandez said.

Felix is also thrilled that his older brother, Moises, is joining the team’s Minor League camp next month.

“He’s so happy because he didn’t play last year in the States,” Felix said. “He said he’s going to do the best he can just to get to Double-A or Triple-A. And he’s having a baby in about two weeks.”

Hernandez said he works out frequently with his brother, who missed last year with a shoulder injury, starting when they were youngsters growing up in Venezuela.

“We were 13-14 years old and we broke everything in my Mom’s house,” he said. “There were a lot of foul balls, a lot of lights knocked out …”

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That’s all from today. We’re off to a busy start. If you missed it earlier, I talked with Josh Lueke about his difficult past as he tries to keep moving forward. Lueke has an excellent chance to earn a bullpen spot this Spring. You can read that story here.

And if you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow me at GregJohnsMLB for all the latest.

 

Thoughts from Peoria on pitchers-catchers report day

Not surprisingly on the day when Mariners pitchers and catchers reported to work, most of the talk Sunday in Peoria focused on, you guessed it, pitching. But there are a few position players in camp early and all seem eager to put last year in the rearview mirror.

SmoakJustin.jpgAs first baseman Justin Smoak said: “There’s probably not a team out there that wants to get started sooner than we do to get last year behind us.”

Fair enough. I think everyone from fans to media to the Peanut Man are more than willing to forget about last season. So let’s focus on the here and now with some initial observations on Sunday’s activities from Mariners camp:

  • The earliest arrivals among the position players are all guys who could play critical roles in this coming season. Smoak, the 24-year-old first baseman, might be the biggest key of all to how this season unfolds given the Mariners’ need for a big bag bat in the middle of the order.
  • He was working with Dustin Ackley and, yes, watching the Justin and Dustin Show could be the highlight of this season if these young guys start coming through. Those two youngsters were hanging out with veteran shortstop Jack Wilson, a gym rat of a ballplayer who would be a good influence on his teammates as well as a nice help for the Mariners if he bounces back to health and plays the way he did in Pittsburgh before his trade to Seattle two years ago.
  • Wilson said he’s feeling great and has been working at his home outside Los Angeles with new infielder Brendan Ryan, who he called after Ryan was acquired by trade from St. Louis and was pleasantly surprised when he saw they shared the same area code.

    Turns out Ryan lives about 25 miles away, so the two have been working together on double-play situations in Wilson’s backyard diamond, taking ground balls from Wilson’s brother and another friend.

    Ironically, Ryan might eventually wind up competing with Wilson for the shortstop duties once Ackley arrives at second base, but that hasn’t stopped their budding friendship.

  • New manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis have an unmistakable bond after 10 years together in the Indians’ organization. When Willis walked by after taking his physical, Wedge asked how he’d done. Willis yelled over his shoulder that he felt so good he was thinking of moving his locker out into the player’s clubhouse, which evoked a loud snort from Wedge.
  • “He’s good for one of those every day,” said Wedge.
  • Willis, 50, spent nine seasons in the Major Leagues as a reliever and was part of the World Series champion Twins bullpen in ’91.

  • Closer David Aardsma was in a good mood Sunday as he talked with teammates and reporters in the clubhouse, but it’s hard to believe a guy still on crutches as camp starts will be ready to contribute any time soon. Aardsma acknowledged that he might not be ready for the first month or so of the regular season, but that it’s more important he be fully healthy for the bulk of the year and the rest of his career.
  • No argument there, though it’ll be interesting to see who steps up in that role. Brandon League had six saves last season while Aardsma was out, giving him eight in his seven-year Major League career.

    Chris Ray, a non-roster invitee, has 61 career saves … but only two since undergoing Tommy John surgery while with the Orioles in ’07.

    The other candidate mentioned by Willis is former Red Sox setup man Manny Delcarmen, who saved three games in six seasons in Boston.

  • Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal reported Sunday morning that the Mariners are interested in right-hander Chad Durbin, a 33-year-old veteran who would add another option to the bullpen mix. But Durbin hasn’t been a closer either with four saves in 11 seasons and the Mariners provided no inkling that there was anything to the Durbin rumors Sunday evening.
  • Clearly, though, Jack Zduriencik’s plan is to bring in as many options as possible on no-risk Minor League deals and see who sticks, which will make for an interesting camp. I still think hard-throwing Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke could develop into the best late-inning options, but Willis wants to  lower expectations on those youngsters as well as rookie starter Michael Pineda at this point, which is wise.

    Mariners add Gerut, Robertson as non-roster invitees

    Outfielder Jody Gerut, who spent the first three years of his Major League career playing for Eric Wedge and the Cleveland Indians, signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners on Thursday.

    Also added on a similar deal was left-handed pitcher Nate Robertson. Both veterans will be among 19 non-roster players invited to the Mariners’ Major League Spring Training next month.

    GerutJodyMug.jpgGerut, 33, is a career .262 hitter in six Major League seasons. He’s been with the Cubs, Pirates, Padres and Brewers since his Cleveland days.

    Gerut was with Milwaukee the past two seasons, but got just 71 at-bats in 32 games last season while hitting .197 with a pair of home runs before being sidelined two months with a bruised heel. He hit for the cycle on May 8 against Arizona.

    The left-hander’s best seasons came in Cleveland, where he broke in with a bang as a rookie, hitting .279 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs while finishing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’03, Wedge’s first year as manager.

    He tore his ACL the following season, however, and then was dealt twice in the span of two weeks right before the ’05 trade deadline, first to the Cubs and then the Pirates for Matt Lawton.

    Gerut wound up missing the entire 2006-07 seasons and has been mostly a part-time player since undergoing surgeries on both knees. His best season since his rookie campaign came with the Padres in ’08 when he ht .296 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs in 328 at-bats.

    The former Stanford product is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield, with most of his work coming in right and center field to this point.

    I would expect he’ll be given a chance to show what he can do in left field, where young Michael Saunders is the returning starter and Milton Bradley also returns, as well as compete with non-roster invitee Ryan Langerhans as well as Greg Halman and other youngsters for backup duties across the board.

    RobertsonNateMugTigers.jpgRobertson, 33, is a 6-foot-2 left hander with considerable American League starting experience. In nine seasons, he’s posted a 57-77 record with a 5.01 ERA in 223 games.

    Robertson pitched for the Tigers from 2003-09, going 51-68 with a 4.78 ERA. He went 13-13 with a 3.84 ERA in his best season in Detroit in ’06.

    Last year, earning $10 million in the final year of his contract, Robertson went 6-8 with a 5.75 ERA with the Marlins and Phillies. He’ll obviously need to prove his way back on to a Major League roster this year, but could have a chance in Seattle.

    The Mariners have returning starters Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister, plus rookie Michael Pineda and the oft-injured Erik Bedard, along with part-time starters David Pauley and Luke French.

    Robertson gives Seattle another starting option at a low cost. It’s worth noting the left-hander has a 3-2 record and 2.75 ERA in six career starts at Safeco Field.

    Wedge talks about Cust, Ichiro and other hot topics

    The Mariners added some power — and likely some strikeouts — on Wednesday by coming to terms with free-agent Jack Cust.

    I talked to the former Oakland A’s designated hitter Wednesday and he’s excited about the opportunity after feeling a lack of love in the Bay Area. Getting sent to the minors at the start of last year left a mark on Cust and he’s thrilled for a fresh start.

    You can read that story here.

    New Mariners manager Eric Wedge just spoke with the media at the Winter Meetings and said nothing is finalized yet, but he’s happy to have the added bat on the way.

    “When we talk about what we’re trying to do offensively, you’ll hear me talk about quality at-bats, good at-bats, strong at-bats, making good outs,” Wedge said. “Working and making i tough on that pitcher and he does a lot of that. It takes time to establish that discipline and put up a good at-bat, stick your nose in their with two strikes and do some of these things.

    “If we can get a few other people to help us do that and our young people can watch that, it’s going to help us.”

    Wedge also said Ichiro would definitely be his leadoff hitter and he’s also expecting big things from Chone Figgins in a more comfortable situation in his second go-round. He said Figgins remains the second baseman at this point and that Dustin Ackley won’t necessarily be ready to start the season in the big leagues.

    And even with Cust on the way,he sounds like there’s a place for Milton Bradley.

    “I’m not going to speak on Jack right now, but with Milton Bradley, he’s a guy who can do some DHing for us, but also bounce in the outfield for us. Milton can play left field, right field. Being a switch hitter he gives us great options from both sides of the plate. The health issues for Milton are the biggest question.”

    Actually the biggest question might be how Bradley works with Wedge after a dust-up between the two back in ’04 led to Bradley’s release from the Indians.

    “I had a good conversation with Milton,” Wedge said. “I think he and I both have a great advantage this time around because he knows what I’m all about and I’m very familiar with him. Obviously we have some history, but we’re goign to work that to our advantage this time around.

    “I know that’s what I want and what he wants. That was many moons ago when we were together.”

     

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