Results tagged ‘ Felix Hernandez ’

On Felix, Baron, Liddi and other news of the day

BaronGim.JPGSteven Baron (right) talks to catcher Chris Gimenez as he comes to the plate the first time to face Felix Hernandez in Saturday’s Minor League game. (Photo by Greg Johns/MLB.com)

Interesting day in Peoria as we watched Felix Hernandez throw against a collection of young prospects and Minor League players in a morning tuneup on a practice field at the Mariners complex, then saw some of the young prospects come through nicely in a 10-2 win over the A’s at the stadium.

Justin Smoak got untracked with a 2-for-2 day with a home run, four RBIs and two walks, which is welcome news for a team that needs him to help out as a run producer.

Blake Beavan, one of four players acquired along with Smoak in the Cliff Lee deal, also showed well in his first Cactus League start. Dustin Ackley continued his recent surge with a triple in his only at-bat.

And, yeah, Milton Bradley is definitely swinging a hot bat as he went 2-for-2 with a hard-hit double down the first base line to raise his spring average to .389. Michael Saunders clearly has fallen behind in that competition for the starting left-field role and was playing in Felix’s simulated game, looking to find his stroke.

Steven Baron, the 20-year-old catcher in camp just to get experience, laced a pair of well-stroked doubles off Felix to the delight of onlookers. Baron is a bright youngster with a developing future, but he’s also Example A of how fans shouldn’t overreact to a couple hits in late-inning spring games or the Felix tuneup.

No, Baron won’t make the Major League club just because he touched up Felix twice. He was playing for the Everett AquaSox last year and is just figuring out the game. It would destroy him to move him up too quickly.

Same holds true with a guy like Alex Liddi. I’ve heard questions about how the Mariners could possibly have sent him down to the Minor League camp on Saturday as part of the first six cuts after he’d hit grand slams in back-to-back games earlier in the week.

The answer is that Liddi wasn’t going to make the big-league club this spring, he was in camp to help prepare for his future. He’s 22 years old and was playing Double A ball last year. He’s a nice-looking prospect, a big kid who is developing at third base and is certainly one to watch.

But the fact he cranked out a couple home runs in the late innings of Cactus League action doesn’t mean he’s ready to succeed at the Major League level on a daily basis. Give it time. Having him sit on the bench in Seattle wouldn’t be good for him this season and he’s not ready to be a starting third baseman in the big leagues.

It’s great to have these kind of prospects coming up. But rushing them to the big leagues to get overmatched too soon isn’t a recipe for success.

Smoak, 24, was one of the better prospects in baseball and he’s still struggling to adapt. He’ll get a chance to prove himself over the long haul this season. And Liddi will get the opportunity to take the next step at Tacoma this season and just be a phone call away.

Baron? He’s a couple phone calls. But you’ve got to like what you see.

On the news front this afternoon, the Mariners said Erik Bedard will throw a similar Minor League start to Felix’s on Tuesday, which is the team’s only off day this spring. That will keep him on schedule to be the club’s No. 4 starter if you want to project it out.

Franklin Gutierrez was also back in the lineup today after returning from Florida, where he visited his father-in-law, Luis Salazar, the Braves coach who was hit in the face with the wicked line drive while standing on the dugout rail earlier in the week.

And tomorrow brings a road trip to Tempe to face the Angels, with Jason Vargas getting his second spring start and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger making his first appearance after battling some back issues.

Speaking of relief, Chris Ray looked fine pitching an inning and a third in the Minor League game. He could be the primary challenger to Brandon League for the interim closer’s role, so it’ll be worth watching how he bounces back in his next few appearances.

That’s all for now. Time to go enjoy a gorgeous Peoria evening.

Dynamic duo make their lone spring showing

It was fun seeing Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda pitch back-to-back today in Phoenix as the present and the future were on display in the Mariners’ 6-3 win over the A’s at Municipal Stadium.

But don’t plan on that double dip happening again as Eric Wedge says Pineda will be brought back Friday on three day’s rest this week in order to get the two hard-throwing right handers pitching on different days the rest of spring.

Felix will follow on Saturday, though I suspect the Mariners will put him in a “B” game that day rather than face the A’s again … given they don’t want their AL West rivals getting too comfortable against him prior to an Opening Day rematch on April 1.

But Pineda needs to get on an every-fifth-day schedule as well, so he was limited to two innings today so he can be brought back against the Indians Friday and then begin his own five-day format.

Hernandez gave up five hits, including some pretty well-stroked balls, in 2 2/3 innings and threw enough pitches (53) that Wedge took him out before his planned three frames. But given it was his first Cactus League game, none of that should be unexpected.

Pineda wasn’t perfect this time either, giving up his first hit and two walks of the spring. So he is human. But he’s a very large human and his four scoreless innings thus far would indicate he’s fitting in fairly well.

The only pitching downside Monday was Rule 5 guy Jose Flores giving up a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Andy LaRoche on an absolute blast to deep center. But the Mariners did get two strong innings from Josh Lueke, who is a guy that seems to be figuring more and more in the bullpen mix.

Offensively the Mariners totaled just six hits and took advantage of some A’s wildness — six walks — to score their six runs. Chris Gimenez, filling in for an ill Adam Moore behind the plate, went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.

Jack Wilson made his first start at second base and turned an early ground ball into an adventure when he casually underhanded a throw wide of first base. But Mike Carp made the tag to save that play.

Young prospect Johermyn Chavez, replacing Ichiro in right field for the final five innings, threw out a runner at second base.

That’s all for today. The Mariners have two games Tuesday, their Cactus League contest against the Giants in Peoria and a “B” contest against the Dodgers that will give some pitchers — including Luke French — a chance to get some extra action.

Today’s lineups on a pitching happy day in Peoria

Good morning from Peoria, where today figures to be an interesting peek into the pitching prowess of the Mariners with both Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda slated to go this afternoon against Oakland.

Hernandez will start and go three innings in the 12:05 p.m. PT game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Pineda presumably will toss at least two innings.

Don’t expect the two to pitch side-by-side all spring, however. Even if Pineda stays on the same fifth-day schedule, he’ll throw against the same A’s squad on Saturday at Peoria Stadium, while the Mariners would like to line up a “B” squad game that day so Hernandez isn’t throwing too often against the team Seattle will open the regular season against on April 1.

Speaking of “B” games, the Mariners set one up for tomorrow against the Dodgers at 10 a.m. to allow some extra innings for the pitching staff. Luke French will start that game, followed by Yoervis Medina, Chris Seddon, Chris Smith, Justin Miller and Yusmeiro Petit.

As for today, we should learn at some point the medical update on catcher Miguel Olivo. Infielder Jack Wilson is back following his brief illness and will get his first start today at second base.

Here’s the full lineup for today’s game against the A’s:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Mike Carp 1B
Jack Wilson 2B
Brendan Ryan SS
Michael Saunders LF
Adam Moore C
Matt Mangini DH
Felix Hernandez P

Felix, Pineda will both pitch Monday against A’s

FelixThrow.JPG

If you want to circle a Cactus League game on your schedule, mark down this Monday when the Mariners play the Oakland A’s.

Felix Hernandez will make his first Cactus League start that day and is slated to pitch three innings. He’ll be followed by Michael Pineda, the club’s star rookie prospect.

Hernandez threw 33 pitches in a simulated game on Thursday and pronounced himself ready to go.

The American League Cy Young Award winner is being lined up to start Opening Day on April 1 against those same A’s. Pitching Monday puts him on schedule to throw every fifth day until Opening Day.

Pitching coach Carl Willis said Hernandez will pitch some “B” games during the upcoming stretch rather than face American League West opponents, but he’s OK with him facing the A’s on Monday since it’s so early in spring.

That game will be at Oakland’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium at 12:05 p.m. PT.

On an every fifth-day schedule, Hernandez also would be scheduled to face Oakland again on Saturday, March 12. That one likely well get replaced with a “B” game so he’s not facing the A’s too often prior to the regular season.

He’d then face Kansas City on Thursday, March 17; the White Sox on Tuesday, March 22, and the Rangers on Sunday, March 27.

The Rangers game also likely will be replaced by a “B” squad outing.

Meanwhile, here is the Mariners lineup for today’s 12:05 p.m. PT game against the Reds:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley LF
Jack Cust DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Gabe Gross CF
Josh Wilson SS
Dustin Ackley 2B
Adam Moore C
Doug Fister P

Felix says he’s ready after simulated game

Felix Hernandez continued his slower build-up in Spring Training by throwing 33 pitches in a simulated game on the Mariners main practice field in Peoria on Thursday morning, then pronounced himself ready and eager to get going.

Hernandez threw to an assortment of Minor League hitters in informal setting in which he recorded five strikeouts while getting eight outs, while allowing one ball that likely would have been a bloop single if defenders were actually in place.

“It’s been awhile,” Hernandez said. “I felt great.”

Hernandez will make his Cactus League debut on Monday, throwing three innings against Oakland.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m feeling so good, man. I was throwing strikes, the ball was in the bottom of the zone, the breaking ball was good, the changeup was alright. Everything looked good.”

Can he be better after last year’s Cy Young season?

“I think can be better. Why not,” he said. “You have to get better every year. We’ll see.”

One tall guy took in Hernandez’s throwing session Thursday. Randy Johnson was in camp to visit with trainer Rick Griffin, his good friend. The Big Unit spoke to Hernandez before he went out on the field.

“He told me I needed four more Cy Youngs,” Hernandez said. “And four thousand strikeouts just to get him.”

And Felix’s response?

“I told him, I’ll be there. Don’t worry,” Hernandez said with a laugh.

The day in pictures at Mariners camp …

Caught lots of stuff I liked today with my camera at Mariners Spring Training in Peoria. Most of the team went to Peoria Stadium to sign autographs, which makes for some great candid shots.

Love this one of veteran reliever Denny Bautista with a little hat-head, working the crowd.

BautistaHatHead2.JPG.

The most popular autographs, as you’d expect, were Ichiro and Felix. Here’s the Cy Young winner dealing with the masses before he headed off to throw his first live batting practice of the spring on a back field with a handful of coaches and two reporters watching.

FelixAutograf.JPG

Milton Bradley, bless his soul, was literally the last of the Mariners still working the autograph line. He and Erik Bedard — two guys you’d probably never suspect — had to be pulled away by a team official and told it was time to start the workout.

BradleySign.JPG

And here’s a young fan eagerly awaiting his Moose autograph, though I have no idea how the furry fellow signs his name.

NewMoose.JPG

Everybody watches when the King is throwing

WatchingFelix.JPGYup, everybody pays attention when Felix Hernandez takes the mound, as he did for the first time this spring on Thursday with some almost-live batting practice.

Among the most attentive Thursday were the guys pictured above — Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan and Chone Figgins — since they were waiting their turns to get in the batter’s box.

But as good as Felix looked — and he looked as sharp as you’d possibly expect at this juncture — it was impossible to get a true read since batters were instructed to only track his pitches with their eyes and not swing away on this first outing.

You can read my full story on Felix’s thoughts about his first step back on the mound since last season, as well as his upcoming schedule by clicking here. He told me the plans call for him to throw an actual live batting practice session Saturday.

Here’s a shot I got of him throwing today.

FelixBP.JPGTomorrow brings the intrasquad game at 1 p.m. (MT). It’ll be five innings on Field 1 at the Mariners facility and Eric Wedge said he’s going to try to get all his position players at least one at-bat and an inning or two of work.

Michael Pineda and Blake Beavan are the starting pitchers, which doesn’t mean a whole lot, but will be fun to see two of the big 22-year-old hosses in camp. We’ve talked a lot about Pineda, but I wrote this story today on Beavan, one of the players obtained in the Cliff Lee deal.

Interesting kid who throws a lot harder than I’d been led to believe, with excellent command. Could turn into a nice rotation piece down the road.

The big news today was Franklin Gutierrez’s absence as he flew back to Seattle to have his stomach problems checked out. Don’t expect that to be a huge issue, more of a precaution at this point, but definitely something they want to clear up after he lost weight during last season and struggled in the second half because he wasn’t able to eat well.

We should learn more about that tomorrow when Gutierrez is expected to return. You can get the news on that on Mariners.com and here on my blog, or follow me on Twitter at @GregJohnsMLB.

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.

 

Felix Hernandez’s brother signs Minor League deal

The Mariners have signed Moises Hernandez, older brother of Felix, to a Minor League contract.

This one likely won’t be much more than an interesting human interest story and welcome news for King Felix as Moises, 26, isn’t a highly regarded prospect. He’s not being extended an invitation to the Major League camp, but will be part of the large group that reports to the club’s Minor League camp in Peoria, Ariz., on March 6.

But it will be interesting to watch another Hernandez on the mound in a Mariners uniform and see where he winds up.

The older Hernandez isn’t nearly as big as Felix at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds. He spent three years in the Orioles organization from 2003-05 pitching in Rookie and Low-A ball.

He then was in the Braves system from 2006-09, again spending most of his time in the low Minors. He did go 10-3 with a 3.66 ERA with Class-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League in ’07 at age 23, then was promoted to Double A Mississippi for 10 starts (2-2, 5.94 ERA) and one start in Triple A Richmond (0-1, 7.73).

After missing all of ’08, he was back in Rookie League and A ball for the Braves in ’09 and didn’t pitch in the Minor Leagues at all last season.

This isn’t the first time the Mariners offered a shot to one of their star’s siblings. Shawn Buhner was in the club’s Minor League system from 1994-99 and Craig Griffey did the same from 1991-97 and both reached as high as Triple-A Tacoma.

Matt Woodward, the son of then-GM Woody Woodward, played in the Mariners’ system in 1998-99 but never advanced above A-ball.

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