March 2009

Mama Corcoran lights fire in son, Roy

It has been a rough spring for reliever Roy Corcoran and he received a little pep talk yesterday.

Actually, a big pep talk.

“I talked to mama and she said I had better get my (rear) in gear,” Corcoran said this morning in the Mariners clubhouse.

Mama Corcoran (Barbara is her first name) knows best and she doesn’t beat around the bush. She tells it like it is and she’s been following the progress of her No. 2 son on the Internet.

The numbers have raised her eye-brows just a tad, as they say in Slaughter, LA.

Yes, indeed, mama Corcoran is more than a little concerned with that 12.79 ERA Roy has going into the final days of Spring Training.

“It had been close to two weeks since I called her and she was worried,” Corcoran said. “She was happy I called. We talked for a little bit and then she asked me how I felt. I told her I feel fine and she asked, ‘Then what’s the problem (with your pitching?). She keeps tabs on everything and knew I have been struggling.”

“I told her that I was just getting hit around. She gets into me pretty good, and I need that. It was a good, old-fashioned ‘get it in gear’ talk, and she did most of the talkin.'”

Corcoran is scheduled to pitch one inning in today’s game against the Indians in Goodyear.

The Mariners lineup:

1. Endy Chavez, LF
2. Ronny Cedeno, SS
3. Russell Branyan, 1B
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Mike Sweeney, DH
6. Wladimir Balentien, RF
7. Kenji Johjima, C
8. Franklin Guttierrez, CF
9. Chris Woodward, 2B
P Chris Jakaubaskas.

In other news, Ichiro Suzuki was still feeling under the weather and was not in camp. The right fielder experienced some light-headedness on Monday but played for three innings before leaving the game.

Manager Don Wakamatsu said Ichiro probably is a little worn out from the World Baseball Classic and his status will be day-to-day.

— Jim Street

Now batting third — Ichiro

Another day, a different lineup.

The method to manager Don Wakamatsu’s madness put right fielder Ichiro Suzuki in the three-hole for today’s Cactus League road game against the Brewers.

“I  brought it up to him the other day and will talk to him again today about it,” Wakamatsu said. “Do I foresee him as the third-place hitter? No. But it gives me another viable option if I got with more of a run-and-gun offense. It’s not about Ichiro coming in and hitting 40 home runs. I’m smart enough to know I need him to be right mentally and we don’t go off the deep end where all of sudden it’s messing with the routine that he has been awfully success with.”

In other words, don’t get used to seeing Ichiro bat anywhere but leadoff.

Today’s lineup:

1. Endy chavez, CF.
2. Jose Lopez, 2B.
3. Ichiro Suzuki, RF.
4. Wladimir Balentien, LF.
5. Russell Branyan, 1B.
6. Kenji Johjima, C.
7. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS.
8. Ronny Cedeno, 3B.
9. Ryan Rowland-Smith,P

The Aussie pitcher, who went 2-for-2 against the Rockies earlier this spring in Tucson, returns to the plate in today’s game. He used Jeff Clement’s bat the last time, Clement was sent to the Minors a couple of days ago and took his bats with him.

“I’m going to use one of (Mike) Wilson’s bats,” Rowland-Smith said. “I’m looking for more power.”

— Jim Street

Its back to the Minors for Clement; Walker released

The Mariners discarded a battery this morning, sending catcher Jeff Clement to Triple-A Tacoma and releasing right-handed reliever Tyler Walker.

That leaves 38 able-bodies players in camp, 13 more than will be lining up on the first-base line inside the Metrodome on April 6 prior to the regular-season opener against the Twins.

Clement batted .268 in 17 Cactus League games and had fallen behind Rob Johnson and Jamie Burke on the backup depth chart. Walker, who had hoped to challenge for the closer role, enncountered hamstring problems that limited him to six outings.

Those were the only two roster moves today, but more on the way and the nerves are starting to rattle.

Oufielder Mike Morse is among the players wondering what’s going to happen. If he isn’t on the 25-man Opening Day roster, he hopes another big-league team finds a spot for him. He would be a perfect fit on a National League team. The guy can hit and would be an ideal extra man on the bench to hit for the pitcher. And he can play multiple positions.

Meanwhile, on one side of the clubhouse there is a row of lockers that normally would be vacant at this late stage of camp.

“This is ‘Survival Island’ quipped pitcher Chris Jakabauskas. He and fellow right-hander Shawn Kelley have the row of six lockers all to themselves. Well, all of them except the one that has a, “Lost and Found” sign overhead.

Elsewhere, catcher Jamie Burke, who became a father for the third time on Wednesday, powered up his iPod and proudly showed the first pictures of his son, Payson. In one photo, he’s sleeping. The next one he’s yawning. And the third one was of him chilling.

As usual, Ken Griffey Jr., is holding court near his locker, a bat in his hands, a smile on his face, giving Ichiro a bad time about something. It’s Junior being Junior, which is a hoot.

Meanwhile, today’s lineup has been posted:

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF.
2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
3. Ken Griffey Jr., LF.
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B.
5. Mike Sweeney, DH.
6. Russell Branyan, 1B.
7. Jose Lopez, 2B.
8. Kenji Johjima, C.
9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS.
P  LH Jarrod Washburn.

— Jim Street


How the ex-Mariners are doing

The Mariners started six players against the Angels today that were not on the roster at the end of last season, which made me wonder how the departed Mariners are doing elsewhere.

Good and bad, actually.

The good.

*Infielder Willie Bloomquist (free agent) is batting .333 (21-for-63) with the Royals with two doubles, triple and nine RBIs. Oddly, he has one walk and 15 strikeouts.

*Outfielder Jeremy Reed (traded) is batting .320 (16-for-50) with three doubles for the Mets in his pursuit of a backup role.

*Right-handed reliever R.A. Dickey (free agent) has a 2-2 record and 2.84 ERA in nine appearances (one start) with the Twins. His control has been good (three walks) and knuckler dancing all over the place, resulting in 15 strikeouts.

*Right-handed reliever J.J. Putz (traded), who spent most of March with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two outings with the Mets. He has no walks and two strikeouts in two innings.

*Right-handed reliever Sean Green (traded) is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in seven games with the Mets. He has two walks and eight strikeouts.

The so-so.

*Outfielder Raul Ibanez (free agent) is batting .262 (17-for-65) with eight doubles, no home runs and nine RBIs for the Phillies.

The not-so-good

*Infielder Tug Hulett (free agent) is 2-for-9 (.222) with one double for the Royals.

*Infielder Luis Valbuena (traded)is 2-for-22 with one home run during his first camp with the Indians.

— Jim Street

Ichiro sends bat to Cooperstown

Hitting the note trail:

*Ichiro has donated one of the bats he used during the early rounds of the World Baseball Classic to the Hall of Fame. My guess is that it was one that did not produce the way most of his bats do. He went 7-for-33 during the first two rounds of the Classic before a more Ichiro-like 5-for-11 in the semifinals and finals.

I asked him this morning if he was going to represent Japan in the next Classic, which will be played in 2013. “I’m not even sure I’ll be alive then,” he said.

That’s a maybe, I guess.

His current five-year contract with Seattle expires after the 2012 season.

*The Mariners have drawn more than 100,000 fans again this spring, the 11th time in the past 12 springs they have reached that mark. The Mariners are fourth in Cactus League average attendance this spring, behind the Cubs (naturally), Dodgers (of course) and Giants (still popular without Bonds).

*The three first basemen fighting for probably two roster spots are having quite the battle. Russell Branyan is batting .321 (18-for-56) with five home runs and 14 RBIs; Chris Shelton is sailing along with a .488 (21-for-43) mark with three home runs and nine RBIs; and Mike Sweeney is batting .344 (11-for-32) with one home run and six RBIs.

Add ’em up and you get this for the Seattle first sacker: .382, 9, 29. Eat your heart out, Richie. 

*Second baseman Jose Lopez was in the original starting lineup today, but was scratched. According to a club official (the always-reliable Tim Hevly) there apparently is nothing wrong with Lopez that caused the switch to Ronny Cedeno.

*The heavy winds that closed Sky Harbor Airport to shut down for an hour last night, and were still brisk this morning, finally subsided around noon and it’s another beautiful day in the desert.

* Shelton just singled to right field. The guy seems determined to break the club record for highest Cactus League batting average. And to find out what that record is, check out the story on Mike Morse at your favorite web site.

That would be

*Manager Don Wakamatsu said he might play catcher Kenji Johjima later in games next week.

“Catching everybody is the challenge,” Wak said. “We talked about bringing him in later to catch the relievers in some of the games so we’re not killing him by catching him nine the whole times.”

— Jim Street

Todays lineup slightly different

If it’s Friday I must be back to work.

Those two days off to celebrate yet another birthday — No. 39 for the 25th time — really rejuvented the old system.

As promised a few days ago, before his entire team was on the field at the same time, manager Don Wakamatsu is experimenting with his lineup the next few days to figure out which batting order meshes the best.

There are a few changes for today’s game against the Rockies.

And here it is:

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF: No change here from Thursday’s Cactus League debut.

2. Jose Lopez, 2B: Looks like your No. 2 hitter for awhile.

3. Ken Griffey Jr., DH: Left field one day, designed hitter this day.

4. Adrian Beltre, 3B: Wak’s go-to guy in the cleanup spot.

5. Chris Shelton, 1B: All he does is hit, hit and hit some more.

6. Kenji Johjima, C: Fingers are crossed that he’s on the same page as lefty Erik Bedard today.

7. Franklin Gutierrez, CF: Batted ninth on Thursday, got two hits and moves up.

8. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS: Settling into the eight-hole it appears.

9. Endy Chavez, LF: Gives the team more speed at the bottom.

— Jim Street

Cremin in his element, and thats no bull

Kevin Cremin, the Mariners’ long-time radio engineer, spent a few minutes of yet another day off discussing his itinerary for Tuesday.

He’s not doing a whole lot actually,which leaves him a lot of time to talk about his favorite subject — food, and that’s no bull. Speaking of bull, he might be riding one tonight, either just before dinner, or soon afterwards.

Cremin explained that he and his radio-engineer colleages from other Major League teams having Spring Training in the Valley of the Sun are gathering on the Saddlebranch Chop House tonight for their fourth spring bash, where they discuss such things as the “Gaffe of the Year.”

Padres Hall of Fame announcer Jerry Coleman ususally wins award.

Cremin, an Oklahoma native, admitted that of all the engineers in the building tonight, he would be the most likely to ride a mechanical bull similar to the one featured in the movie “Urban Cowboy” starring, among others, Debra Winger. My money is on the bull.

As for gaffes, Cremin has had a few during his 27 years of making Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs, along with other booth legends, sound good.

There was the time in Spring Training a few years ago when Cremin had all of his radio equipment — about four big suitcases full of stuff — all set up and ready to go for a Mariners game against the Rockies at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson.

One problem: the Mariners were playing the White Sox at Tucson Electic Park. Cremin frantically repacked the gear, sweated bullets and high-tailed it to TEP, where the show went off without a hitch. That was a big “whew”.

Another time, on getaway day of out Spring Training, Cremin packed the radio gear and had it put on one of two trucks — one taking equipment back to Seattle and the other destined for Denver. Cremin figured the radio gear was going to Coors Field. Wrong. He walked into the visiting clubhouse, looked for his cases full of radio stuff, and found nothing.

Now totally franctic, Cremin somehow found the equipment necessary to broadcast a baseball game.

And there was the night an earthquake rumbled through Seattle during a Mariners game at the Kingdome.

For some reason, the Oklahoman recognized what was happening, and blurted out — over the airwaves — “We’re having an earthquake, let’s get the (heck) out of here!”

The comment still ranks as one of the most memorable in Seattle broadcasting history.

— Jim Street


The Roster Doctor makes house call

Two weeks from today, the Mariners will play their regular-season opener against the Twins in Minneapolis.

As of this morning, there are 44 players in the big league camp competing for the 25 Opening Day roster spots. That means — my Butte Valley High School math teacher would insist — that there are 19 more players than openings.

Therefore, it’s time for another visit from the Roster Doctor for some Opening Day roster assistance.

The way the Doc sees it, the Mariners will open the season with 12 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders.

And so, without further adieu, here is the Doctor’s predicted Opening Day roster. And remember, don’t take this to the bank.

Pitchers (12)

Felix Hernandez
Erik Bedard
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Miguel Batista
David Aardsma
Roy Corcoran
Shawn Kelley
Mark Lowe
Cesar Jimenez
Garrett Olson

Comment: The Doctor expects right-hander Brandon Morrow to start the season on the 15-day disabled list and join Triple-A Tacoma, where he will build his arm strength to the point where he can throw 100 pitches on any given start. Also, the bullpen eventually will include right-handed closer Chad Cordero and left-handed setup man Tyler Johnson.

Catchers (2)

Kenji Johjima
Rob Johnson

Comment: With so many designated hitter candidates and Johnson having slightly better defensive skills, it appears that left-handed hitting Jeff Clement could be headed back to Tacoma.

Infielders (6)

Russell Branyan
Mike Sweeney
Jose Lopez
Yuniesky Betancourt
Ronny Cedeno
Adrian Beltre

Comment: Non-roster invitee Chris Shelton has had an outstanding camp and shown that he is a big-league hitter. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any room for him in Seattle.

Outfielders (5)

Ichiro Suzuki
Franklin Gutierrez
Ken Griffey Jr.
Endy Chavez
Wladimir Balentien

Comment: The Doctor believes it will come down to either Balentien or Mike Morse. Both are out of Minor League options and would have to clear waivers to be sent down. Balentien has more upside because he can play all three outfield positions a little better than Morse, who is a better overall hitter. The doctor (and myself) hope that if he doesn’t make it here, Morse gets a chance to play for a National League club. He would get far more at-bats and could become another Greg Dobbs.

Naturally, this is all predicated on the Mariners standing pat and not making any trades between now and Opening Day. GM Jack Zduriencik and his assistants are constantly on the lookout (and the phone) searching for ways to improve the team and a deal naturally would force the Roster Doctor to re-evaluate.

 — Jim Street

Wak eager for Classic reunion

The “real” Mariners team will soon be together for the first time this spring.

A foursome that played for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic — pitchers Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva, second baseman Jose Lopez and outfielder Endy Chavez — are expected to rejoin the Mariners on Monday at the Peoria Sports Complex. And, depending on how Japan does against Team USA in today’s semi-final at Dodger Stadium, catcher Kenji Johjima and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki could be in camp either Tuesday or Wednesday, which is an off-day.

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said that when the gang’s all here, it will be like starting over.

Things like bunt plays and relay drills must be covered as though it was the first two weeks of Spring Training, not the final two weeks of camp.

“The last week, especially, is going to be like light-speed,” the first-year manager said.

The Mariners, by the way, had more players (six) reach the Classic semi-finals than any other Major League organization. Not too shabby for a team that lost 101 games last season.

But it also means the Mariners have a lot more work from here on out to get ready for the regular-season opener on April 6 against the Twins.

On another subject, if you read anywhere that the Mariners are strongly considering moving right-hander Brandon Morrow back to the bullpen — never mind.

That is not the plan at all. If he is not ready to be in Seattle’s starting rotation on Opening Day he would be sent to the Minors to build his pitch-count into the 80- to 90-pitch range.

Ken Griffey Jr.’s first game in left field during the day on Saturday was a, well, challenge.

He said that he never saw any of the balls that were to left field until it was too late for him to catch any of them.

“It was worse against left-handed hitters,” he explained this morning. “The ball would disappear into the white shirts and I couldn’t see where they were hit. You could hear the sound, but couldn’t see the ball.”

Three balls were hit near the left field line and all three fell for hits — a triple and two singles.

“I kept telling Tui (third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo) to play deeper,” Griffe joked. “A lot deeper.”

The lineup for today’s game at Mesa against the Cubs:

1. Ronny Cedeno, 2B.

2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF.

3. Wladimir Balentien, LF.

4. Russell Branyan, 1B.

5. Mike Morse, 3B.

6. Mike Wilson, RF.

7. Jamie Burke, C.

8. Chris Woodward, SS.

9. Erik Bedard, P.

— Jim Street

Mariners send Vargas to Minors

There was one fewer left-handed pitchers on the field for this morning’s workout.

One day after starting against the Brewers, Jason Vargas was sent to the Minor Leagues.

Vargas, one of the six players acquired from the Mets last December for relievers J.J. Putz, Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed, figures to start the season in Triple-A Tacoma’s rotation.

“We talked to him today and there’s a lot of things that did impress us, like his athleticism and his ability to do some things with the ball,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “The biggest thing that we talked about was just the consistency, him having time off from the injury last yearr, that he needs to pitch. We see him as a strong starter.”I think for the organization, and for him right now, it’s best that he just goes down there and continues to start.”

Vargas, who pitched five innings on Friday, did his part to give the Mariners defense a chance to work on relay plays from the outfield.

Seattle threw three runners out at the plate.

“I was extremely happy with (the execution),” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “It turned the tide during the game. That’s why we work on things. The first-and-third defense, and the relay throw from Ronny (Cedeno), and how Rob (Johnson) blocked the plate, were great things. I don’t know if we’re going to come out and simulate the bingo numbers, it wasn’t ideal, but those are little things. You’d like to have your starting lineup in there and execute those things too, but it kind of shows some of the younger kids are doing it, too.”

Here is today’s starting lineup against the Athletics:

1. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS.

2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF.

3. Ken Griffey Jr., LF.

4. Mike Sweeney, DH.

5. Jeff Clement, C.

6. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B.

7. Chris Shelton, 1B.

8. Mike Morse, RF.

9. Reegie Corona, 2B.

P. LH Garrett Olson.

It is the first time Betancourt has batted leadoff this spring. Wonder if he’ll try to bunt for a hit.

— Jim Street