March 2009

Trio sent to the Minors

The weekend got off to a rotten start for three Mariners this morning.

Right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez, along with first basemen Bryan LaHair and Mike Carp, were sent to the Minor Leagues.

“With Gaby, we are at the point where I think we have seen…I have talked about this several times…I think he has the ability to be a strong starter in the big leagues,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “The rest is going to be up to him.”

That cut wasn’t a big surprise. But the departures of LaHair, especially, and Carp, registered high on the chopping block scale.

“I think, obviously, with the depth we have there at the major league level right now, at least the projected (depth) these are the guys that are unable to get the at-bats on a daily basis,” Wakamatsu said. “We have been trying all spring to be fair with thenm as far as playing them in left field so they could get at-bats.

“Our issues right now are trying to play Russell (Branyan) at first base as much as we can, getting him comfortabvle there. (Mike) Sweeney will be playing more over there, so we think it’s best to have those guys go down and continue their development.”

In other morning news:

* Right-hander Brandon Morrow threw a simulated game, which started at 11:30 a.m.

* Left-hander Tyler Johnson’s (shoulder tendinitis) was supposed to throw in the sim game, but was pushed back until Saturday.

* And right-handed reliever Roy Corcoran, sidelined with biceps tendinitis, will pitch in Saturday’s game against the Athletics.

— Jim Street

Tyson is that other No. 24

More than one player wearing No. 24 on his back has gotten some attention this spring.

The number was removed from mothballs last month when Ken Griffey Jr. decided to come back to his professional baseball roots in Seattle. Atlhough No. 24 never was “officially” retired, no one on the Major League roster wore it on the back of their jersey during Junior’s hiatus.

But that was not the case in the Minor Leagues.

And so, in several games Junior hasn’t played this spring, there is another No. 24 — worn by 20-year-old Tyson Gillies, the Mariners 25th round Draft choice in 2006 out of Kamloops, British Columbia.

And he has been noticed.

“He plays the game right,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “Pretty impressive.”

Gillies hasn’t had a locker in the big-league clubhouse the entire camp, but he keeps being invited to the games, and doing superbly, thank you. He’s batting .280, going 7-for-25 with two doubles and a triple. The dude is fast.

“We’re talking about a kid who was in rookie ball last year,” Wakamatsu said. “He offers an awful lot.  He’s an exciting young player. He’s played all three defensive (outfield) positions for us. That’s exciting to have.”

There’s a good chance of Gillies someday becoming a fixture in the Mariners outfield.

There’s no chance he will be wearing No. 24 when he gets here for good.

— Jim Street

Griffey plays Peoria

It is a beautiful night here at the old ballyard in Peoria for the P.M. version of the day-night doubleheader.

The Who is playing over the loudspeakers, but it’s the What that I have no idea what they’re singing.

The Ken Griffey Jr. coming out party in left field is about 30 minutes away and you can watch it on FOX Sports Northwest. Former Griffey teammate and third baseman extraordinaire Mike Blowers, a U-Dub product, will handle the analyst chores.

The night lineup has some names you will notice — Franklin “All Yours” Gutierrez (CF), Yuniesky  “Take none for the Team” Betancourt (SS), Ken “The Man” Griffey Jr. (LF); Adrian “The Hoover Dude” Beltre (3B); Russell “Banyan Tree” Branyan (1B); Mike “Sweetie” Sweeney (DH), Jeff “Roger’s Pal” Clement (C); Mike “Fence-buster” Wilson (RF); Chris “Woody II” Woodward.

And pitching will be left-hander Ryan “Upside-Down” Rowland-Smith.

— Jim Street

Lou stands in Juniors (left field) corner

The career stat sheet shows that Ken Griffey Jr. played one game in left field for the Mariners in 1997 and again in ’98, but finding someone who could remember either occasion was next to impossible today.

Lou Piniella, the manager both years, couldn’t remember and neither could Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus, who has been calling the action since the beginning of time (Mariners time, that is). His broadcast booth sidekick, Rick Rizzs, had no recollection.

But, according to those records, Junior has played three games in left field (including one start) for a total of eight innings during his 20-year MLB career, compared to two games at first base, 1,578 games in center field and 228 games in right field.

Piniella played his share of left field and says he believes Griffey will “do a fine job out there,” adding that the reunion in Seattle this summer will be fun for one and all. “It’s good for him and good for the fans.”

In the Did you Know portion of the blog, that Griffey and Piniella are the only employees in franchise history that have had attendance-related bonuses in their contracts?

— Jim Street

Roster sliced by 10

This just in: The Mariners sent 10 players to the Minor Leagues, including 34-year-old right-hander Denny Stark, who is trying to return to the big leagues following injury setbacks.

Stark was re-assigned to no specific roster, along with right-haned pitchers Eric Hull and Luis Munoz, left-handed pitcher Chris Sneddon and outfielders Freddy Guzman and Prentice Redman.

Pitchers Luis Pena and Justin Thomas were optioned to Triple-A Tacoma while right-handed pitchers Stephen Kahn and Marwin Vega.

— Jim Street

Lineup, as seen through this crystal ball

the group.JPG

It’s back to work here at Mariners Camp Central, following a day in the sun hitting that little Titleist around. Actually, several Titleists, but let’s not go there.

Two birdies, and one shoulda-been-a-birdie, along with several bogies, a couple double bogies, a near rattlesnake, a couple of cactuses and you get the picture. George the fore-caddie was a hoot, but there were five of us, so would that make him a “five-caddie?”

The Mariners clubhouse does not open until noon today because of a night game against the Royals in Surprise. Shortly after the doors open, I hope to get manager Don Wakamatsu to talk about how his lineup is shaping up for the April 6 regular-season opener against the Twins at the Metrodome — which launches it’s final season, and not a moment too soon.

I have seen regular season baseball games played there, World Series games played there (very loud) and football games played there. It is a nice place for a football game, but baseball? Not good.

Wak has not, by the way, asked me for my opinion on what his lineup should look like on Opening Day, but I will give mine anyway.

I am predicting that the Twins will start a right-hander, if and they do, this is what the lineup could look like:

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF. He hasn’t hit well in the World Baseball Classic, going 4-for-23 (.174) in Team Japan’s first five games, but I believe he’s just saving his hits for the regular season.

2. Jose Lopez, 2B. “Lopey” is the antithesis of Ichiro, going 8-for-16 in the Classic. I predict that he will become a .300 hitter for the first time in his MLB career in ’09.

3. Ken Griffey Jr., DH. The artificial turf will keep Griffey in the lineup as the DH for most, if not all, of the four-game series.

4. Adrian Beltre, 3B. Healthy left thumb: check. Healthy left shoulder: check. Full-speed ahead: check.

5. Russell Branyan, 1B. Short baggy wall in right field could be right up his ally.

6. Kenji Johjima, C. His primary job is to get on the same page as his pitchers. Offense takes a back seat.

7. Endy Chavez, LF. Gives the Mariners a second leadoff hitter in the lineup.

8. Franklin Gutierrez, CF. Focus will be on his defense, but this guy also can hit.

9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS. If he pretends that he’s the No. 2 hitter, good things can happen. But he needs better focus, on offense and defense.

And there you have it. Well, almost.

My starting pitcher: Right-hander Felix Hernandez.

And while I’m thinking about it, what in the world is Chipper Jones thinking? He must have gone to the John Rocker “Foot in Mouth Academy”, where, apparently, the main campus is located in downtown Atlanta. Toronto is a fabulous place to visit, shop, eat, walk, chat with the locals, eh, and take a ride to the top of the CNN Tower.   

— Jim Street

One small step at a time in the blog world

For the blog readers that responded to some of my recent blogs, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now that we have two obstacles removed — how I post them and how you answer them — the next step is for the blogger (that be me) to figure how to respond to your responses.

You really can teach old dogs new tricks, but it is difficult to teach someone who grew up using a typewriter (remember those?) all the ins and outs of this high-tech world of ours.

With any luck, I will figure it out sometime today — probably later today as this is a day off for the Mariners and a little white ball with “Titleist” on the side wants to be hit around the desert. And who am I to refuse such a request.

However, late last night I finished my off-day story on Ken Griffey Jr., discussing what lies ahead as he moves from designated hitter to left field sometime during the next week. He has played just eight innings at that position during his Hall of Fame career, and has some interesting observations, as does manager Don Wakamatsu.

The story should be posted on the Mariners Web site sometime this afternoon (PT) or early evening.

Have a good day and be chattin’ later.

— Jim Street

Feeling the P-I pain

It is never easy to say goodbye to a long-time colleague who finds himself, or herself, jobless.

It is especially difficult when that person works at a place that helped put your own kids through elementary school, high school and college.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer put food on my table, and a little wine in my glass, for nearly 14 years in the 1980s and ’90s, and the reality that the trademark P-I Globe no longer will be spinning, and more than 150 journalists — including John Hickey — no longer will be pontificating in print is a sad, sad day for a lot of people — inside and outside the sports world.

As might be expected, when Hickey-son received the news this morning that the P-I would be published for the final time on Tuesday, it had to feel like he had been struck out by a high, hard one delivered by Randy Johnson in his prime.

Best of luck to John, and the other P-I scribes who have worked so hard for so long (146 years worth) to make newspaper readers in the Northwest smarter, wiser and better informed.

Here’s a tip of the baseball cap to ’em all….

— Jim Street

Have blog, need reciprocal bloggers

Now is the time for all good bloggers to come to the aid of their mariners.com blogger.

If all goes well, interaction between the reader/writer (or blogger/blogger) would occur somewhere out there in the wide-open Internet world.

The ground rules are simple: I blog, you blog back, I blog again (when I have time, which is not a lot of, by the way).

If there’s a blog you really like, let me know. If there’s a blog you don’t like, complain and I will do my best not ignore it. Remember, critical comments make me, err, uhhh, well…tick.

The more comments you deliver, the merrier.

Directions: Take your cursor to “comments” and click; look for “sign in…”, put your curser on “sign” and click again. That should allow you to respond.

If not, call me a knucklehead.

Good luck.

— Jim Street

Kahn, Guzman exit

The Mariners reduced by one this morning the number of pitchers with a double-digit ERA.

Right-hander Stephen Kahn was re-assigned to the Minor League complex, lugging an 18.00 ERA compiled over four Cactus League appearances and “non-counting” games against the Padres in a charity game and Australia.

He ended up allowing four earned runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings with three walks and one strikeout.

In addition, infielder Freddy Guzman, who fractured his right hamate bone in an intrasquad game on Feb. 24, also was sent to the Minors.

Other roster moves are expected to be made at the end of the day, but will not be announced until manager Don Wakamatsu has had a chance to talk to the players involved. With Tuesday being an off day, the identities of the cuts might not be announced until Wednesday morning.

Kahn’s departure leaves eight pitchers with ERA’s higher than 10.

— Jim Street