June 2009

Rain and reflections from The Bronx

yankee stadium rain.JPGme and yankee stadium 2.JPGNEW YORK — As the late, great Mel Allen would say, “How ’bout that?”

That is among the first impressions I got when I walked through the press gate door, past security, and then out of an elevator taking me to the press box at new Yankee Stadium.

It is some kinda place.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t look as big as I thought it would. There are six levels of seats from right field to left field and I am sitting in the second level, overlooking the huge scoreboard in center field. I wonder if my wife, Becky, would allow me to purchase a big-screen, HD screen like the one in CF.

My seat is just to the left of home plate, or, as they say on the South Side of Chicago, a seat where a writer can actually “see the game” as opposed to sitting far down the right field line. I have been there once and promised myself never to go back there again, unless the Mariners are playing the White Sox in the playoffs. That’s not likely. The Sox aren’t very good.

A tear or two were shed on my final stop on the subway. Old Yankee Stadium is still standing, looking like a grand old lady getting ready for the wrecking ball to show up at any time. The grass inside the facility is gone and the outside walls are covered with a a netting material that will be used, I guess, to keep the demolition from hurting someone nearby. It looks small to the new Yankee Stadium.

The walk between the two stadiums to the Gate 4 press entrance brought back memories of 1971, when I first walked into the old Yankee Stadium. Now, that was something special. The metal braces that restricted the view of many seats were there, and there must have been 30 or 40 of them. The press box was small and the elevators were slow.

The dining room and working area were hubs of activity and it was a lot easier to work in the workroom after the game than take the slow elevator back to the press box.

The really old Yankee Stadium had the facade all the way around the stadium, just like this new one. The newer-than-the-old one but older-than-the-new one stadium lacked most of the facade.

First impressions are good. Now, it’s down to the clubhouse to get some work done — and more pictures to take.

As you call tell, it is raining here, which canceled the Mariners batting practice. The Yankees got the pre-game swings in, but the heavens opened up around 5:05, about 15  minutres before the Mariners were supposed to stretch. Manager Don Wakamatsu called it “home field advantage.”

The first post-Beltre lineup has been posted and, as expected, Chris Woodward is manning the hot corner in tonight’s series opener against the Yankees.

The lineup:

1. Ichiro, R

2. Russell Branyan, 1B

3. Jose Lopez, 2B

4. Ken Griffey Jr., LF

5. Mike Sweeney, DH

6. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

7. Chris Woodward, 3B

8. Kenji Johjima, C

9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

P. Brandon Morrow

 

— Jim Street

Random thoughts from the press box

It is Saturday afternoon at the old ballpark (the third-oldest in the Major Leagues) and I feel fortunate to have driven back and forth from my hotel headquarters and not been 1) rear-ended or 2) stopped by a policeman for not coming to a  complete stop at a stop sign.

It has been a tough driving weekend for my esteemed colleagues Larry LaRue and Larry Stone. I have reached the conclusion that they are 1) good writers and 2) lousy drivers.

Early batting practice just ended and Bruce Hines has left the mound. He seemed to be overpowering Wladimir Balentien, who might have been working on something which caused a few too many balls from leaving the batting cage. Either that or Hines has some good stuff.

Stoney is a long-time Dodgers fanatic and life-long fan of Sandy Koufax. So I just took a picture of him (Larry, not Sandy) in front of one of the paintings outside the press box. Stoney reciprocated by taking my photo with Duke Snider, my all-time hero, next to my dad.

By the way, my fellow scribe talked (begged?) his way out of getting a ticket and my other esteemed colleague is feelilng better after the rear-ender. His new nickname is “nails” as in — he’s as tough as nails.

Not really, but don’t tell him.

The clubhouse beckons, so better get back to work. I think Junior wants to give me an exclusive interview.

Tough day for Stoney, the best baseball scribe at the Seattle Times — by far. He stopped Griffey at mid-sentence in the clubhouse. Junior was pontificating about which outfield alignment he prefers when, he stopped, looked at Stoney and said: “Is your shirt turned inside-out?”

Yes it was.  

And now for the Mariners starting lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF

2. Russell Branyan, 1B

3. Adrian Beltre, 3B

4. Ken Griffey Jr., LF

5. Jose Lopez, 2B

6. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

7. Rob Johnson, C

8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

9. Felix Hernandez

— Jim Street

Kenji comes back, Burke moves on

Welcome from Dodger Stadium, the home of the second-best announcer in the business.

As expected, catcher Kenji Johjima was activated from the 15-day disabled list today and Jamie Burke was designated for assignment for the third time this season.

He might lead the league in that department. Burke now must wait up to 10 days to figure out when and where he’ll be playing again. My guess is that he will clear waivers and be outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma.

Dodger Stadium celebrates its 47th birthday this year, and she looks a lot younger than your favorite blogger. There are six levels of seats here, but the elevator goes all the way up to nine. Can’t quite figure that one out.

The first inning went well for lefty starter Jason Vargas. Three up, three down.

The second inning has not gone well for Vargas. Five up, four on, three in on Andre Ethier’s 12th home run. Three runs is a lot for the Mariners, who have neither Ken Griffey Jr. or Mike Sweeney in the lineup.

The inning just ended with Vargas fielding a bunt and turning it into an inning-ending double play.

 

— Jim Street

Beltre spurns spurs

The left shoulder that third baseman Adrian Beltre had surgery on last September is giving him trouble again.

Manager Don Wakamatsu noticed that Beltre’s left hand came off the bat during one of his at-bats during Tuesday night’s game against the Padres and removed his third-sacker for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.

The Mariners were trailing 9-4 at the time and eventually lost the game, 9-7.

Beltre was back in the lineup tonight despite bone spurs in his shoulder. The problem appears similar to what he went through last season, although it was his left thumb that caused him more discomfort than the shoulder.

Both were surgically repaired on the same day by two different doctors.

Removing bone spurs is no guarantee that they won’t return and that’s what happened in this case.

Beltre’s playing time going forward probably depends on how much pain he can take and he has proven to be able to play with a lot of pain.

That pain was evident in the fourth inning when Beltre lunged to his right to backhand a line drive hit by Padres left fielder Scott Hairston.

Beltre, a two-time Gold Glove winner with the Mariners, caught the ball but winced as he did it.

Fingers are crossed that Beltre won’t need surgery any time soon, but their chances of catching and passing either the Angels and/or Rangers would be enhanced with a healthy Beltre.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow’s work is finished for the night.

He held the Padres to six hits and three runs, walking one and striking out four over five innings and 87 pitches. He could have thrown up to 95 pitches, but Wakamatsu and pitching coach Rick Adair were more than satisfied with five innings. 

It was an improvement over this first two outings as a starter, though the run he surrendered in the fifth inning erased the one-run lead Russell Branyan provided with a towering three-run home run to straightaway center field in the second inning.

— Jim Street

Rowland-Smith rides the Tacoma shuttle

Ryan Rowland-Smith’s rehab program has ended, but he’s not returning to the Mariners pitching staff.

He was activated from the 15-day disabled list today, recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and optioned back to the Rainiers and will start tonight’s game at Cheney Stadium. Exactly when he’ll climb aboard the Tacama-Seattle shuttle again is uncertain. 

Rowland-Smith was originally placed on the 15-day disabled list April 15, retroactive to April 11, with triceps tendonitis.

He began rehabilitation assignment prior to his start in Tacoma on May 23 and made five starts with the Rainiers, posting a 1-3 record with a 6.92 ERA.

Of the 20 earned runs he surrendered, 12 of them came in one game — against the Reno Aces on June 5.

Also, as we speak, right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley is throwing a simulated game. Mike Carp is among the hitters taking their cuts.

It just finished, Kelley walked off the mound and shooks hands with pitching coach Rick Adair,a good sign.

Kelley’s next stop could be Tacoma for a rehab assignment. He has been out of action for more than five weeks with a straight left oblique.

The Maniners starting lineup has been posted and it is a lot different than the one used in the series finale against the Padres.

Here it is:

1. Ichiro, RF

2. Russell Branyan, 1B

3. Adrian Beltre, 3B

4. Ken Griffey Jr.

5. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

6. Wladimir Balentien, LF

7. Rob Johnson, C

8. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

9. Ronny Cedeno, 2B

— Jim Street

Chavez out for the season

Say goodbye to outfielder Endy Chavez for the remainder of the season.

The way he was grimacing and rolling around on the turf in shallow left field on Friday night was the first sign that his right knee was badly damaged during a collision with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and an MRI exam disclosed the seriousness of the injury.

“He ended up tearing his ACL,” manager Don Wakamatsu told the media prior to tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks. “They will wait until the swelling goes down and then he will have surgery and more than likely be out for the whole year.”

It’s a tough break for the Mariners, who have their best defensive outfield in the game with chavez in left field, Franklin Gutierrez in center and Ichiro in right, but a devasting blow to Chavez. He’s a likeable guy with a smile on his face most of the time.

He filled in admirably for the disabled Ichiro the first eight games of the season, batting in Ichiro’s leadoff spot. He batted .394 and had at least one hit the first 10 games he played.

Chavez was batting .273 with two home runs, 13 RBIs and nine stolen bases when he was injured.

Endy will be missed.

“It will affect our depth, obviously, and take away a left-handed bat,” Wakamatsu said. “Here’s a guy that showed us he can get on base and function up here. His defense. There are several factors why we liked him on the club, including his leadership with the Latin players.”

To replace Chavez on the roster, the Mariners promoted infielder Josh Wilson from the Minors. He is in uniform for tonight’s game.

The injury to Chavez gives Wladimir Balentien a chance to step up and prove he belongs in the big leagues.

He has been a disappointment, batting just .223 with one home run and six RBIs in 112 at-bats.

“we have given Balentien a couple of opportunites this year to see if he can be the kind of player we think he can be,” Wakamatsu said. “If not, we’ll have to make some changes.”

In other news today:

*Catcher Kenji Johjima is scheduled to play five innings and get two at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma tonight in a rehab game.

*Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley threw his second bullpen and could be going to Tacoma on a rehab assignment in the next few days. Look for him to rejoin the Mariners around the All-Star break next month.

— Jim Street

Lopez goes on bereavement list

Second baseman Jose Lopez was placed on the Major League bereavement list this morning and replaced on the 25-man roster by Chris Woodward, who was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma.

Woodward is in uniform for today’s series finale against the Padres. To make room for Woodward, the Mariners transferred pitcher Carlos Silva to the 60-day disabled list.

It was not immediately known how long Lopez would be away from the team. He becomes the second player in the past week to go on the bereavement list. Catcher Rob Johnson went on the list after his mother-in-law was killed in a traffic accident near Houston. He rejoined the  the team today, but was not in the starting lineup.

In addition, first baseman Russell Branyan returned to Georgia to attend the funeral of his grandfather.

Left-hander Erik Bedard is being examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles this morning and will have an MRI on his shoulder at 1:30 this afternoon, manager Don Wakamatsu said in his pre-game media briefing.

— Jim Street

Carp in uniform, Bedard on DL?

It’s a lovely day here in San Diego and the Mariners are taking some early batting practice.

Junior’s there, along with Ronny Cedeno, Franklin “Tape Measure” Gutierrez, Wladimir Balentien, Kenji Johjima, Guillermo Quiroz and. . .a blond-headed left-handed hitter. Why, it looks like Mike Carp.

It is Mike Carp.

Nothing has been announced as yet, but I am guessing that left-hander Erik Bedard will go on the 15-day disabled list. He missed his last start.

— Jim Street

Big day for Ackley, Seager

Tom McNamara must have a big smile on his face.

The Mariners’ amateur scouting director selected the right side of the North Carolina infield — first baseman Dustin Ackley and second baseman Kyle Seager — with two of his first four Draft selections last week and both had big days today at the College World Series in Omaha.

Ackley went 5-for-6 witha double and three RBIs and Seager was 2-for-4 with a home run in the Tar Heels’ 11-4 victory over Southern Mississippi in an elimination game.

Ackley, the Mariners’ first-round pick and the second player chosen in the First-Year Player Draft, needed a hit in his final at-bat to tie a CWS record for most hits in a game. He lined out to left field.

Dustin Ackley went 5-for-6 in UNC’s win today over Southern Miss, fellow Mariners draftee Kyle Seager was 2-for-4 with a homer in the win.

“I’ve been impressed,” manager Don Wakamatsu said of Ackley. “I saw couple of the highlight hits and even before the Draft I saw his tapes. What probably impressed me more than anything is he attacks. He gets into a hitting position and ready to hit and his ability to hit to all fields, but even more so with his interviews. He’s a pretty mature, sharp kid.”

Ackley now has 27 hits in 14 CWS games with at least one game remaining. The left-handed-batting first baseman has at least one hit in 21 consecutive tournament games since 2007, hit a third-inning single to break the record of 24 career hits by Stanford’s Sam Fuld (2001-03).

— Jim Street

Tracking the CWS — Ackley, specifically

This is a day for divided attention.

While the Mariners are playing the Rockies in the three-game series finale, there is action going on elsewhere on my computer — the College World Series in Omah where today’s action is highlighted by the Arizona State-North Carolina game.

As you know — I told you all about it non-exclusively last week — the Mariners selected three Tar Heel players, including first baseman Dustin Ackley, the second choice overall in the 50-round Draft.

The CWS game just ended and Arizona State won, 5-2, thanks for a four-run rally in the 10th inning off Brian Moran, the Mariners’ 41st-round Draft choice. Ackley went  2-for-5 and third baseman Kyle Seager, Seattle’s third-round selection, was 2-for-4 with a walk.

Meanwhile, back in Denver, the game has been stopped in the sixth inning due to a tornado warning. The Mariners are behind 7-1, thanks mostly to a five-run Rockies rally in the fifth inning.

It didn’t rain much, there were no tornadoes and now the tarp is off. Game is about to resume.

— Jim Street