August 2009

All eyes on Ichiro

I just walked into the press box at Safeco Field and the left section of the press box is jammed with the Japanes media that cover Ichiro and Kenji Johjima on a daily basis.

Being a “something-is-up” kind of reporter, seeing the Japanese media at the park this early told me something is up.

And sure enough, out there standing near the line in right field, is Ichiro, a trainer and an interpeter.

The Japanese writers are taking it all down. Ichiro jogs. Ichiro jogs a little faster. Ichiro slows down. Ichiro speeds up. Ichiro stretches. Ichiro is stretching his left leg, his right leg, and now both legs and doing something that I really can’t describe. But it hurts just watching.

It must be tough covering one or two players on the team. Meanwhile, Two cameras are whirling away, also following every move Ichiro makes. Film at 11, or later.

As you know, Ichiro has not played in five games because of a sore left calf and is not listed in tonight’s starting lineup. He remains 16 hits shy of the 200 mark, which would make him the first player in MLB history to have at least 200 hits in nine consecutive seasons.

We’ll check with manager Don Wakamatsu in about an hour and get back to you on Ichiro’s up-to-date status.

Meanwhile, first baseman Russell Branyan, who departed Friday night’s game with a sore back, is not in the lineup. Jack Hannahan will make his first start of the season at first.

The pre-game chat with Wak has ended and here’s an update on the Mariners’ walking wounded:

*Ichiro remains day-to-day but participated in pre-game batting practice. The Mariners want to make sure his calf is 100 percent before putting him back in the lineup. They are concerned if he comes  back too soon he could miss significantly more time if he reinjures it.

*Third baseman Adrian Beltre is pencilled in to play again next Tuesday night against the Angels.

*Ken Griffey Jr. got the night off to give his knee some rest. He could be back in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale.

*First baseman Russell Branyan had an MRI on his back earlier today and he’s listed as day-to-day. He has had various back ailments for much of the season and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners promote Mike Carp from Triple-A Tacoma in the next few days.

— Jim Street

Adair takes on the pros — golfers, that is

The Boeing Classic is being played in Snoqualmie this weekend,and three of the players in the Champions Tour event are at Safeco Field for a closest-to-the-pin contest.

First up is Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair, a fine golfer, indeed — but not quite as good as his son.

Adair hit the first ball to the right of the pin, the second to the left of the pin and the third one just short of the pin. I have seen him putt and he would have had three birdies.

Andy Bean’s first shot was a little right of the target, the second one right at it, but long, and third one a bit left. His best shot was 8 feet 2 inches away. Closest so far.

Jim Thorpe is up next. . .and he skulled one..yikes!!! The second shot is sweet, reminding me of one of Kirby Arnold’s typical shots — majestic. Kirby, by the way, is old enough to be on the Champions Tour.

Now it’s Fred Funk’s turn. Short. Short. And a good one. But it’s 8 feet, 6 inches away and we have a winner — Andy Bean. For winning, Bean gets a green jacket — a slightly different shade of green than the one they hand out in Augusta.

The senior will be playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Snoqualmie.

— Jim Street

An exciting AFL season looms

Among the good things about spending the off-season in Tucson (sunny days are nice) is the proximity to the Arizona Fall League.

A two-hour drive to the Phoenix area is a piece of cake and the AFL promises to be full of good stories this year. The Mariners are sending seven of their top Minor League prospects to the Peoria Javelinas and each one has their own interesting story to tell.

I am looking forward to seeing Dustin Ackley play in a game, seeing how right-handers Phillippe Aumont and Josh Fields perform in relief and also get re-acquainted with infielder Carlos Truinfel, who suffered a broken leg the first week of the regular season at Double-A West Tennessee, and young pitchers Nick Hill — the former Army Cadet — Anthony Varvarro and outfielder Joseph Dunigan.

Fans living in Mariner Nation could do a lot worse than take a quick trip to the Valley of the Sun and check out the next generation of Mariners. Crowds are small, the weather is great and most games are played at night, which leaves most of the day for such things as golf.

For further info on the Arizona Fall League, which begins its 18th season on Oct. 13, check out the AFL homepage via MLB.com.

Speaking of Ackely, he makes his Mariners’ “debut” on Monday afternoon when he works out with the team at Safeco Field. It would be a nice gesture if the organization opens the gates a little earlier than usual so fans could watch the new kid on the block get take BP. Just a thought.

From what I have been told, Ackley probably will be held back for the final group of hitters, which begin their BP at 5:15. Gates open at 5:05, meaning fans can watch Ackley’s first swings as a pro.

— Jim Street

A peculiar infield drill

There is a unique drill taking place before my very eyes.

Infield/third base coach Bruce Hines is down on one knee hitting grounders to shortstops Jack and Josh Wilson, who also are on their knees on the grass in front of their position.

Each player catches the ball on his knees stays on his knees and throws to first base, which is occupied by Ryan Langerhans.

The drill has now changed. Everyone is on their feet — and the infielders apparently at not allowed to move their feet while catching grounders hit at them.

Gotta check that out and will get back to ya.

Just talked to Wilson — Josh, that is — and he explained that both he and Jack Wilson worked with Perry Hill in Pittsburgh and Josh with Hill in Florida and found the drill to be helpful.

“It’s a thing where you take your feet out of it and concentrate on working the hands,” Josh said. “You follow the ball much better and really helps you keep you eye on the ball. You have really focus and stay locked in.”

He said the infielders take from 10 to 15 grounders on their knees and another 10 to 15 while on their feet.

“This is the first time we’ve done that here. Jack wanted to do it and I did it a lot this season in Spring Training. I’ve been doing this drill for the last five or six years.”

The big news coming out of the pre-game was Ichiro. He’s not in the starting lineup because of a sore left calf and is listed as day-to-day. Ichiro has 184 hits this season and is trying to become the first player in MLB history to have nine consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits.

Franklin Gutierrez is batting leadoff in tonight’s game against the Athletics.

The lineup:

Gutierrez CF,

Russell Branyan, 1B

Jose Lopez, 2B

Ken Griffey Jr., DH

Bill Hall, RF

Kenji Johjima, C

Jack Hannahan, 3B

Jack Wilson, SS

Michael Saunders, LF

— Jim Street

 

Hall in Motown, Kenji behind the plate

The newest Mariner has arrived, but he’s not in the starting lineup for today’s series finale against the Tigers.

Bill Hall, acquired from the Brewers on Wednesday, checked into the team’s hotel headquarters outside Detroit in the wee hours of the morning and took the second of two team buses to Comerica Park.

He will will use his first official day as a Mariner getting acquainted with his new teammates and probably make his debut this weekend in Cleveland either Friday or Saturday. The Indians have left-handers scheduled to start the first two games of the three-game series.

As Hall comes in, left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson goes out. He was sent to Triple-A Tacoma to make room on the roster for Hall. The game plan is for Olson to become part of the Tacoma starting rotation and join the Mariners in September, when MLB rosters can be expanded.

Olson had a 3-5 record and 5.88 ERA in 24 appearances, including 11 starts, with Seattle this season.

While it wasn’t a big surprise that Hall isn’t in today’s lineup against former Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn, catcher Rob Johnson was not in the lineup as expected. Manager Don Wakamatsu said he liked the matchup “both offensively and defensively” with Joh behind the plate. That puts a major crimp on his plans to face his former batterymate, Jarrod Washburn, for the first time and get a different perspective of the “dolphin” pitch Washburn throws.

Kenji Johjima will start at catcher.

Wakamatsu also moved Franklin Gutierrez back into the No. 2 hole and moved Russell Branyan to fifth. Branyan has been scuffling and struck out four times in Wednesday night’s game.

Branyan has whiffed at least once in his last 11 games and 21 times overall in that time period.

— Jim Street

Mariners land Bill Hall

It isn’t exactly official quite yet, but the Mariners apparently have acquired infielder Bill Hall from the Brewers for Minor League pitcher Ruben Flores, a 12th round Draft choice in 2003.

Hall, who hit 35 home runs for the Brewers two years ago but has slumped this season, was recently designated for assignment.

He could join the Mariners as early as Thursday in Detroit.

Stay tuned for more details.

The question isn’t so much who’s on first for the Mariners, but who’s in the first-base coaching box.

A position normally manned by Lee Tinsley will be occupied by Tim Tolman.

Tinsley returned to his Scottsdale home to be with his wife and new daughter, who was born on Tuesday night.

Tolman, the organization’s Minor League coordinator of instruction, was at his home in Tucson early Tuesday afternoon having lunch when he received a call telling him to catch a flight to Detroit.

He drove to Phoenix, took a red-eye and arrived in Detroit around 5:30 this morning.

Tolman said it has been around two years since he was in a Major League coaching box, but feels comfortable pinch-hitting for Tinsley for a few days. He probably will be with the team for the Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Tigers and the three-game series against the Indians starting Friday night in Cleveland.

— Jim Street

Stitch n Pitch returns

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, grab your stitching paraphernalia and get ready for another “Stitch ‘N Pitch” night at Safeco Field.

The Fifth Annual Stitch ‘n Pitch promotion, which started at Safeco Field in 2005 and has spread across Major League Baseball, returns next Thursday night against the Royals.

Deborah Norville, award-winning journalist and anchor of the TV news magazine Inside Edition, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Norville is an avid knitter who has a book of knitting patterns (Knit with Deborah Norville) and a line of yarn (The Deborah Norville Collection) in four weights from Premier Yarns.  During the game, Norville will sign copies of her book at the Pacific Fabrics booth on the Upper Concourse of the ballpark.  Pacific Fabrics will also have a selection of Norville’s yarn for sale.

Discounted tickets can be purchased online at www.mariners.com/stitch or in person at the following Seattle area yarn shops:

Pacific Fabrics & Crafts (6 locations); Village Yarn & Tea Shop, 19500 Ballinger Way NE, Shoreline; Seattle Yarn, 5633 California Ave. SW; So Much Yarn, 2107 Elliott Ave., downtown Seattle; Bad Woman Yarn, 1815 N. 45th, Seattle; Tricoter, 3121 E. Madison St., Seattle.  For groups of 40 or more, tickets can be purchased by calling 206-346- 4519.  Tickets must be purchased by 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

The first 3,000 ticket buyers will be able to redeem their tickets at Safeco Field for a free Stitch ‘n Pitch tote, perfect for transporting small projects and knitting accessories.

A number of yarn and craft shops and fiber arts organizations from around the Puget Sound area will be at Safeco Field with samples, coupons, patterns and kits for sale, class schedules, and assistance from “Designated Knitters” and “Stitch Doctors.”

 

— Jim Street

 

Tight hammy keeps Jack Wilson out of lineup

The lineups are out and the Mariners still are without shortstop Jack Wilson.

He continues to be sidelined with a tight left hamstring, which has kept him idle since the third inning of last Wednesday’s series finale against the White Sox at Safeco Field.

He had hoped to be in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Tigers, but he said the hammy is still “tight” and he remains on a “day-to-day” situation.

“It’s getting better but at the same time it’s one of those things that you want to make sure it goes away. Don’t want to come back too soon kind of deal,” he said.

And so the other J. Wilson was on the lineup card — Josh Wilson.

The lineups:

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki, RF

Russell Branyan, 1B

Jose Lopez, 2B

Ken Griffey Jr., DH

Franklin Gutierrez, CF

Jack Hannahan, 3B

Rob Johnson, C

Ryan Langerhans, LF

Josh Wilson, SS

Felix Hernandez, RHP

Tigers:

Curtis Granderson, CF

Placido Polanco, 2B

Miguel Cabrera, 1B

Aubrey Huff, DH

Clete Thomas, RF

Brandon Inge, 3B

Alex Avila, C

Adam Everett, SS

Rick Porcello, RHP

Z-man mum on unsigned Draft choices

General manager Jack Zduriencik steadfastly refuses to discuss the upcoming signing deadline for players the Mariners selected in the First-Year Player Draft.

As of tonight, the top two choices — oufielder Dustin Ackley, from the University of North Carolina, and infielder Nick Franklin from the same Florida high school that produced the likes of former Mariners catcher Jason Varitek — remain unsigned.

Both must be signed by 9 p.m. PT on Monday.

Ackley, the second player selected in the June Draft, is being “advised”  by agent Scott Boras, who historically waits until the last minute to get his top Drafdt clients under contract. That’s just the way he does business. So even if Ackley and the Mariners reach a contract agreement, I doubt that it will happen until a few minutes before the deadline.

On the other hand, Franklin was spotted in the Mariners dugout this afternoon by eagle-eye reporter Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald. Franklin’s in town for a physical, a sure sign that an agreement in principal has been reached.

Franklin was the 27th player selected in the Draft and the first of two compensation picks Seattle received for losing outfielder Raul Ibanez to free agency.

The 6-foot-1 Franklin has a college scholarship offer from Auburn sitting on the table.

Meanwnile, down on the farm, word just came in that right-hander Brandon Morrow pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout tonight for Triple-A Tacoma.

— Jim Street

Good news for Beltre, bad news for Bedard

The medical news on third baseman Adrian Beltre is good, but not so good for left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard.

Beltre, who suffered a “severely contused right testicle” in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, was examined by a specialist on Friday and surgery will not be necessary. Beltre has been told to have complete rest for a week and then resume baseball-related activities.

It would appear that the chances are good that he can return when his time on 15-day disabled list expires.

Meanwhile, Bedard is out for the season.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder this morning and Dr. Lewis Yocum discovered that Bedard’s labrum was torn — a serious injury for a pitcher. Bedard will be in a sling for about three weeks and faces a six-month recovery period. In addition, but less serious, there was inflammation in his bursa.

Though the injury is not career-threatening, Bedard becomes eligible for free agency at the end of the World Series and might have thrown his final pitch for the Mariners.

Further details will be announced later today.

— Jim Street