September 2009

Stamp of approval awaits Ichiro

ichiro stamp.jpg

A stamp of approval from his country awaits Ichiro when he collects his 200th hit of the season. Several stamps, actually.

According to Kyodo News, the Japan Post Group will issue commemorative stamps featuring Ichiro when he records his Major League-record ninth consecutive 200-hit season,

To be issued by Japan Post Network Co., the postal service arm of the Japan Posts Group, the stamp set — a sheet containing 10 80 stamps, nine postal cards and a stamp holder — will be priced at 3,980, including shipping fees — about $43.00 U.S.

Post offices throughout Japan will accept advance orders for the stamps, beginning on the day after Ichiro’s 200th hit through Oct. 30.

Going into tonight’s game against the Angels, Ichiro ihas 196 hits this season and is on the verge of reaching another milestone. He reached the 2,000-hit mark on Sunday against the Athletics in Oakland.

But 200 would be a “bigger” number because no one in MLB history have had nine consecutive 200-hit seasons and only one other player, all-time hits leader Pete Rose, had more — 10.

— Jim Street

Morrows next start — vs. Rangers

Upon further review, which comes after a few other reviews, it appears that right-hander Brandon Morrow will actually start Friday night’s game for (drum roll, please) the Mariners.

The news, which was given to Tacoma News-Tribune scribe Larry LaRue by a club official this afternoon and just confirmed, comes about 24 hours after it was announced that Morrow would start for the Rainiers in their Pacific Coast League playoff game against the Sacramento River Cats. Club officials have been pondering for the past few days exactly where Morrow’s next outing would be.

Morrow, who posted a 5-3 record for Tacoma during his transition from reliever to starter (again), replaces lefty Luke French in the rotation.

French moves into the bullpen to help out a weary group of relievers. Sean White had an MRI exam today in Seattle to determine the cause of shoulder soreness; right-hander Chris Jakubauskas is not 100 percent healthy and still has a knot in the back of his right shoulder, and right-hander Miguel Batista lacks consistency. Well, good consistency, at least.

As for tonight’s lineup, here it is:

1. Ichiro, RF

2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

3. Jose Lopez, 2B

4. Ken Griffey Jr., DH

5. Adrian Beltre, 3B

6. Bill Hall, LF

7. Mike Carp, 1B

8. Kenji Johjima, C

9. Josh Wilson, SS

RHP — Ian Snell

— Jim Street

Talking playoffs and taking one on the chin

Every player begins the season hoping to extend his season into the playoffs.

Right-handed reliever Randy Messenger is no different, but he has no qualms whatsoever about being with the Mariners in Anaheim instead of being with the playoff-bound Tacoma Rainiers, the Pacific Coast League North Division champions.

Without Messenger’s 25-save contribution, the Rainiers probably would not be starting their best-of-five playoff series against the South Division champion Sacramento River Cats at Cheney Stadium tonight.

“You always miss playoff  baseball, but when you are higher up, it’s a lot easier to be away,” said Messenger, who was promoted on August 22. “I have watched them every night to keep tabs on everybody.”

He was a busy man on Monday, texting his congratulations “To everyone that I had their phone number.”

“I helped them out and they reminded me of that, but it’s awesome what they did.”

The Rainiers were 7 1/2 games behind first-place Colorado Springs with 17 games remaining. A 9-0 road trip catapulted them back into the race and the hot finish was capped by Monday afternoon’s division-clinching victory.

The message from Messenger to his former teammates is: “Congrats and keep it up.”

“I’m here now and don’t want to go back, unless I absolutely have to,” he said.

In the meantime, he’ll watch the Rainiers’ progress the best he can.

Back here in Anaheim, the Mariners took one on the chin last night, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Angels in 10 innings.

Speaking of taking one on the chin, Sei Shimoda, a Yomiuri Shimbun reporter covering Ichiro’s pursuit of 200 hits was assigned the seat next to me in the Angel Stadium press box.

It was not a lucky seat for him. Late in the game — Ichiro was 0-for-4 at the time — a ball was fouled straight back.

I saw the ball coming and it was coming fast. Jeff Evans of the Mariners P.R. staff, was sitting in the front row, ducked and put his hand up to either attempt to make a sensational one-handed catch, or defelct the  ball out of harm’s way. He did neither. The ball hit his index finger and continued its unimpeded flight to the second row.

I yelled “heads up!” and the guy next to me, who was typing, looked up — just in time for the ball to hit him directly in the jaw. An inch higher and it hits his nose and glasses. An inch lower and it hits his throat. Anyway, the ball ended up between our computers, so I picked it up.

Both Jeff and I were stunned that the direct hit didn’t knock the dude out. I mean we’re talking light’s out for awhile. In almost 40 years of covering baseball, I have never seen a fellow scribe get nailed that flush with a foul ball, but the writer with an  iron jaw just shrugged it off, though he did spend the remainder of the game with an ice-pack on his chin. He departed later with the baseball as a souvenir.

Yeah, I gave him the ball — but for a reasonable price.

— Jim Street

a big Hi from the Big A

It is about 3:30 p.m. and Angels Stadium is full of Angels.

The AL West leaders — and soon-to-be division champs for the fourth time in five years — are taking batting pracice. Standing just inside the right field line, though, is a player dressed in dark shirt, gray pants and his legs are going this way and that way.

It really hurts to watch Ichiro stretch, but he’s so darn limber at age 35.

Some of never could do some of the things he does.

The press box has playoff atmosphere. Most stations are occupied — by Japanes-based reporters. There must be a thousand of Far East scribes here. Well, maybe not that many, but I barely have room for my computer and scorebook.

The Japanese press are really friendly. Not sure they are talking to me, but they are saying “Hi” a lot.

Anyway, time to go down stairs to the clubhouse and catch up after being away from the team for the past four days.

— Jim Street

Triple-A Rainiers capture PCL division title

It is late afernoon here in Anaheim and I just checked MLB.com’s Minor League site (MiLB.com) and saw that the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers beat the socks off the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, 11-2, to capture the Pacific Coast League North Division championship.

Kudos to manager Daren Brown and his club, which went on a 9-0 road trip on its last trek to climb back into the PCL title hunt.

Left-hander Gaby Hernandez, acquired last year in the trade that sent Arthur Rhodes to the Marlins, won his sixth consecutive start in Monday’s winner-take-all game at Cheney Stadium. He tossed six solid innings for his seventh consecutive win overall.

Designated hitter Brad Nelson, left fielder Prentice Redman and Moore each had two RBIs in the clincher.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow, who contributed five wins to the Rainiers this season, is expected to re-join the Mariners later this week Arlington to start against the Rangers.

The Rainiers begin a best-of-five series against PCL South Division champ Sacramento, an Athletics affiliate, beginning on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, all eyes tomorrow night — and beyond — will be on Ichiro as he pursues a ninth consecutive 200-hit season, which would be a MLB record. He needs just five more hits and figures to get No. 200 on the road for the seventh time.

— Jim Street

Whos on first? Jose Lopez

I was in manager Don Wakamatsu’s office for a little chat this afternoon and the subject of his lineup for today’s series finale against the Angels came up.

“Who’s on first?” I asked.

“No, Who’s on second,” he responded.

Funny man, isn’t he?

The man manning first base today against the Angels is Jose Lopez.

“With (Scott) Kazmir pitching, I want to get as many right-handed bats in the lineup as I can,” Wakamatsu explained.

OK, with Lopez at first base, who’s playing second?

“Guess,” he said.

“Josh Wilson,” I said.

“Nope.”

“Jack Wilson,” I said.

“Nope.”

“Jack Hannahan?”

“Nope”.

Before getting to Ichiro, I said “Bill Hall.”

Bingo.

For the first time since being acquired from the Brewers, but not the first time in his career, Hall will play second base against the Angels.

“I wanted to see Billy Hall play a little second base,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s turned into kind of a super utility for us. I know he’s played in the past and he’s done a nice job over there.”

Meanwhile, right-hander Carlos Silva said he felt good about the way he threw in his one-inning outing for Class-A Everett on Tuesday night. He allowed three hits and two runs (one earned).

His next outing probably will come Thursday night with Triple-A Tacoma, where he will pitch one or two innings.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow is scheduled to make his final start for Tacoma on Sunday, but has some tightness in his right forearm.

Meanwhile, a perfectly good conversation was interrupted by none other than Ken Griffey Jr. He walked into the manager’s office armed with the latest versions of the “Junior Tie”. One was a picture of Ichiro’s face that someone said was from the cover of GQ magazine and the other one (both white silk ties, by the way) was of Ichiro’s dog, Ikkyz. 

— Jim Street

Pelekoudas submits resignation

When it came to the Major League’s “Blue Book”, which is full of rules and regulations, Lee Pelekoudas knew it like the back of his hand. Nothing got past him, and that’s one of the reasons he remained with the organization during the numerous general manager changes.

Going into the 995 American League Playoff Series against the Indians, he knew the rule that allowed a team to replace an injured pitcher with a healthy one, even if the healthy one had not been on the roster on August 31 — the usual deadline for post-season rosters. Because left-hander Greg Hibbard was on the disabled list, the Mariners were able to put him on the ALCS roster and then replace him with right-hander Bob Wolcott, who started Game 1 of the ALCS and defeated the Tribe.

Pelekoudas’ 30th year with the Mariners ended on Tuesday when he announced that he was leaving the organization to “pursue other career opportunties.”

He got a taste of what the life of a General Manager is like midway through last season, when Bill Bavasi was dismissed and Pelekoudas took over the GM duties on an interim basis. He made a couple of trades, sending lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes to the Marlins; dismissed then-manager John McLaren and — in perhaps his best move — released first baseman Richie Sexson.

I have known and worked with Lee for the past 23 years and he was among the most loyal employees in the building, both at the Kingdome and Safeco Field. That never changed. And neither did his hair — and that always amazed me. Same color, same shape, same lenghth as the day I met him.

Good luck down the road, wherever it leads.

— Jim Street