November 2009

Jakubauskas waived, claimed by Pirates

Right-handed reliever Chris Jakubauskas received a phone call today that shocked the dickens out of him.

It was from the Mariners, who informed him that he had placed on waivers and claimed by the Pirates.

Major League teams faced a 9 o’clock (PT) deadline for setting their 40-man roster heading into the Winter Meetings next month and Jakubauskas was not on it.

He was told that it was unfortunate, but to protect another player, he had to be put on waivers.

“The game is what it is,” Jak said. “It’s a numbers game and my number is one that didn’t get called. It was kind of shocking. I didn’t see it coming. I guess bittersweet is the best way to describe it. I still have a job, but it’s tough when you develop so many friendships with another team and then have to leave.”

Jakubauskas, a product of Independent Leagues, reported to Spring Training last February as a non-roster invitee and a tiny chance of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. But he kept getting hitters out and landed a spot on the 25-man roster. He spent most of the season with Seattle, posting a 6-7 record and 5.32 ERA in 35 appearances, including eight starts.

His knowledge of Pittsburgh and the Pirates is limited, so Jakubauskas said he already has placed a call to former Buc shortstop Jack Wilson to get some information.

“It’s kind of an interesting way to start a weekend,” he added.

The Mariners will announce later today the updated version of the 40-man roster.

— Jim Street

A name to file away — Joe Dunigan

It’s a long way from Class A to the Major Leagues, but after the way outfielder Joe Dunigan performed in the Arizona Fall League, I would not be at all surprised if he reaches the big leagues much sooner than you might think.

I just returned from a couple of days in Peoria to watch and talk to the seven Mariners’ prospects who played for the West Division champion Javelinas and came away with a strong impression of the 22-year-old outfielder from Chicago.

Dunigan, selected in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was one of 55 players in the AFL this year that never played higher than Class A, and he shined big-time.

The left-handed hitter batted .280 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 at-bats, finishing among the team leaders in home runs and RBIs. Javelinas manager Kevin Bradshaw, a skipper in the Tigers organization, said Dunigan was the most improved player on his team, which will play for the AFL title on Saturday in Scottsdale.

Oh, Dunigan still has plenty of work to do before he’s MLB-ready — he made six errors in 22 games — but he seems to have a bright future.

Dunigan had a breakout season at Class-A High Desert last season, batting .294 with 30 home runs and 104 RBIs. He, Alex Liddi (.345, 23 home runs, 104 RBIs) and Carlos Peguero (.271, 31, 98) were the offensive stars on a team that went 83-57.

Dunigan said competing against older players, many with Triple-A and even some Major League experience, was a great experience.

“I don’t think the mechanics of my swing are any better, but my approach is much better,” he said. “What I have learned more than anything is the importance of the neck up. I go up there with a better approach, knowing that the pitchers are not going to throw a first-pitch ‘cookie’ down the middle just to get ahead in the count.”

I also talked to pitcher Josh Fields, who had a terrific AFL season. A story on him will be posted on the Mariners’ website later today and on Sunday, there will be a story on Bradshaw’s take on the seven Seattle prospects that played in the highly-regarded development league.

— Jim Street

A deal that keeps getting better

The  blockbuster trade GM Jack Zduriencik participated in during the Winter Meetings last year in Las Vegas hit another high point today when the Topps Company named West Tennessee outfielder Ezequel Carrera to its Double-A All-Star team.

Carrera was one of seven players the Mariners received in a three-team, 12-player swap that also landed Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians and left fielder Endy Chavez, along with Carrera and first baseman Mike Carp, from the Mets.

Carrera, 22, of Guiria Sucre, Venezuela, led the Southern League with a .337 batting average and a .441 on-base percentage,  becoming the first player in Diamond Jaxx history to win a league batting title.

He started the season on a tear, batting .357 in April and .344 clip in May before being sidelined with an ankle injury for the remainder of the month. Carrera returned to the lineup June 19 and shook off the rust quickly, batting .316 in 11 June games. On July 8, Carrera injured his right thumb and missed 18 games but returned on August 1 and batted .361 the remainder of the season.

— Jim Street

Sweeney not a Type B free agent

I just checked out some of the reader comments from the Inbox, which was posted on Wednesday, and BOS13759 wrote that he noticed on the Hot Stove ticker than Mike Sweeney is a Type B free agent.

So I pulled out the official list of free agents produced by the Major League Players Association (via the Elias Sports  Bureau) and Sweeney is not a Type A or Type B free agent.

Only Adrian Beltre and Erik Bedard are ranked, and both are Type B free agents.

— Jim Street

Wak: The right man(ager) won

If this had been a horse race, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu would have finished out of the money.

But he agreed that the right person won the American League Manager of the Year Award.

The voting results were announced today and Wakamatsu finished fourth behind the AL division winners – Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the Yankees Joe Girardi.

“There’s no doubt that Mike deserved it,” Wakamatsu said. “Teams that win, those are the guys that ought to be rewarded. ‘Scios” got my vote. (The Angels) had a lot of things happen, injuries and the tragic death of (Nick) Adenhart.

“I can only imagine how difficult it would have to be handling something like that. But he held that club together.”

And that was one of the main reasons he voted for the Angels manager.

It was interesting that three of the top five vote-getters were from the four-team AL West. Rangers skipper Ron Washington finished right behind Wakamatsu.

“For whatever it’s worth, our division had the most wins,” Wak said. “Everyone knew the Angels would be good and the Rangers were in striking distance for a lot of the season.”

The Rangers were in sole possession of first place from May 6 through June 23, and either led or shared the stop spot with the Angels until July 11 when the eventual division champions took over first place for good.

“The bottom line is that if you win, you deserve the award, and if you don’t, you did a nice job,” Wakamatsu said.

In case you were wondering, Lou Piniella is the only Mariners manager to be selected as Manager of the Year. He won the award in 1995 and in 2001.

— Jim Street

Sigh, Felix finishes second in Cy race

The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez was the runner-up to Zack Greinke in the Cy Young Award race, receiving 80 points and two first-place votes.  The Tigers’ Justin Verlander picked up the other first-place vote.  The Yankees’ CC Sabathia and the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay also picked up votes.

The 26-year old Greinke was named first on 25 ballots and second on three ballots of the 28 total ballots cast by two writers in each American League city.  He received a total of 134 points, based on the 5-3-1 tabulations system for first, second and third-place votes. 

— Jim Street

All is well with Wetteland

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu returned the phone call I made to him last night regarding bullpen coach John Wettleland and the reports about such things as “mental health issue” and “potential suicide” were totally bogus.

Wak talked to Wetteland about an hour earlier and said, “He is doing great. There was a domestic dispute and things got blown way out of proportion.”

Wetteland and his wife, Michele, (as most couples occassionally do) had an argument and the coach’s blood pressure increased. Michele called police. Before long, the police and helicopters, along with neighbors and media were at the Wettleland house.

Wakamatsu, who also lives in the Dallas area, returned home late this morning after watching several Arizona Fall League games.

Jim Street

Let the postseason award season begin

The American League Gold Glove Award winners will be announced tomorrow and the Mariners are expected to have a least one player selected — right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

It would be Ichiro’s ninth consecutive selection, moving him within one of the franchise record held by Ken Griffey Jr. — 1990-99.

If I had a vote —  the managers and coaches are the voters– center fielder Franklin Gutierrez would get a Gold Glove, even at the expense of Ichiro. Gutierrez was, day-in and day-out, the best center fielder not named Torii Hunter in the AL this past season.

But only three outfielders are selected and having two players from the same team is rare. The last time it happened in the AL was in 2001 when Ichiro and Mike Cameron were selected. 

The Mariners also had two outfield Gold Glove winners in 1996, when Junior nabbed his fourth straight and Jay Buhner got his first (and only) Gold Glove. It was the first time teammates struck gold in the same year since 1981, when Dwayne Murphy and Rickey Henderson of the Athletics were awarded Gold Gloves for the defensive excellence.

I believe third baseman Adrian Beltre’s run of Gold Gloves will end at two straight seasons, although in my book he still ranks near the top among hot-corner defenders. The Rays’ Evan Longoria could get the nod, however. It probably didn’t help that Beltre, who did not wear a protective cup until it was too late, went on the disabled list after suffering a severely contused right testicle when hit by a bad-hop grounder.

Moving right along, ace right-hander Felix Hernandez figures to finish  behind Royals right-hander Zack Greinke in the AL Cy Young Award race — primarily because Greinke was good from Opening Day through the entire season, while Felix faltered coming out of the blocks. He was just 4-3 with a 4.13 ERA in mid-May.

My guess for AL manager of the year is Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, with Don Wakamatsu running a close second. Granted, the Angels had a better team on paper than the Mariners, but the horrible loss of pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed in a traffic accident several hours after pitching six shutout innings against the Athletics in Anaheim, gave Scioscia a challenge that (thankfully) no other skipper had to face.

Wak deserves kudos for taking a team that lost 101 games in ’08 to an 85-win team in ’09.

— Jim Street


Sweeney: It’s a go for 2010

I just got off the phone with Mike Sweeney and was correct in assuming that by filing for free agency on Thursday, he definitely intends to play baseball in 2010.

“My body feels great and I have the blessing of my wife to continue playing,” Sweeney said, adding that he would like to return to the Mariners. “Last year was the most fun I’ve ever had and it would be great to come back.

“But if they decide to go in another direction, I could understand it.”

Sweeney batted .281, hit eight home runs and drove in 34 runs while splitting the designated hitter duties with Ken Griffey Jr., whom Sweeney calls “June-bug” — don’t ask me why.

“If Oct. 4 was my last game in a Mariners uniform, it will be an unforgettable day,” he said. “To watch Felix win his 19th game, (David) Aardsma get his 35th save and Junior to get a hit in his last at-bat, and to be a part of the celebration on the field after the game was special.”

Sweeney might be the classiest guy in the Major Leagues and, along with Junior, turned a divided clubhouse the previous season into a virtual romper room, where players of all nationalities developed a strong chemistry.

While the 36-year-old Sweeney proved late last season that he still has game left, batting .354 with three home runs in September.

The fact Sweeney hasn’t heard from the Mariners suggests that he doesn’t fit into their 2010 plans, but he said the team still has two weeks for exclusive negotiating rights and he still might get a call.

If not, he’s prepared to move on — but never forget the ’09 season.

— Jim Street

The latest on Junior

I just talked to Ken Griffey Jr.’s agent Brian Goldberg via the telly and although he wouldn’t get into specifics, he said he expected to talk to Mariners officials in the next few days to discuss the possibility of Junior returning next season.

The last time the two sides talked was during the final weekend of the regular season in Seattle. Griffey has had a bone spur removed from his left knee.

General manager Jack Zduriencik has refused to discuss any ongoing — or otherwise — contract talks, but mentioned during his end-of-the-season session with reporters that Griffey’s contributions to the 85-win season were more than just the numbers — a .214 batting average, 19 home runs and 57 RBIs.

“We thought he would be a somewhat of an offensive producer for us,” Z-man said. “We needed a left-handed bat, but what he did in that clubhouse, and what he did with his presence, I think goes beyond what any of us expected.”

As someone who has known Junior since he signed with the Mariners in 1987 and covered him through the 1998 season, the Griffey in 2009 was nothing like the Junior in those days. He could be moody at any given time on any given day, but he was an absolute joy to be around the entire ’09 season and it rubbed off on everyone.

That reason alone seems to make it worthwhile bringing him back for at least one more season.

— Jim Street