February 2010

Felix slowed down just a bit, but no big deal

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Another rainy day shortened Sundays’s workout at the soggy complex.

Lightning lit up an overcast sky around midnight, followed by rumbles of thunder, and yet another storm rolled through the valley, the fourth time since camp opened on Feb. 18 that the daily sked had to be altered, though this was the first time since the full-squad began workouts on Thursday.

Afterwards, manager Don Wakamatsu said ace right-hander Felix Hernandez would have his workload scaled back a bit. Felix was scheduled to throw a bullpen session today, but played long-toss instead.

Hernandez’s work schedule was altered a bit after his first bullpen session. “I thought his first bullpen was about 100 mph,” Wakamatsu said. “It looked like he was getting ready to pitch the season opener in the first bullpen.”

Therefore, the simulated game set for Thursday has been scratched, but that’s not big deal, according to Wakamatsu and Hernandez.

The game plan is for both Felix and left-hander Cliff Lee to throw about 25 innings this spring.

Meanwhile, Wakamatsu is not a big fan of “B” games and none have been scheduled for this spring. But that might change.

“If this rain keeps up, we might have some (“B” games),” he said this morning, adding that “B” games are for pitchers and there are so few pitching spots open in this camp that extra innings are not needed.

“There are guys pitching-wise in this camp that don’t have a chance to make our club,” he said, “and it doesn’t make any sense to have them pitch in ‘B’ games in order to say he has thrown enough innings to have a legitimate shot.”

In other news, here are a couple of photos shot during yesterday’s FanFest at Peoria Stadium.

Not sure if anyone took the young lady up on her offer and I can only imagine what is going through this young man’s mind as he looked into the window in front of my workspace in the media room at the complex.

I figured he must have asked his mom to take him to the zoo, and the closest she could come was showing him the animals in the media room.

Broadcasters Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs checked into camp this morning to prepare for a slightly busier schedule than a year ago — the Mariners’ first with ESPN 710. Not counting the two split-squad dates (on March 8 and March 25), 22 of 31 games can be heard on the Mariners radio network, compared to 20-of-35 last year.  

— Jim Street

 

A touch of class in Peoria

 

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There is nothing in GM Jack Zduriencik’s contract that requires him to take a few minutes from his busy day to sign a few autographs.

But a regular sight at the Peoria Sports Complex is the Z-man walking a few extra steps on his way into the offices to stop and put his signature on a ball, picture, or whatever.

The early-arriving fans appreciate the time.

— Jim Street.

 

A Mariners legend returns — as pitchman

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Jay Buhner, Ken Griffey Jr. and GM Jack Zduriencik have camp chat in Peoria

One of the best sluggers in franchise history showed off his pitchman skills at camp today.

Jay Buhner is spending a few days at Spring Training introducing players to the “axe” a bat being produced by Federal Way-based Baden Sports, a company that had produced a maple bat that has a unique axe-shaped handle and less likely to splinter the way so many other maple bats have done in the past few years.

The bats have received provisional approval from Major League Baseball and is being made available to Mariners players, mostly Minor League players who do not have contracts with other bat-making companies.

Buhner stopped by the media room at the Peoria Sports Complex, along with Baden sales manager Rusty Trudeau, to show off the new bats.

Besides the safety issue, the design of the bat’s handle could significantly reduce the number of broken hamate bones, fitting more comfortably in the bottom hand.

Backup infielder Jack Hannahan was one of the players giving the bat a test run inside the covered batting cages and gave it two thumbs up

“It’s a big-time different feeling but it’s a good concept,” Hannahan said. “I think it should catch on and a lot of guys will be using them. I used one for a couple rounds of BP and have to use it more in cage to get a better feel for it before I use it in a game, but as I said, it’s a great concept.

“It has a good release in your hands and lets the bat do all the work. I will use one in a game.”
 
In other camp news:

The annual FanFest, Peoria-style, occurs Saturday at Peoria Stadium. The Mariners will work out first — at 9 a.m. — followed by the Padres, who have shared the Spring Training facility with the Mariners since 1993.

Camp is beginning to drag just a little for us veteran scribes here. There is a limit to how many grounders fielders can field (or not) to make things exciting. I have noticed, however, that there are a lot more fans around than previous years. Mariners fever is alive and well.

But things will start cookin’ here soon. There will be an intrasquad game on Monday after the fundamentals and a shorter one on Tuesday morning before the players head off to play golf against the Padres. My tee-time has not been confirmed so guess I’m not invited.

Looks like longtime pal and confidant Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald (the only other writer here that plays golf) will be having our own tourney. Maybe we’ll challenge the Padres writers.

I have received several emails wondering if I had a picture of Ryan Rowland-Smith on a surfboard. Well, not a picture, as such, but thanks to my pals at YouTube, check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/user/slp1313#p/a/u/0/Pyt4NpC9-ew.

Manager Don Wakamatsu spent extra time on the field after the workout to watch first-round Draft choice Dustin Ackley work out at second  base.

“He looks pretty good. I was impressed. This is the first time I have seen his actions. I like his footwork, I like his athleticism. There are little things he will have to continue working on, and he will, like throwing from different angles.”

— Jim Street

 

Lights, camera, action

The popular Mariners television commercials are currently being filmed at the team’s Spring Training Complex, marking the 16th year that five, 30-second spots have been produced under the creative mind of Jim Copacino.

“We always try to bring fans into the bullpen, the workouts, conversations and things like that,” said Kevin Martinez, the Mariners vice president of marketing. “And they’re always fun to do.”

The first one was filmed at the Wigwam Golf Course on Wednesday and featured general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Don Wakamatsu and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

“It starts out golf-related,” Martinez said “and basically is a way to showcase Franklin’s ability to cover a lot of ground and make spectacular catches routine.”

The spot filmed after Thursday’s workout involved the bullpen and pitching coaches Rick Adair and John Wettleand.

“One of the themes we heard last year was how cohesive the bullpen was,” Martinez said. “They did everything together. They walked out to the bullpen together, and they came in as a group together. So in this spot, David Aardsma is working on an offseason project that illustrates the bullpen being one cohesive unit. His teammates seem to really enjoy it, but Rick and John aren’t so sure.”

Another one features left-handed starter Ryan Rowland-Smith and involves his last name, the only player in MLB history to have a hypen in his name.

March 16 is the target date for having them ready for viewing in the Mariners clubhouse – and the public.

Martinez said the spots would first be aired during the NCAA basketball tournament, during the televised Cactus League games and into the regular season.

Meanwhile at camp on Thursday, the media was given a tour of the new weight room at the Complex and one thing noticeably missing was weights.

In layman’s terms, most of the dumbbells have been replaced by high-tech equipment introduced to the organization by Dr. Marcus Elliott, founder of Peak Performance Project out of Santa Barbara, Calif.

The program apparently strengthens a player’s lower body, especially the legs, producing more power and fewer leg injuries – such as hamstring pulls.

The Mariners are the first Major League team to use the P-3 program, signing an exclusive three-year agreement earlier in the week.

“We have an excellent strength and conditioning staff and we are very fortunate to now have Dr. Elliott working with the Mariners organization on our program,” Zduriencik said. “He is breaking new ground in the world of sports performance and has started to implement his programs, starting with our Minor League camp and upwards as the program unfolds.”

“We are going to develop many great athletes out of your system,” Elliott said. “I absolutely guarantee it.”

–Right-handed pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, a waiver claim from the Diamondbacks last Nov. 4, arrived in camp on Thursday and took his physical off-site.

He will join in the workouts on Friday.

“We have to wait and see about his throwing program,” Wakamatsu said of the Venezuela product.

–Jose Lopez had limited defensive work on Thursday because of slight tendinitis in his knee. There is no structural damage and Wakamatsu said the second baseman who has been working out at third this week, “Looked better today. (Mike) Brumley talked to him about some mechanical things he picked up that we think will help.”

–Wakamatsu said he was pleased with the way all of the infielders went about their work during the fundamental drills. “There was a lot more energy,” he said. They did a nice job.”

–A report out of Glendale said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has entered the Twitter world, but that is something not on Wakamatsu’s future agenda. “No, I am not tweeting, or blogging,” he said. “I don’t know where Ozzie gets the time.”

Former manager Lou Pineilla also will be a non-Twitter.” “First of all, I don’t know how to Twitter. Second of all, I’m not going to learn how to Twitter.”

— Jim Street

Following the Mariners on radio-TV this spring

The Mariners’ rising popularity throughout baseball was evidenced even more yesterday when it was announced that two of Seattle’s Cacus League games will be shown on the MLB Network.

Games against the Brewers on March 8 and Padres on March 24 will be shown nationally. In addition, In addition, FSN Northwest will carry the Rockies/FSN Rocky Mountain telecast of the Mariners game on March 18. FSN Northwest already had scheduled six other telecasts.

The entire Spring Training schedule, with broadcast information:

Date Opponent Location Time Radio/TV

Wednesday, March 3 San Francisco Giants Peoria 1:05; ESPN 710

Thursday, March 4 San Diego Padres (Charity Game) Peoria 1:05

Friday, March 5 San Diego Padres Peoria 1:05

Saturday, March 6 San Diego Padres Peoria 1:05 ;ESPN 710

Sunday, March 7 San Diego Padres Peoria 1:05; ESPN 710

Monday, March 8 Chicago White Sox (ss) Glendale 1:05

Milwaukee Brewers (ss) Maryvale 1:05; MLBN

Tuesday, March 9 Cleveland Indians Peoria 1:05

Wednesday, March 10 Texas Rangers Surprise 1:05

Thursday, March 11 San Francisco Giants Scottsdale 1:05

Friday, March 12 Kansas City Royals Peoria 1:05; ESPN 710

Saturday, March 13 San Francisco Giants Peoria 1:05; ESPN 710

Sunday, March 14 Colorado Rockies Tucson 1:05; ESPN 710

Monday, March 15 Arizona Diamondbacks Tucson 1:05

Tuesday, March 16 OFF DAY

Wednesday, March 17 Rangers, Peoria,  7:05; ESPN 710/FSN

Thursday, March 18 Rockies, Peoria,  1:05; FSN

Friday, March 19 Reds, Goodyear, 7:05; ESPN 710

Saturday, March 20 Diamondbacks, Peoria, 1:05;  ESPN 710/FSN

Sunday, March 21 Angels, Tempe, 1:05 ESPN 710

Monday, March 22 Athletics, Peoria, 1:05

Tuesday, March 23 Angels, Peoria, 1:05 ESPN 710

Wednesday, March 24 Padres, Peoria, 7:05 ESPN 710/MLBN

Thursday, March 25 Indians (ss), Goodyear, 1:05 ESPN 710

Royals (ss), Surprise ,1:05

Friday, March 26 Reds, Peoria, 1:05 ESPN 710

Saturday, March 27 Dodgers, Glendale, 1:05; ESPN 710

Sunday, March 28 Cubs, Peoria, 1:05 ESPN; 710/FSN

Monday, March 29 Athletics, Phoenix, 1:05;  ESPN 710

Tuesday, March 30 OFF DAY

Wednesday, March 31 Rangers, Surprise, 1:05; ESPN 710

Thursday, April 1 White Sox, Peoria, 12:05; ESPN 710

Friday, April 2 vs. Rockies, Albuquerque; 5:05; ESPN 710/FSN

Saturday, April 3 vs. Rockies, Albuquerque, 12:05; ESPN 710/FSN

Sunday, April 4 Giants, San Francisco, 12:05; ESPN 710/FSN

All Times Local, unless noted

Daylight savings begins March 14 (Arizona and Seattle time same)

(SS) split squad game

— Jim Street

 

Errant kick leaves Kelley in stitches

A freak accident prior to the pre-workout calisthenics sent Mariners right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley to a local clinic to fix a small gash on his chin.

Kelley needed six stitches to close the wound caused when he was accidently kicked by fellow reliever Mark Lowe, who was visibly upset when he realized the damage one of his spikes caused.

“It kind of shocked me a little bit,” Kelley said of the incident. “It happened real quick. I was going to stay out there, but when we realized there was a lot of blood one of the coaches suggested I go inside and get it checked out.

“It was a little more serious than I thought.”

Kelley had the cut repaired, returned to the Peoria Sports Complex and got his throwing program in.

“The doctor told me that if I was a hockey player he would have told me to go back out there and start a fight.”

Manager Don Wakamatsu was asked after Wednesday’s workout about a conversation he had on the field with Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins.

“I told them I changed my mind and neither of them are going to lead off,” Wak joked, “and Went back and said something different. We were talking about the leadoff thing and Ichiro will lead off. Figgins will hit second.”

He said the chat was more about the “importance of them coming together. From a teammate standpoint, how important it is for both of those guys to work together and to understand each other in style of play. It’s great when Ichi says to Figgins ‘you play the same style you always play and I will adapt around it.’ I am really looking forward to them as a tandem. I think it’s going to be pretty special to watch.”

— Jim Street

At Mariners camp, the gang is all here

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Japanese media were on hand to capture Ichiro’s first day of Spring Training in Peoria

Under sunny skies (finally) and cool temperature (in the 40s), the Mariners gathered for their first full-scale workout this morning on Field 3 of the Peoria Sports Complex.

Before stretching and going through fundamental drills and a somewhat dry field, general manager Don Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zduriencik addressed the team inside the clubhouse.

“Jack gets jup and speaks and after he gets done, I told the club that first rule as a manager is never to let an ex-football coach speak before you. He had them entertained.”

Before becoming a scout, Zduriencik was an assistant football coach in high school and Austin Peay University.

A large contingent of Japanese media was on hand to film Ichiro’s first workout of the spring, which started his 10th Major League season.

With Ichiro here and fellow Japanese icon Hideki Matsui with the Angels in Tempe, there will be a lot of attention being generated on March 21, when the the AL West rivals meet in Tempe, and again two days later in a rematch at Peoria Stadium. It’s their only two meetings of the spring.

“I’m looking forward to the Anaheim series and see how big that can truly get,” Wakamatsu said. “I left here at 6:15 Monday evening) and there were people waiting for Ichiro. He’s a special player.”

In other news:

— Cliff Lee will throw his first bullpen tomorrow, the first major test for his surgically-repaired left foot.

— Right-hander Doug Fister, who did not throw his second bullpen on Monday as scheduled because of some stiffness in his right arm, threw today and “seems to be back on track,” according to Wakamatsu.

— Asked what he likes about Milton Bradley so far, Wak said, “His smile. That’s probably the biggest thing. I had an opportunity to bring him in the office yesterday and we had a great talk. I told him, ‘I didn’t know anything about you.’ He opened up a little bit and I talked a little about myself, and it was a good meeting.”

As for Bradley’s past troubles, Wakamatsu said, “They’re there,but I wasn’t there. That’s what I told Milton. Let’s get to know each other and let’s move from here. He seems to be happy and our job is to keep it that way.”

— The players appear to have reported in good shape. “I’m real happy about it,” Wakamatsu said. “Overall,  I think the doctors and the trainers have raved abou the shape a lot of these guys are in.”

— It was, er, interesting to see Jose Lopez taking ground balls at third base and Chone Figgins at second. Stay tuned on that one.

— Jim Street

Some wild outfits displayed in camp

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Mariners pitcher Garrett Olson has the look, and swing, of a terrific golfer

The outfit left-hander Garrett Olson wore during a golf outing with teammates Mark Lowe and Shawn Kelley received a lot of comment — on and off the fairways at Blackstone Country Club near Peoria.

“The guys in the pro shop loved it,” Olson said. “Some of the golfers on the course thought it was pretty…bright.”

Olson said he purchased the outfit on Ebay for a golf outing at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (Calif.) this past offseason. His major was mechanical engineering, which probably is just a little more difficult than journalism at San Jose State, my alma mater.

And those are the actual school colors, if you can believe it.

Olson does not consider himself to be a very good golfer, but he shot a career-best 91 at Blackstone and gave credit where credit was due.

“It’s so much easier to play golf when you wear knickers,” he said.

The way I have been playing (and just ask Kirby Arnold), I might have to go the knickers route.

In other camp news from Day 5:

— Ichiro checked into camp at 2:44 p.m., MT, decked out in his Canada (red and white) sneakers, designer jeans (I think designer), t-shirt, and cap on backwards (ala Griffey). His interpreter said the Mariners right fielder will talk to the (U.S.) media tomorrow.

–Another wet and soggy day kept the team off the practice fields. “We got quite a bit accomplished,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “We were able to do some of our pick play stuff that we were going to do out on the field. The pitchers are going to get a lot of PFP work in. We’ve accomplished everything but that, and that’s not a big concern. The biggest concern is tomorrow. Can we get on the field with the amount of guys in camp? That’s when spring training kind of officially starts.”

— “The guy who really impressed me was (Chad) Cordero,” Wakamatsu said. “Where he’s at and where he was last year is night and day. It looks like he’s commanding the baseball and it’s coming out of his hand extremely well. You can tell when guys have come off an injury or ailing. But this guy right now just gleams with confidence. The arm slot is there.”

— Wak on Cliff Lee: “He did some agility stuff today so we’re moving right along. We talked about doing some PFP stuff, and he was able to do it in t here with no problem.”

— There will be an intrasquad game on March 1 and possibly another the following day before the team leaves on its annual golf outing against the Padres.

— Jim Street
 

Bradley arrives at Mariners camp

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Milton Bradley flashes a smile during his first day in a Mariners uniform

Milton Bradley reported to camp this morning, wearing a dark blue top with “USA” on the back, and filled with optimism that that this will be a fun-filled season with the Mariners.

Bradley, acquired from the Cubs for right-hander Carlos Silva in a deal that basically swapped big contracts and disgruntled players, stoically walked into the Mariners clubhouse at around 9:15 a.m., found his locker — located next to Mike Sweeney and two stalls away from Ken Griffey Jr., changed out of his civilian clothes and into his new uniform.

His first smile came moments later when Griffey entered the area. They exchanged hugs.

Before having his physical at 1 p.m., Bradley had his first press conference. It went well and will be posted on the Mariners web site later today.

— Jim Street

Hannahan puts on the “tools of ignorance”

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Jack Hannahan’s versatility now includes catching — but only in an emergency

Now catching for the Mariners: Jack Hannahan?

That is something you probably won’t hear this season at Safeco Field, or anywhere else for that matter, but the veteran infielder has added another position to his resume.

He and backup first baseman Ryan Garko are being groomed as the Mariners’ potential emergency catcher during the regular season.

“I have a whole new appreciation for what catchers do,” Hannahan said this morning. “I have caught two ‘pens and my legs feel like jelly.”

The soon-to-be 30-year-old Hannahan, whose birthday is March 4, was decked out in mask, chest protector and shin-guards on Sunday when the Mariners went through another rain-hampered workout at the Peoria Sports Complex.

 “No matter what you do during the offseason, conditioning-wise,” he said, “if you have never caught before, there are muscles in your legs you probably have never used before.”

Manager Don Wakamatsu, a former catcher, said he decided late last season that it would be a good idea for Hannahan to get some work behind the plate – just in case. The 25-man Opening Day roster more than likely will include just two catchers, so having someone around that could catch in an emergency situation would be a good insurance policy.

“We sat out to increase Hannahan’s value and this is an added bonus,” Wakamatsu said.

Hannahan figures the more positions he can play the better his chances are of being on the 25-man Opening Day roster. His primary positions are third base and first base, but he has played a little second and even played one game at shortstop last season.

He will get considerable practice time at SS this spring, which is the primary reason he lost 18 pounds during the off-season.

“I weigh 200 pounds,” he proclaimed proudly, “and haven’t been this light since my senior year of high school.”

“I know why people don’t like losing weight,” he said. “You have to eat food you don’t like.”

In other news this morning, manager Don Wakamatsu celebrates his 47th birthday today, one of two birthday boys on the team. First baseman Casey Kotchman is 27.

I wonder if Ken Griffey Jr. knows that today is Wak’s birthday. If not, I’ll be sure to tell him and Junior surely would come up with something to “celebrate” the occasion.

Hard to believe but, yes, it is cloudy and moist again today.

Ichiro and Milton Bradley are expected to show up today for their physicals. The last time Ichiro was in a Mariners uniform, he was being carried off the field at Safeco Field on Carlos Silva’s shoulders. The last time Bradley was seen in a Cubs uniform…well, never mind.

Speak of the devil, Bradley just drove into the player’s parking lot — at 9:15 a.m. Ichiro is supposed to arrive in mid-afternoon, but might not have his first press conference until tomorrow.

— Jim Street