February 2010

Rain, rain go away…

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Practice fields were in no condition for pitchers to conduct fundamentals on Sunday

Here we go again.

For the second consecutive day, the fundamental drills that were supposed to be worked on had to be scrapped because of the weather.

The Peoria Sports Complex was saturated this morning after overnight rains, forcing an adjustment in the schedule camp coordinator Ty Van Burkleo had cooked up for the day.

There will be a story posted later today on your favorite web site (www.mariners.com) on what the washout means in the big picture.

Despite the lousy weather, pitchers were able to throw their bullpens, catchers were able to get their work in and the large number of position players in camp early took some swings in the covered batting cages.

It also is supposed to rain tomorrow (80 percent, they say) so another good dousing by El Nino could be on the way.

“We need a really big umbrella,one that could cover about four fields,” Van Burkleo said.

Meanwhile, according to my wife — who is celebrating her ??  birthday today — it is sunny. Go figure.

As of today, the only players that have not checked into camp are: infielders Jack Wilson, Jose Lopez, Casey Kotchman, Tommy Everidge and Brad Nelson, outfielders Milton Bradley, Ichiro Suzuki and Ezequiel Carrera.

Infielder Chris Woodward arrived early this afternoon, followed later in the day by designated hitter Mike Sweeney. Position players will have their physicals tomorrow and begin workouts on Tuesday.

— Jim Street

Rain alters Mariners workout schedule

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The parking lot attendant finds cover as rainstorm sweeps through Peoria Sports Complex 

There was a first in the Don Wakamatsu regime today — a Spring Training workout affected by rain.

But the manager said it was no big deal.

“This early in camp isn’t as bad as later on when you have also 30 hitters to deal with,” Wakamatsu said. “I feel we got plenty in today. The only thing we weren’t able to do was execute some of the fundamental stuff on the field,” he said. “But everybody, including the non-throwers, got their programs in. We got the bullpens in. And the catchers got all their work in.”

The daily schedule camp coordinator Ty Van Burkleo assembled had to be adjusted for the inclement weather, something that did not happen even once last year.

“Sometimes this is a blessing because you take the time to kind of slow things down and touch on some things you don’t normally do,” Wakamatsu said. “We had a good meeting, I thought. We reviewed what we have done the last couple of days.”

The first group of pitchers, including ace right-hander Felix Hernandez, were able to get their BP sessions in without a hitch.

Felix hand-picked his catcher for the day — 19-year-old Steven Baron, a non-roster invitee.

The youngest player in camp handled the assignment well.

“The kid can catch,” Wakamatsu said. “To think he is a year out of high school is amazing. He’s a pretty confident kid. A strong kid, much stronger than I envisioned. He’s really put together, has soft hands and a presence about him. He’s not intimidated.”

In other camp developments today:

— Infielders Jack Hannahan and Ryan Garko put on the catching gear for the first time this spring and worked out. Either one could wind up being an emergency catcher during the regular season. Garko has been that for the past four seasons, but has yet to make an appearance in a game. Hannahan also will get some work at shortstop this spring.

— Pitcher Cliff Lee is now scheduled to join the PFP drills on Monday, two days before his first bullpen session.

— Left-hander Erik Bedard did not throw today. He’s on a two-day throw, one-day off routine.

— Catcher Rob Johnson did not catch during the BP sessions, but did a lot of work in the batting cage.

Right-handed pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, a waiver claim from the Diamondbacks, remains in Venezuela attending to “personal matters” and now is not expected to arrive until later next week. He is a non-roster invitee.

— Jim Street

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Day Two: Griffey and much, much more

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Ken Griffey Jr. gets welcome back reception from Mariners fans

The second full day of workouts for pitchers and catchers is in the books and what an interesting day it was.

Shortly before 9 a.m. the volume in the clubhouse went up a few notches when Ken Griffey Jr. walked in and lit up the room. He exchanged greetings with the pitchers, catchers and the media. As I have reminded many times during the past 21 years, without us no one would know who he is. Naturally, he doesn’t agree and says he made us. You be the judge.

Griffey reported to camp four days sooner than position players’ reporting date.

“He looks to be in pretty good shape,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He came in like a boxer (wearing a baggy sweat-suit outfit) and I told him that wasn’t fair. But from all indications, he looks in pretty good shape.”

As for the “300 shuttle”, Wak joked that Griffey would “run the 50.”

The shuttle is a series of six, 50-yard dashes, 100-yards at a time. It can be a gruelling test for anyone not in really good shape.

In other Day Two highlights:

–Left-hander Cliff Lee moved closer to being able to participate in the PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice) drills.

“I would say within two days he would be out there, but it’s just a guess,” Wakamatsu said. “I talked to him today and he said it (left foot) feels pretty good. It might be as early as tomorrow or could be two days from now. I think we are progressing pretty well.”

— Catcher Rob Johnson caught his first bullpen — and wanted more.”He looked good and wanted to catch more than one guy,” Wakamatsu said. “We have to hold him back a little bit and have some time with him. The biggest thing is you watch him swing the bat and there is a noticeable difference in his movement.

“He knows it and has talked already about the catching part of it and how much freer he feels. It’s just amazing to go through that kind of surgery and be where he’s at right now. We’re pretty happy with his progress. I like to think positive and believe he will be ready for the (regular) season, but another part of me says you just don’t know until the games start because there is such a different level. We’re hoping to manufacture that slowly and get him to where he can do just about everything and test it. Where he is right now, you wouldn’t know he had surgery.”

Johnson, the projected No. 1 catcher, had surgery on both hips and his left wrist during the offseason.

He added some weight because he couldn’t work out as much, but that’s not a concern.

“He looks big and strong and catching-wise, you are going to drop about 10 pounds (in Spring Training) depending on who you are talking about,” Wakamatsu said. “I always lost that about 10 pounds. Going through rehab forces you to get in the best shape of your life and I think Rob, even though he has gained some weight, his legs are really strong.”

— Left-hander Ryan Feierabend, who missed all of last season after having Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, threw his first bullpen of the spring today.

“I was really impressed,” Wakamatsu said. “You have a mental picture coming in (to camp), especially with a Tommy John guy. For me, it’s always the second year. The first year the arm strength is there, but the command is not there. I was extremely impressed with what I saw and the feel he had.”

— Jim Street

Camp gets underway in the desert

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Manager Don Wakamatsu meets with the media prior to first pitchers-catchers workout

Spring Training started this morning for Mariners pitchers and catchers, but not everyone that is supposed to be here was here.

Right-handed pitchers Jesus Colome and Yusmeiro Petit were no-shows. Neither has received working visas from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, respectively.

Manager Don Wakamatsu said he did not expect either hurler to miss much time. “Right now we are not looking at a long time, a couple of days.”

Colome, who has pitched in the Major Leagues for the past nine seasons, signed a Minor League contract on Feb. 10 and was invited to camp. Petit was acquired on a waiver claim from the Diamondbacks on Nov. 4.

In other camp news:

Wakamatsu said catcher Rob Johnson, who had offseason surgery on both hips and his left wrist, “will be a little bit limited. He will take batting practice, do a throwing program and we will integrate him into catching stuff as we go along. But he’s feeling really good.”

The first day included the dreaded 300-yard shuttle “to see how good of shape the guys are in. That’s always interesting to see.

“We’ll do same thing we did last year, bring guys in at the end of the day and have some our meetings. We should have all of our meetings done with the pitchers in four days,” Wakamatsu said.

On the pre-camp physicals:

“Everybody showed up in pretty good shape. There are always going to be a couple of guys, and we will target those guys early. But there were no surprises.”

 — Jim Street

Prelude to camp — physicals

Welcome to the last day before the first day of Spring Training.

As we speak, players are arriving for their afternoon physicals. I had a nice chat with longtime Mariners head athletic trainer Rick Griffin about how the pre-camp physicals have changed since he began working for the organization nearly 30 years ago. Check out his story on the Mariners web site.

Dr. Mitch Storey, one of the team physicians from Seattle, said the Mariners were, to his knowledge, the first MLB team to introduce the EKG exam to the physical.

The first workout for pitchers and catchers is Thursday morning, beginning with a team meeting at 9 a.m., a team stretch at 10 a.m. PFP (pitchers fielding practice) commences at 10:30 and lasts for 48 minutes. Pitchers will wear spikes.

There will be four stations — Comebackers-runners at second and 1-6-3 and 1-4-3 double plays; Pepper; Bunts down the first and third baselines; and cover first on grounders hit to the first and second basemen, and Inbetween play. That will be followed by Team Fundamental, bunt defense.

Also, at 11:35 Felix Hernandez, Ian Snell, David Aardsma and Brandon League will have a throwingt program to prepare for the first bullpen sessions of the spring, which begin at 11:45. The second group of Doug Fister, Garrett Olson, Luke French and Sean White follow at 11:57; Chris Seddon, Mike Koplove, Steven Shell and Chad Cordero at 12:09; and Mauricio Robles, Kanekeo Texeira and Josh Fields at 12:21.

The seven catchers in camp will split the BP catching duties, take batting practice against the coaches, a good way to build confidence, throw for 10 minutes and conduct fielding drills for 20 minutes.

If camp co-ordinator Ty Van Burkleo has his way, the schedule will go off like clockwork.

— Jim Street

 

Activity already at Mariners camp

It has been about a week since I last visited blogo-land. I needed a few days for the knife wounds in my back to heal following some pretty brutal backlash after reporting that Erik Bedard would re-sign with the Mariners. But all is well again, the bleeding has stopped, and it’s back on the job here at BAM, as we call it.

The drive to Peoria from Tucson was uneventful, except for those darn 18-wheel truck drivers who think they are racing in the Daytona 500, trying to pass everything in front of them. A couple of the dudes were pulled over on the side of the road, courtesy of the Arizona Highway Patrol. Way to go guys and keep those red and blue lights flashing!!

I checked in to the Peoria Sports Complex and there already were some fans — aka autograph seekers — at the entrance of the players’ parking lot. They call it the “players parking lot” although all the front office people, and even us media types, get to park there.

The Mariners clubhouse, the happiest place on earth last spring (it seemed), was already full of activity, although pitchers, catchers and reporters are not due to check in until Wednesday.

Cliff Lee was there, getting his locker ready for the next six weeks. He has the locker space formerly occupied by Miguel Batista. Not far away was Felix Hernandez, looking like a million dollars, or more — like 78 million dollars.

Catcher’s row was full, though Rob Johnson and Guillermo Quiroz were the only ones I saw during my 30-minute visit. There will be seven receivers when the gang’s all here.

Dustin Ackley, an outfielder/first baseman /now second baseman, was sitting in front of his locker, sorting through some mail.

Bedard was among the early arrivals, sitting in clubhouse manager Ted Walsh’s office. I chatted with Erik for at least five minutes, maybe more — an all-time record for me and he. I I hope it will continue well into the season. I’ve always thought he was a good chap, just a quiet one. He asked me when I thought his recovery from a second shoulder operation would end and he would be able to pitch in a Marienrs game again and I told him he would start his first game on June 12.

I’m never right on this kind of prediction, but write it down anyway. You might be able to say you saw it here first. A more reputable source might have other return dates, however.

Manager Don Wakamatsu is due in town later this evening for two days of meetings leading up to Thursday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers.

Coaches Rick Adair (pitching), Ty Van Burkleo (bench) and Mike Brumley (third-base) have checked in. Van Burkleo is running the camp again this season and — rumor has it — El Nino is back. That could bring some rain to the Valley of the Sun. Teams here have been fortunate the past few years with the weather.

I didn’t see GM Jack Zduriencik, although a car parked in his spot in the lot so I assumed he was in the building. He probably was upstairs working on yet another transaction. The guy never sleeps.

Tomorrow is more or less a free day, in the sense that not much will be happening at camp. Former Mariners pitching coach Jim Slaton has invited Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald and me to play some golf at the Verrado Raven Golf Club. It will be good to catch up on what he’s been doing. Slaton, who lives near the 10th fairway on the course — but well out of my range —  is still in baseball, working as a Minor League pitching coach for the Dodgers.

Anyway, it is sunny and warm here right now and is supposed to reach the mid-70s by the middle of the week.

Spring has sprung and I’ll try to keep you updated on the happenings around camp, if not daily, at least a few times a week.

— Jim Street

Bedard on the path of returning to Seattle

Now that the Mariners have avoided salary arbitration with first baseman Casey Kotchman, signing him to a one year, $3.5 million contract on Wednesday, the next order of business might be — surprise, surprise — re-signing left-hander Erik Bedard.

Yep, there are rumblings going around that Bedard could soon re-up with the Mariners, who are still paying his medical bills. Bedard is expected to miss the first three or four months of the regular season but conceievably could come back in early June or July and provide significant pitching help. When healthy, he has been good. But he’s been hurt more than healthy since being acquired from the Orioles in a trade that still makes me shake my head.

But a new contract with a low base salary and high incentives could be the way to go.

I have now heard that the deal would be a one-year $1.5 million base salary contract that includes a shipload of incentives.  Bedard, you might recall, made $7.5 million last season. At his age — he will be 31 on March 5 — much of his career is in front of him and he could use this season as a springboard to a multi-year contract next year.

And according to my good buddy Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald, Bedard could soon be on is way to Peoria, Ariz.

According to Kirby, “just last night I spoke with a source familiar with the labrum surgery Bedard had last Aug. 14 on his left (throwing) shoulder. While there have been reports that Bedard may not be pitching again until July, this person believes Bedard’s rehab has gone very well and that a comeback in May is possible.

“Bedard has progressed so well in his throwing program that he’ll be coming to Arizona soon to continue it. One reason is that the place he’s throwing at his home in Canada is only 70 feet long, and he needs to start stretching it out. So Bedard will continue his work in Arizona under the same personal trainer who helped extend Randy Johnson’s career with the Diamondbacks.”

As Sargeant Schultz would say, “Verrrrrry interesting.”

— Jim Street

Kotchman in fold, is Bedard coming back?

Six down, none to go — and maybe somebody coming back.

Those are the headlines today out here in blogo-land. First baseman Casey Kotchman reached agreeement on a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the team, avoiding an arbitration hearing that had been scheduled for this month. The exact date of the hearing was never disclosed by either side, which is normal practice in these things. But color it moot now.

That means all six players eligile for salary arbitration signed without a cantankerous hearing.

Settlements began on Jan. 8 when center fielder Franklin Gutierrez signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract extension. Right-handed relievers David Aardsma and Mark Lowe came to terms on Jan. 19 for $2.75 million, and $1.15 million respectively; and, on the following day, ace right-hander Felix Hernandez signed a five-year, $78 million contract extension. Of lesser note that same day, right-handed reliever Brandon League agreed to a one-year, $1.0875 million contract.

The next order of business might be, surprise, surprise, re-signing left-hander Erik Bedard.

Yep, there are rumblings in blogo-land that Bedard could soon re-up with the Mariners, who are still paying his medical bills. Bedard is expected to miss the first three or four months of the regular season but conceievably could come back in late June or July and provide significant pitching help. When healthy, he has been good. But he’s been hurt more than healthy since being acquired from the Orioles in a trade that still makes me shake my head.

But a new contract with a low base salary and high incentives could be the way to go.

Anyway, stay tuned on that one.

— Jim Street