March 2010

Wak didn’t ask, but here’s my 25-man O.D. roster

It is really early here in the desert, the sun is out, but I am in the clubhouse snooping around for some notes.

I wander down the hallway to manager Don Wakamatsu’s office, take a left and peak into the room. No one home. I make an about-face, walk away and notice that the door to the coaches’ room is closed.

Wak and his entire coaching staff must be there, perhaps discussing the makeup of the 25-man Opening Day roster.

No one has asked for my expert opinion, but here it is, anyway: My 25-man Opening Day roster.

Pitchers (12): Starters, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Ian Snell, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Doug Fister, Jason Vargas; relievers, David Aardsma, Mark Lowe, Sean White, Brandon League, Shawn Kelley,Kanekoa Texeira.

Catchers (2): Rob Johnson, Adam Moore.

Outfielders (4): Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes, Franklin Gutierrez, Ichiro Suzuki.

Infielders (5): Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez, Jack Wilson, Josh Wilson.

Designated hitters (2): Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney.

And there you have it.

Camp officially closes a week from yesterday and here are some awards, style:

Player of the Camp: Sweeney reported with a next-to-no chance of earning a spot on the roster and even admitted it. But he has swung the hottest bat in camp and makes my team.

Biggest surprise: Texeira, a Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees, has been outstanding from Day One.

Biggest Ouchie: There have been a few too many, but the strained abdominal muscle suffered by Lee during a forgetful afternoon in Tucson hurts the most.

What-to-make-of-it award: Left-hander Jason Vargas has been the second-best starter, right behind Felix, and if can pitch during the regular season the way he has in Spring Training, it would be huge for the team.

Hype of the Spring: Agent Scott Boras telling reporters that “four or five teams” are interested in former Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn. I would like to see Wash come back, but it might be kind of late in the game for that to happen. He would need about a month to get game-ready and the Mariners could use a veteran starter the first 10 days of the season.

In other news:
— Outfielder Ryan Langerhans has some stiffness in his left elbow and will be shut down for a couple of days.

— Catchers Eliezer Alfonzo and Guillermo Quiroz were cut, leaving three receivers in camp. Wakamastsu said Rob Johnson and Adam Moore will be the only two catchers on the 25-man roster.

— Right-hander Felix Hernandez is being sent to the Minor Leagues — for his final spring start. That will be on March 31 and the reason for the minor assignment is because the Mariners play the Rangers, the first weekend of the regular season in Arlington and Felix will pitch the middle game of the three-game series.

— The Mariners re-signed pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, a waiver claim from the D-Backs in November and released last week.

Now for today’s lineup against the Reds:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Jose Lopez, 3B
4. Ken Griffey Jr. DH
5. Eric Byrnes, LF
6. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
7. Ryan Garko, 1B
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Jack Wilson, SS
   Luke French, P

— Jim Street


Griffey lauds Ichiro catch; Mariners fall to Padres

Left-hander Jason Vargas might have locked up a spot in the rotation tonight after tossing five scoreless innings against the Padres.

But manager Don Wakamatsu is not quite ready to proclaim victory for the lefty.

“Vargas was outstanding,” Wak said after the 2-1 loss. “There was nothing I didn’t like about what I saw out there. I thought all of his pitches were good. I was was pleased with his performance.”

Vargas lowered his ERA to 2.89 and Wak nodded when asked if he would wait at least one more Varegas start before making a decision on the rotation.

At the other end of the spectrum, closer David Aardsma had a rough inning and the 12.46 ERA he went to sleep with last night is not even close to where he needs to be when the regular season opens in 12 days.

Aardsma was slated to pitch two innings, but four hits, two runs and 33 pitches kept him to one inning.

“I think he was feeling through it a little,” Wakamatsu said. “The ball up the middle, we didn’t make that play, and the popup in right field extended the inning.

“He’s still not quite where we like him, but we’ll continue to watch him pitch. For me it’s consistency. He was a little bit fast, he has been fast. He’s been getting the ball and going, not getting in the set position. That’s what we talked about. You see more of a push than the explosion through the zone. We need to get him out there pitching more.”

Sean White and Brandon League each pitched one scoreless inning and both looked sharp.

Meanwhile, the catch Ichiro Suzuki made in right field yesterday left Ken Griffey Jr. at a loss for words.

“All I could say was ‘damn’, but it was one of those good ‘damns’,” Junior told me a few minutes ago when asked what he said to Ichiro in the dugout after the top of the second inning ended.

So what did Junior think of the grab?

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “He went a long way, looked over his shoulder, took a little jump and, the most important thing, he didn’t get hurt.”

Ichiro’s catch near the warning track at Peoria Stadium was the premior web gem of the day on numerous TV stations and Junior called it one of two best catches he has ever seen made by a right fielder.

“Jay’s catch in Boston is the other one,” he said.

He was refering to longtime sidekick Jay Buhner, who tumbled over a five-foot wall and into the visiting bullpen on July 29, 1997, robbing Scott Hatteberg of a two-run home run.

“Very seldom does any outfielder get to make that kind of play,” Griffey said of the Ichiro and Buhner catches.

It goes without saying that Junior, a 10-time Gold Glove winner with the Mariners, has made more than his share of highlight-reel grabs.

Almost 24-hours after the catch, Wakamatsu said, “That might be the best catch I have ever seen.”

In the catch-your-eye department, right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley will start tomorrow’s split-squad game against the Royals in Surprise.

He has been a career-long reliever, including 41 appearances for Seattle last season. His only “starts” occurred during a rehab assignment last season in Arizona. Kelley is being stretched out a bit.

“Don’t read anything into it,” Wakamatsu said in his pre-game media session. “It is really trying to make up for (Doug) Fister and also use it to our advantage to stretch those guys, him and (Kanekoa) Texeira. Hopefully, we can get three innings out of each of the, but I can’t imagine us getting over the 40- to 50-pitch range.”

In other news:

— Left-hander Cliff Lee will give his strained lower abdominal muscle another test tomorrow when he plays catch on one of the practice fields. He threw for about six minutes on Monday and still felt some discomfort in the area.

It is highly unlikely that he’ll be able to begin the regular season in the rotation. 

— Utility infielder Jack Hannahan will have is injured right groin re-examimed by a specialist in Philadelphia, further lessening the chances of him being ready for the regular season.

— Fister and Garrett Olson each threw a bullpen session today and both passed with flying colors. Also, left-hander Erik Bedard played long-toss. He will take tomorrow off, have another long-toss session and if all goes well, he could throw off a mound for the first time this spring.

— Wakamatsu said right-hander Chad Cordero has shown flashes of his former self. “I like what I see and he’s closer. There are stints in there when I know he feels he’s back to normal and then there will be a little inconsistency. But it is light years from last year. He has made tremendous improvement.”

— The next round of roster cuts are expected after tomorrow’s split-squad double-header. The cuts could include one or two catchers. “There are some choices we have to make and might keep guys here through Albuquerque (April 2-3) and San Francisco (April 4),” Wakamatsu said.

— Jim Street

Ichiro makes an a-Mays-ing catch

It’s only Spring Training,  but the catch Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki pulled off in the second inning on Tuesday had mid-season highlight-reel written all over it.

With one out and a runner on third base, Angels catcher Jeff Mathis hit a ball that was destined to be an extra-base hit. But Ichiro sprinted back and, with his back to the infield, he reached up, snagged the ball and took a header on the warning track.

First-base umpire Scott Barry raised his right arm, signaling that the catch was made and Ichiro received a loud ovation from the crowd at Peoria Stadium.

Ichiro has won a Gold Glove in each of his nine seasons in the Major Leagues and this might has to rank as one of the best catches he’s made.

— Jim Street

One still standing on “Survivor Island”

All of the original inhabitants of “Survivor Island” in the Mariners clubhouse are gone.

But the row of lockers located between the laundry and shower rooms aren’t completely deserted. Right-handed pitcher David Pauley sits alone, passing this morning quietly.

The 26-year-old pitcher with 84 days of Major League experience was moved to his new “home” last week, after all the others — pitchers Mike Koplove, Nick Hill, Steven Shell, Ricky Orta and catcher Luis Ontiveros were re-assigned to the Minor League side of the facility.

Pauley’s locker was in the middle of the clubhouse.

“I came in one day and the stuff in my locker was gone,” he said. “I thought ‘Oh, man’. But I found out all my stuff had been moved over here.”

Pauley has heard the “Survivor Island” stories and how right-handers Shawn Kelley and Chris Jakubauskas made it all the way through Spring Training last year.

“It’s good to still be here,” he said. “I am trying to hang around, compete and do the best I can. So far so good.”

Signed as a Minor League free agent and invited to camp as a non-roster player, Pauley is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA after five Cactus League appearances, including a solid three-inning relief stint on Monday against the Athletics.

And with slightly more than a week to go, he remains a viable option for the 12-man Opening Day pitching staff.

“I can’t treat the last week any differently,” he said. “I have to take the same mindset I have had all spring, continue to improve on what I’m doing, and just kind of hang around and see what happens. Let the cards fall where they may.”

In other early-morning camp news, left-hander Cliff Lee is scheduled to play catch and test his ailing right abdominal muscle.

He said he felt much better today than he did a couple of days ago, but he would know more during and after playing catch. Even so, it appears likely that he’ll begin the regular season on the 15-day disabled list because the organization wants to make sure he is 100 percent healthy before he makes his first start.

And here is today’s starting lineup for the Mariners for their home game against the Angels:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Casey Kotchman, 1B
4. Ken Griffey Jr., DH
5. Jose Lopez, 3B
6. Eric Byrnes, LF
7. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
8. Adam Moore, C
9. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith

— Jim Street

Bedard BP session scratched

The bullpen session left-hander Erik Bedard was scheduled to throw tomorrow has been pushed back to who knows when.

That’s the word we just received from head athletic trainer Rick Griffin.

“He will do more long-tossing before h gets on a mound, and we don’t know exactly when that will be,” Griffine said. “He’s not ready (to throw a bullpen).”

Griffin would not label it a “setback”, stressing that Bedard is further ahead of schedule than anyone expected. The oft-injured lefty had labrum surgery in his left shoulder almost seven months ago and it generally is a 10- to 12-month recovery period.

More information on Bedard will be posted later today on this web site.

Meanwhile, left-hander Cliff Lee will play catch tomorrow for the first time since sustaining a lower obdominal strain. He will be re-examined afterwards.

In other medical developments:

* Infielder Jack Hannahan will field ground balls today for the first time since his groin injury.

* Lefty Garrett Olson (finger) will play catch.

* One day after getting plunked in the left knee by a Robert Fish pitch in the seventh inning on Sunday is good to go for today’s game against the Athletics.

He will bat ninth in today’s game at Peoria Stadium.

Without further delay, here is the entire lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Milton Bradley, LF
5. Ken Griffey Jr., DH
6. Jose Lopez, 3B
7. Ryan Garko, 1B
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Jack Wilson, SS
RHP Ian Snell

Also, right-hander Doug Fister continues to recover from being hit in his right arm by a line drive several days ago and he is confident that the regular season will start without delay.

“It is still tender a little bit, but today is day three and it’s a lot better,” he said this morning. “There is a lot more mobility and less tightness.”

The arm is still puffy, but nowhere near as swollen as the day after being plunked.

“It’s pretty much day-to-day, do as much as we can and re-evaluate,” the starting candidate said. “I think there is time for me to get ready (for the regular season). As much progress as we have made so far, I am encouraged.”

— Jim Street


Saturday no-no

Good news for the future of Seattle’s pitching staff yesterday in Arizona, where the Mariners’ Double-A West Tennessee team no-hit the Royals’ Double-A club. Nick Hill threw three hitless innings and was followed by Josh Fields (two innings), Marwin Vega (one), Andres Esquibel (one), Jorden Merry (one) and Cheyne Hann (one). — Doug Miller

Friday fodder

Hello all.

Doug Miller here, filling in for Jim with a few updates on a lazy afternoon in Peoria before a night game in Goodyear, straight from skipper Don Wakamatsu:


  • As of 2 p.m. PT on Friday, Wakamatsu said the last he heard about Cliff Lee’s upcoming appeal of the five-game suspension was that Lee and his agent were “in the process” of getting it done. Wak said the situation is “kind of a mess right now.” First off, the suspension, even if it’s reduced, virtually eliminates the possibility of carrying an 11-man pitching staff into Opening Day. “That might change now,” Wakamatsu said. “Obviously, if he’s suspended and misses a start, we’ll have a 24-man roster.”


  • Don’t think that necessarily means the Mariners won’t take Mike Sweeney with them to Oakland on April 6, though. Ryan Garko has Minor League options remaining and Wakamatsu said Sweeney’s lack of playing time at first base this spring wouldn’t necessarily rule him out for a roster spot. In the meantime, Wakamatsu said of pitching coach Rick Adair, “He’s got a waste can filled with crumpled-up paper.”


  • Starter Erik Bedard told me he felt great and that he was still very much on schedule to pitch his first bullpen session next Tuesday. He was scheduled to throw off flat ground from 60 to 90 feet on Friday.


  • With each passing day in the desert, it looks more likely that right-handed reliver Kanekoa Texeira will make the team. The Rule 5 draft pick from the Yankees was mentioned by Wak as being one of the most pleasant surprises of camp, and the Mariners will have to keep him on the 25-man roster all year or he’ll be eligible to be returned to the Yankees for $25,000.


  • The schedule for infielder Jack Hannahan (groin) is to take batting practice Friday and Saturday and have him test the groin in running drills Sunday. On Friday, Wakamatsu said of Hannahan, “I still think he’s a ways away.”


  • Lefty Garrett Olson is still experiencing soreness in his middle finger after taking a ground ball off the digit during drills and should be out of action for at least a few more days.


  • Wakamatsu said the club would probably make the next round of cuts Tuesday or Wednesday. 

The ups and downs in an 8-4 loss to Giants

Two errors by second baseman chone Figgins?

Six hits and four runs surrendered by fifth-starter candidate Doug Fister?

Two hits and two walks by one-time fifth-starter candidate Garrett Olson?

There were some glitches in today’s 8-4 loss to the Giants at Peoria Stadium and even some less visible events. Not in the boxscore was a headfirst slide into second base by Eric Byrnes that scraped his nose, chin and both elbows.

Never a dull moment with the high-energy veteran outfielder.

“With Fister, there were a lot of things I liked about that outing,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “There were a couple of broken bats in there (a three-run first inning), but I was encouraged.”

Fister has been working out a windup and he still struggles with it at times, but there is still three remaining in Spring Training to get it sorted out. That being said, Wakamatsu said he wants to have his five-man rotation pretty much in order by the end of next week, which gives Fister one more start to turn things around.

As for Olson, the left-hander had command issues and was all over the place with his pitches.

“That is something we are going to have to work on with him,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s a candidate for the long spot.”

The skipper said that the four pitches after Olson — Levale Speigner, Mark Lowe, Sean White and Yusmeiro Petit, all pitched well.

The three errors were a Cactus League high this season, but third baseman Jose Lopez made a superb play to deprive Jose Uribe of an extra-base hit in the second and Byrnes got his uniform dirty the first time with a diving catch in left-center.

“I will defend these guys on this field, especially Figgy,” Wakamatsu said. “Sometimes (a hard field) creates bad habits and after the fourth inning, the field really dries up. We’ll have to get them to put more water on it.”

The usually sure-handed Josh Wilon also committed an error.

Left fielder Michael Saunders, who showed some warning track power last season with the Mariners but never used his home run trot, finally demonstrated it today, hitting a two-run home run in the ninth inning.

The play of the day, though, was Byrnes doing a belly flop into second base in the fourth inning — the Mariners’ first hit of the game.

“He might as well have been in a car wreck,” Wakamatsu said. “Nothing serious, but it will leave a mark tomorrow.”

Byrnes was on the ground for a few seconds after the slide, prompting a visit from Wakamatsu and the trainer.

“He wanted to know how his nose was,” Wakamatsu said.

— Jim Street

A few Cougs, and a trip back in time

There was a Cougar spotted in the public relations office this morning.

Actually, three Cougars, including former WSU Sports Information Director Rod Commons.

Jeff Evans, the Mariners assistant public relations director (and WSU grad) introduced me to Commons — all decked out in WSU garb — and asked if he knew Pat Caraher. I had never met Pat, but knew of him through his dad, Joe, the late, great publisher of the Herald & News in Klamath Falls, Ore.

I was a freshman at College of the Siskiyous in 1964 when Joe hired me for the summer, beginning a career that has lasted a long time, going on 46 years. Yikes!

Joe was among the best people I’ve ever run across, and a proud WSU grad.

Well, standing a few feet away was Pat Caraher. A small world in a small room. We agreed that his dad and my first boss in the newspaper business was a classy guy to say the least.

The trio is in town for a few days to watch the Mariners and a bunch of other teams during a visit to the Cactus League.

— Jim Street

Bedard moving closer to bullpen session


Erik Bedard plays catch during pre-game workouts at the Peoria Sports Complex

The word out of camp today is that left-hander Erik Bedard is progressing so well from shoulder surgery that he is slated to throw a bullpen session on March 23.

“He is throwing real good,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He will throw a light bullpen.”

Bedard had season-ending surgery last August 14 to repair a torn labrum and the free agent was expected to miss at least half of this season. But the Mariners were so encouraged by his progress that they offered him an incentive-laden contract with a $1.5 million base and he accepted it.

It appears now that he conceivably could return to the Mariners’ rotation sometime in May, though that has not been solidified. Regardless, if he comes back 100 percent healthy, it would be like making a trade without giving anyone up.

Slotting him into the rotation for the final four months of the season would definitely enhance the Mariners’ pennant hopes.

Bedard allowed two or fewer runs in 13 of his 15 starts last season — and three earned runs in the other two.

The second roster cut of camp occured this morning with four players being sent out.

Outfielder Greg Halman was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma while infielders Tommy Everidge, Brad Nelson and outfielder Mike Wilson were re-assigned to the Minor League camp.

That leaves 51 players in camp, including 13 non-roster invitees.

And now for today’s starting lineup against the Giants:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Jose Lopez, 3B
4. Ken Griffey Jr., DH
5. Eric Byrnes, LF
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
8. Adam Moore, C
9. Josh Wilson, SS
P Doug Fister

— Jim Street