April 2010

Lee hearing tomorrow

The long-awaited debut of left-hander Cliff Lee just might occur before the end of this month.

he had another impressive bullpen session this afternoon and is scheduled to pitch a three or four inning simulated game on Friday before the series opener against the Tigers.

If all goes well in that outing at Safeco Field, club officials will huddle and decide whether to have another sim game or send the left-hander out for a start in the Minor Leagues.

Manager Don Wakamatsu said during his pre-game media session today that it the best-case scenario would have Lee making his Mariners debut the final few days of April or the first couple of days on May.

The exact date also hinges on the outcome of Lee’s appeal of a five-game suspension he received in March for throwing a pitch over the head of Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder during a Cactus League game in Tucson.

The once-postponed hearing via conference call is scheduled to be heard tomorrow and a decision could come as early as Thursday or Friday. It is likely that Lee would be suspended for a few games, but possibly fewer than five.

In other pre-game news, the team had a pre-game meeting in the clubhouse and the message Wakamatsu wanted to get across was for the players to relax and have some fun.

The hitters — except for center fielder Franklin Gutierrez — are wound tight and pressing so much that they can’t perform to their capabilities.

The result is a 2-6 record coming out of the gates.

The Mariners slow start made them a prime target for at least one unemployed hitter.

To the surprise of no one, an agent is attempting to spur interest in his client, in this case Jermaine Dye.

Bob Bry,Dye’s agent, told a Seattle radio station today that the Mariners were Dye’s choice all off-season long and now he really, really, really wants to play for Seattle.

The agent said his client was disappointed that the Mariners didn’t show more interest in him. I doubt very much that there is any more interest in Dye right now than there was months ago.

And now for tonight’s lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Jose Lopez, 3B
5. Mike Sweeney, DH
6. Milton Bradley, LF
7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Jack Wilson, SS
RHP Doug Fister

— Jim Street

A trip down memory lane

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Ex-teammates Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. 

The sellout crowd for Opening Day was treated to a specail reunion after ex-Mariners great Randy Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The future Hall of Fame pitcher was joined on the field by former teammates Dan Wilson, who caught the pitch (a strike), Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr.

Imagine how many championships, perhaps even a World Series or two, the Mariners would have won if all five had remained teammates.

Meanwhile, the pre-game player introductions went on without one Mariners pitcher. 

Right-hander Ian Snell returned to Florida this morning following the death of a relative. Manager Don Wakamatsu said Snell, the losing pitcher in Sunday’s loss to the Rangers in Arlington, had been dealing with personal issues the past few dayThs.

The funeral is schedule for Wednesday and Snell is expected to return in plenty of time to make his next scheduled start, Saturday night against the Tigers.

Wakamatsu also touched on other topics during his pre-game media session, explaining that he had a talk with left fielder Milton Bradley regarding the obscene gesture made in Arlington.

The skipper said Bradley was “remorseful” and is putting too much pressure on himself. Bradley went 1-for-21 in his first week with Seattle.

In other Opening Day news, outfielder Ryan Langerhans cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma. He will join the Rainiers on Wednesday.

And now for today’s starting lineup:

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

LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith 

— Jim Street

Colome in, Langerhans out

The first roster move of the regular season has just been made.

The need of another pitcher outweighed the need of an extra bench player so the Mariners purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Jesus Colome from Triple-A Tacoma and designed for assignment outfielder Ryan Langerhans.

The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright to the Minor Leagues.

Colome had a terrific Spring Training, posting a 1.64 ERA, and would have earned a spot on the Opening Day roster if the team had gone with 12 pitchers.

But with the bullpen being used often during the first three games against the Athletics, and a three-game series against the Rangers in Arlington coming up, an extra arm could come in handy.

Langerhans, who hit two walk-off home runs last season, made one appearance this season, as a pinch-hitter in last night’s game. He flied out.

— Jim Street

The ups and downs of Oakland

The best news of the day just arrived. The elevator that goes (sometimes) from the press box to the clubhouse level at the Coliseum is working again.

It was out of commission last Saturday, when the Giants played the Athletics in an exhbition game, and crashed again last night just before the National Anthem — and it remained out of order for the remainder of the night.

Luckily, a couple of the local reporters here showed me how to get downstairs after the game. We had to go up to go down, and then around, and down.

Writers facing deadlines (like my friend Larry LaRue of the News Tribune) had no shot to hike, talk and write. So he stayed upstairs. A wise move.

Of all the stadiums in the Majors, this has to rank 30th. It would be lower, but there are only 30 teams, you know.

So far, the early-season bugs include 1) the faulty elevator and 2) an Internet system that is about as reliable as the Mariners offense.

Radio producer Kevin Cremin, who hauls about 1,000 pounds of equipment with him from city to city has his fingers crossed that the elevator keeps working through tomorrow afternoon. He would not be a happy man, otherwise.

The pitchers, along with Mike Sweeney, are getting their running in by catching footballs in right field. Quarterback Al Wirtala is throwing some tight spirals and Jason Vargas just made a one-handed, behind-the-back catch.

I was watching the sports news on TV today and noticed that David “Big Papi” Ortiz had a Major League snap last night when reporters reminded him that he’s hitless so far this season in seven official at-bats. He reacted the way you might expect, with an expletive-laced tirade.

Wonder if I should remind Milton Bradley that he’s 0-for-7 with four strikeouts. Nah.

Better save that one for a rainy day.

I was reminded via email today that Ken Griffey Jr. is the 27th player in MLB history to play in four decades. The record is five, held by Minnie Minoso, and the list includes Hall of Famers Jim O’Rourke, Dan Brouthers, Eddie Collins, Early Wynn,Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk and Rickey Henderson.

Former Mariners pitcher Mike Morgan also is on the list, and he has the added distinction of playing for 12 organizations during his 23-year career, including three with Seattle in 1985-86-87.

And now for tonight’s lineup:

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

LPH Ryan Rowland-Smith

— Jim Street

 

Ichiro now eligible for HOF

Even if Ichiro Suzuki does not play another game in his Major League career, he is now eligible for the Hall of Fame.

The first inning at-bat he had against the Athletics last night – a popup to third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff – gave Ichiro 10 years in the Major Leagues. So whenever he retires, even if it’s today, he will have qualified for HOF consideration.

Once a player retires, he must wait five years to be considered for HOF candidacy.

Several HOF voters already are on record of saying Ichiro is on the cusp of being a Hall of Famer, citing his MLB-record nine consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits. He also holds the single season hit record – 262 in 2004.

Ichiro went 1-for-4 in the season opener and scored a run in the ninth inning. It extended his personal hitting streak against Oakland to 21 games, during which he is batting .380 (35-for-92), started on August 24, 2008.

But it is not his longest hitting streak against an opponent.

He had a 26-game streak against the Royals from April 14, 2005 to April 15, 2008 and a 22-gamer against the White Sox from April 27, 2001 to May 11, 2003.

Meanwhile, it is a sunny day at the Oakland Coliseum where the Mariners will try to make it two wins in a row over the Athletics. Right-hander Ian Snell gets the starting nod against Oakland left-hander Dallas Braden.

In other news:

— Catcher Rob Johnson said the home run he hit last night was the first in his seven-year professional career that he homered on Opening Day/Night. “I lead the team in home runs,” he smiled.

— Johnson said a lot of the low pitches that Felix Hernandez (and other pitchers) threw last night would be called strikes, but plate ump Tim Tschida had a high strike zone.

“Tim was consistent for both teams, but Felix always keeps the ball down. Usually, those pitches are called strikes.”

The six walks Hernandez issued tied a single-game career high.

“It’s good to get that first game out of the way,” Johnson. “He was pretty amped.”

 — Jim Street

Junior reflects on first Opening Day

Ah, Opening Night at the Oakland Coliseum.

Before the game, a few of us scribes were chatting with Ken Griffey Jr., who made his Major League debut right here in 1989 and, and it took him all of one at-bat to get his first big-league hit.

It was a line-drive double into the left-center field gap off Athletics right-hander Dave Stewart.

“They are all special,” he said of Opening Days. “It begins six months of bsaeball, and hopefully longer.”

Junior said he was a combination of excited and nervous 21 years ago when he had such a good Spring Training as a 19-year-old that he not only earned a spot on the 25-man roster, but a place in the Mariners’ starting lineup.

He batted second that night,behind Harold Reynolds and in front of Alvin Davis. “I tried to talk skip (manager Don Wakamatsu) into putting me there, but he didn’t go for it.”

Turning back to his first Opening Night game, he said, “I think I was tired after the first inning.”

Not surprisingly, Griffey received a warm ovation during the pre-game introductions.

— Jim Street

Spring Training ends with wet, windy win in S.F.

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 Mariners and Giants sloshed their way into the sixth inning before the game was called

The Mariners’ pitching staff needed a “pick-me’up” kind of performance after two tough games in Albuquerque and they got it Sunday afternoon from left-hander Jason Vargas.

He limited the Giants to five hits and one run over five innings in the Mariners’ 7-1 victory at a wet and windy AT&T Park, the final Spring training game for both teams.

Vargas finished the camp with a 1-1 record and stellar 2.83 ERA and his next outing comes Friday night in Arlington against the Rangers.

“It was tough conditions, but ended up all right for me,” Vargas said after the game finally was called with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. “I know (the Rangers) lineup after pitching against them last year so I will try to refresh that a little bit.”

The only difficult inning he had was the fourth, when three consecutive hits with none out produced a run and threatened to chop deeper into what had been a three-run lead.

“It’s always good when you get out of it without a lot damage,” he said.

Manager Don Wakamatsu was obviously pleased with Vargas’ performance. “I thought Vargas was good. He had command of all of his pitches and I liked his tempo and everything. It (the game) was shortened, but I thought we got him enough work and we wanted to get (Michael) Pineda in there, and he looked good, too.

“It was good to give (Pineda) some exposure. We have talked about how quick he might come (to the Major Leagues).”

In other final day highlights:

— Catcher Adam Moore was solid on offense and defense, driving in two runs with a double and adding a single. He finished the spring with a .314 batting average and eight RBIs. He also made a dandy play on defense, depriving Andres Torres of a bunt single up the third-base line.

— Versatile Matt Tuiasosopo, who played every position this spring except pitcher and catcher, contributed a long solo home run, a blast halfway up the left field bleachers in the sixth inning. Tui finished the spring tied with Franklin Gutierrez in home runs with three.

— Wakamatsu wasn’t disappointed the game ended prematurely, although Vargas threw just 61 pitches. No one was injured in the sloppy conditions.

“I thought we played as long as we could without getting anybody hurt,” he said.

The Mariners finished the spring with a 12-18-2 record.

— Mike Sweeney led the team with a .500 average (20-for-40) and the team ended with a .264 average and 12 pitchers tied with the most wins — one.

Meanwnhile the 25-man roster was set earlier in the day and there were no last-minute surprises.

There are 11 pitchers on the roster, not including left-handers Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard, who were placed on the 15-day disabled list along with infielder Jack Hannahan.

And here is the official roster:

Pitchers (11): David Aardsma, Doug Fister, Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Brandon League, Mark Lowe, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ian Snell, Kanekoa Texeira, Jason Vargas and Sean White.

Catchers (2): Rob Johnson and Adam Moore.

Infielders (5) Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez, Matt Tuiasosopo and Jack Wilson.

Outfielders (5); Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes, Franklin Gutierrez, Ryan Langerhans and Ichiro Suzuki.

Designated hitter (2); Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney.

Those being rew-assigned to the Minor League camp were right-hander Jesus Colome, catcher Josh Bard, and infielders Josh Wilson and Chris Woodward. 

— Jim Street

Sitting in a hotel room reflecting on camp

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Only Junior could come up with a prank like this one on Roger Hansen

If it’s Friday, I must be in Oakland.

I can look out my hotel window and clearly see Oakland, so I have to disagree with the old saying that, “There is no there there.”

It is drizzly here in the Bay Area, with temps in the mid-50s. From what I understand, the temperature is about the same in Albuquerque, where the Mariners play the Rockies tonight in the first of a two-game series before heading West to play the Giants on Sunday and open the regular season on Monday night in Oakland.

Meanwhile, my pal and colleague Kirby Arnold reported via telly that  the temp is close to 80 in Peoria today. That’s about 20 degrees higher than yesterday, when camp closed. It was the coldest Spring Training that I can remember, but the memory isn’t what it used to be.

SportsCenter is being shown on the TV next to me, and it appears that the warm, fuzzy feelings about the Mariners going into Spring Training has subsided. The “experts” are now predicting a second or third-place finish in the AL West.

The coolness has much to do with, I suspect, Cliff Lee being injured and probably not at full strength until much later this month, or early May. That, and the Mariners’ continued difficulty scoring runs — in Arizona, no less — has sent up some red flags.

The long drive from Peoria to Oakland yesterday gave me plenty of time to reflect on the six-week camp and I came up with my own version of various awards.

Most Outstanding hitter: Mike Sweeney wanted to come back to Seattle so badly this year that he batted .543 in Spring Training and went from a guy with no chance of making the 25-man roster to the spring star.

Most Outstanding Pitcher: Rule 5 Draft choice Kanekoa Texeira could have been on the pitching staff even if he had surrendered more than one run the entire spring. He can keep his long, curly hair and beard.

Defensive Player of Camp: Kudos to Jose Lopez, who made the switch from second base to third base without complaining (too much) about it, and did a terrific job. He might not be as good defensively as Adrian Beltre, but I can think of a lot of former hot corner occupants that are less reliable there than Jose.

Best Prank of Camp: The huge display on the batter’s eye in center field at Field 1 (see above photo) was another Ken Griffey, Jr. masterpiece. This one is of himself and Minor League catching guru Roger Hansen, Junior’s “baby-sitter” in 1988 at Double-A Burlington, Vermont. Hansen was “demoted” from Triple-A Tacoma to keep a close eye on Junior, who was a teen-ager at the time.

Griffey told me that Hansen never, ever complained about being sent down and “I learned a lot from that.”

Griffey also had the first runner-up prank: a T-shirt with a photo of mustachioed pitching coach Rick Adair in is much-younger days. That was followed up by the same picture, along with with his wife, Louisa.

Most Memorable Swing: First baseman Tommy Everidge told me the story about his dad passing away from kidney failure the day after he was married and in his first at-bat of the spring — and on his first swing — Everidge hit a grand slam. How sweet was that?

Best Medical Story: Catcher Rob Johnson, who had three surgeries during the off-season, promised on the first day of camp that he would the Opening Night catcher for Felix Hernandez. Looks like Robby Robert was true to his word.

— Jim Street

 

Mariners send Olson to the Minors

The Mariners will break camp this afternoon and travel to Albuquerque for a two-game series against the Rockies, but left-hander Garrett Olson won’t be going.

He was sent to the Minor Leagues this morning.

A finger injury suffered during PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice) limited Olson’s work load to 3 1/3 innings this spring. He surrendered eight earned runs, which calculates to a 21.60 ERA.

“I didn’t get to pitch much, and when I did, I wasn’t dazzling,” he told me a few minutes ago. “You know, I certainly didn’t deserve to make this team out of Spring Training.”

Olson said he would report to Triple-A Tacoma later today and start his pursuit of getting back to the Major Leagues.

“The injury set me back, but I got to pitch in an intrasquad game yesterday and I was pleased,” he said. “I have been working on a few things with Rick (pitching coach Rick Adair) and I feel like I am a better pitcher now than coming into Spring Training or even last season.”

The one-inning stint yesterday was the first time he had faced hitters since March 13.

Olson, acquired from the Cubs for pitcher Aaron Heilman on Jan. 28, 2009, appeared in 31 games, including 11 starts, with the Mariners last season, posting a 3-5 record and 5.60 ERA. He also made nine starts for Tacoma, going 2-3 with a 4.94 ERA.

His departure leaves 31 players in camp. The roster must be reduced to 25 players on Sunday and look for the roster to include non-roster invitee Mike Sweeney, all-purpose reserve Matt Tuiasosopo and Rule 5 Draft selection Kanekoa Texeira.

Meanwhile, today’s lineup was just posted:

1. Eric Byrnes, RF
2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
3. Casey Kotchman, 1B
4. Jose Lopez, 3B
5. Mike Sweeney, DH
6. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
7. Josh Wilson, SS
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Chris Woodward, 2B
RHP Ian Snell

— Jim Street