Kotchman at 1st tonight

The lineup for tonight’s game includes first baseman Casey Kotchman, the first time he has started a game since June 23.

Ichiro is back in right field after spending last night’s game as the designated hitter and Michael Saunders moved up a notch, going from ninth to eighth for the second game of the three-game series against the Tigers.

Russell Branyan, who brought a seven-game hitting streak with him from the Indians, has extended it to 11 games, the longest of his career. He is not in tonight’s lineup.

— Jim Street

Soccer (ball) in the air

The Mariners have some unusual ways of working out on the field before batting practice, chasing frisbees and nerf footballs.

But the activity of choice today is soccer.

On a beautiful Friday afternoon at Comerica Park, the Wilsons — Josh and Jack — Ryan Langerhans, Brian Sweeney and Ryan Rowland-Smith are getting their kicks in under the supervision of “performance specialist” Allen Wirtala.

I’m not quite sure how this helps field a grounder and snag a line drive, but they seem to having a good time.

In other tidbits to get the holiday weekend going, there is an American Mensa convention going on in nearby Dearborn and some of the attendees are staying at the same hotel as me. I asked one of them if he knew when the Mariners could be trading either Cliff Lee, Jose Lopez or both.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

It does seem rather odd to me that some of the smartest people in America could have a convention anywhere in the country — and choose Detroit?

It’s time to head down to the clubhouse to check up on Erik Bedard’s status, among other things.

Lineups to come.

And here it is:

1. Ichiro, DH
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Russell Branyan, 1B
4. Milton Brantley, RF
5. Jose Lopez, 3B
6. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
7. Jack Wilson, SS
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Michael Saunders, LF
RHP Doug Fister

— Jim Street

Alfonzo Tacoma bound

This just in from the Mariners:

Catcher Eleizier Alfonzo, designated for assignment yesterday to make room on the roster for Josh Bard, has cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Tacoma.

Meanwhile, there’s no news on the Cliff Lee Watch.

— Jim Street

Some kind of matchup — Lee vs. Hughes

The second stop on a three-city road trip gets off to an impressive start tonight at new Yankee Stadium, just one of the several ballparks left-hander Cliff Lee is being rumored to wind up before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

In fact, the inquisitive person sitting next to me on the flight from Seattle to New York yesterday noticed my MLB.com bag tag, asked me what I did for the company and after explaining that I covered the Mariners she asked: “Are the Mariners going to trade Lee to the Yankees?”

As I explained, that same question is being asked in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Arlington, Philadelphia and just about everywhere else on the MLB landscape that has a playoff contender.

It still appears that Lee will be dealt somewhere and perhaps sooner than later, so each time he starts a game for the Mariners, it might be his last in a Seattle uniform.

Tonight is one of those games and I have been wondering just who the Phillies sent to the Indians last season when they acquired Lee.

The answer: Minor Leaguers Lou Marson, a catcher, right-hand pitcher Carlos Carrasco and infielder Jason Donald, the only player currenly on the Indians’ 25-man roster and batting .254 with a .292 OBP.

The thing that stands out the most to me during Lee’s first (and probably only) season with the Mariners is the way he throws strikes — all the time. Four walks in 86 2/3 innings? Most pitchers could not throw that many strikes playing catch.

His spotless control will be put to a stern test tonight as the Yankees have a powerful, and patient, offense and have coaxed 308 walks from opposing pitchers.

Speaking to stern tests, the Mariners will face right-hander Phil Hughes in the series opener and, for the first time since last August 28, when a back injury ended his season prematurely.

It will be interesting, going forward, to see exactly how Branyan’s return has on the remainder of the lineup, which has been, as you know, run production-challenged the entire season.

We’ll get back to you later with the starting lineup.

— Jim Stree

Snell DFA and Sweeney — not Mike — returns

It has been a long time since anyone mentioned Jeff Cirillo’s name.

But another of the players the Mariners sent to the Padres along with Cirrilo in that deal seven years ago is back.

Right-handed pitcher Brian Sweeney, now 36 years and two days old, was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma today to replace right-hander Ian Snell, who was designated for assignment.

Snell, who famously said he was not “Superman” after one of his recent starts, should become a free agent in 10 days — the amount of time the Mariners have to trade, release or send him to the Minor Leagues.

None of that is not going to happen.

Snell figures to clear waivers and perhaps sign for the pro-rated minimum with another organization while the Mariners are obligated to pay Snell the remainder of the $4.25 million owed this season. The contract he signed with the Pirates included two option seasons, for $6.75 million in 2011 and $9.25 million in ’12.

More on that move later.

We also have heard that catcher Adam Moore apparently injured a hamstring in last night’s game for Triple-A Tacoma.

More on that later as well.

— Jim Street

Figgins moved to ninth in lineup

The season-long one-two punch at the top of the lineup has changed.

For the first time this season, second baseman Chone Figgins is not batting behind Ichiro Suzuki in the lineup, but basically in front of him as the ninth-place hitter.

That is just one of the lineup changes manager Don Wakamatsu made for tonight’s series opener against the Rangers. He moved designated hitter Milton Bradley into the No.2 spot and inserted first baseman Mike Carp, promoted from Triple-A Tacoma earlier in the day to replace Mike Sweeney (lower back inflammation) on the roster.

Figgins went 8-for-24 during the just-completed homestand and had a six-game hitting streak from May 28-June 2. He is batting .294 over his last 19 games, improving his batting average from .182 to .220.

With that in mind, Figgins seemed surprised with his part of lineup change.

Reminded that he has been hitting well lately, Figgins said, “Apparently not.”

Wakamatsu explained the move during his pre-game media session.

“It’s just a way to see if we can generate more offense that way,” he said. “What we are looking at is that we’ve went down the road with him in that (No. 2) position and we’re not getting enough run production as a team.  We’re just looking at any we can. It’s not a knock on Figgy. He’s a guy that went through some struggles and has worked extremely hard lately. It’s not just pointing a finger at him. It’s looking if we can more production out of the whole lineup.”

Figgins said this is the first time since the 2007 season that he batted ninth. Asked what the biggest difference between ninth and second, he said, “I’m going to be swinging, you can bet on that.”

Here is tonight’s lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Milton Bradley, DH
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Jose Lopez, 3B
5. Mike Carp, 1B
6. Josh Wilson, SS
7. Michael Saunders, LF
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Chone Figgins, 2B
LHP Cliff Lee

— Jim Street

Fatigued shoulder fells Fister

A fatigued right shoulder will prevent right-hander Doug Fister from facing the Angels on tomorrow.

That was among the medical news delivered by manager Don Wakamatsu earlier today.

“With a young pitcher going deep into ballgames as he has,” Wakamatsu said, “you kind of anticipate that at some point he’d get a dead arm or some fatigue and it just happens to be now.

“He’s a competitor and a tough kid and if it was up to him, he’d like to continue to start. But the dialogue has been good. We both understand this is probably the right thing to do at this point.”

Left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith will replace Fister in tomorrow’s 1:05 p.m. game.

Fister, one of the biggest surprises in the Major Leagues this season, the 6-foot-8 Fresno State product has a 2.45 ERA, second-lowest in the AL.

Fister is expected to miss one start and if all goes well, he could pitch one of the four games against the Rangers in Arlington next week.

Here is tonight’s lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Jose Lopez, 3B
5. Milton Bradley, DH
6. Josh Wilson, SS
7. Matt Tuiasosopo, 1B
8. Eleizer Alfonzo, C
9. Ryan Langerhans, LF
RHP Ian Snell

— Jim Street

Bradley taking BP at Safeco Field

A game plan put in place for Milton Bradley prior to the Mariners’ last road trip appears to be reaching its final stages.

Bradley is in uniform and taking early batting practice as we speak and we are waiting for a release from the organization on the situation.

General manager Jack Zduriencik said two weeks ag;o that Bradley’s status would be re-evaluated when the team returned from their recent road trip to Baltimore, St. Petersburg and Oakland, which takes us to today. I would be surprised if Bradley is not activated and in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Blue Jays.

For one thing, the team needs another veteran bat in the lineup and, let’s face it, the offense is better off overall with the switch-hitting Bradley in the middle. A Bradley that is sound mind and body, that is.

— Jim Street

Moore on DL, Bard promoted

The Mariners just placed catcher Adam Moore on the 15-day disabled list and called up left-handed hitting Josh Bard from Triple-A Tacoma.

Bard has joined the team in St. Petersburg for today’s series finale against the Rays and inserted into the starting lineup. The original lineup  had Rob Johnson catching but he has been bothered by a sore back.

To make room on the roster for Bard, who was not on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day, but it’s more of a paper move than anything.

Bedard has been on the DL since March 26 — 51 days ago. He would be eligible to come off the disabled list in nine days.

The new lineup remainder of the lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Jose Lopez, 3B
5. Ken Griffey Jr. DH
6. Casey Kotchman, 1b
7. Josh Wilson, SS
8. Josh Bard, C
9. Michael Saunders, LF
LHP Cliff Lee

 

— Jim Street

A lineup that includes Junior

The lineup for today’s series finale against the Rays had a noticable change.

Batting fifth as the designated hitter — Ken Griffey Jr.

“A couple of different thoughts,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I think it’s important that Griff play at least one game here and the other thing, with (Mike) Sweeney playing three games in a row, he might need a day off, too. It gives Griff a chance a get back in there.”

It was the first time in the past five games that Griffey, who lives in Orlando, was in the starting lineup.

The team is waiting until game time to make a decision on how to handle the catching situation. Rob Johnson is in the starting lineup but he might not be able to play because of a sore back. Adam Moore, injured in Saturday night’s game, definitely won’t play against the Rays.

The remainder of the lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
4. Jose Lopez, 3B
5. Ken Griffey Jr. DH
6. Casey Kotchman, 1b
7. Josh Wilson, SS
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Ryan Langerhans, LF
LHP Cliff Lee

— Jim Street