Tagged: Mariners

Junior clearing fences in early BP

There might be a little extra adrenaline flowing through Ken Griffey Jr.’s body today.

He is participating in early batting practice — and driving balls left, right and center, over fences in each direction.

The BP pitcher is left-hander Rick Adair, who obviously lacks a few mph on his fastball compared to pitchers Griffey faces after 7 p.m.

The fallout from his reported snooze in the clubhouse accelerated last night after the game.

Winning pitcher Cliff Lee was answering questions when he suddenly stopped, looked to his right and saw Larry LaRue, the excellent baseball writer from the News Tribune — a friend and competitor of mine since 1988.

For this night at least, Lee — and several other players — were boycotting “Lash” because of the article linking Junior to the snoozing incident in the clubhouse, which turned out not to quite accurate.

How long the boycott lasts is anyone’s guess, but another writer never likes to see another one get singled out like that. But, it’s a tough business, more so now in the Internet era than the old newspaper era we grew up in.

There is good news for the hitters tonight — the temperature is actually nudging 70 degrees. What a concept!

One of the press box attendants (someone even older than me) told me it was colder last night (45 degrees) at game time than it was on Opening Night last month (46 degrees). I believed him.

But it is shirtsleeve weather right now (3:30 p.m.) and might be even warmer for tomorrow’s day game.

In the meantime, shortstop Jack Wilson was placed on the disabled list with a back of the knee tendon ailment and Matt Tuiasosopo was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. Mike Wilson, meanwhile, was promoted from Double-A West Tennessee to Tacoma. The Rainiers are currently in Nashville for a series.

It’s almost time to journey to the clubhouse and gather some information, some of which will be passed along in this blog.

And here is the starting lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Casey Kotchman, 1B
4. Jose Lopez, DH
5. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B
6. Ryan Langerhans, CF
7. Josh Wilson, SS
8. Adam Moore, C
9. Michael Saunders, LF

LHP — Ryan Rowland-Smith 

— Jim Street

The Junior watch is on

Now that the cat-nap’s out of the bag and a snooze heard ’round the baseball world has reached everywhere but YouTube, what happens next in Ken Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame career is anyone’s guess.

Does he admit that, yes, he was sleeping in the Mariners clubhouse during a game and if so, why?

Does he want to find out who the unnamed teammates were that “ratted” on him?

It is interesting to me that a team that was so close a year ago and clearly had each other’s back is suddenly talking behind someone’s back. That is not a good sign in any clubhouse.

Does he have an exit strategy of his own?

Does he think the organization wants him to leave?

It is clear to anyone that has watched the team this season that Junior is only a shadow of his former self. The tough part is for him and the organization to decide when it’s time to cut the cord and move on. I know Junior would want to go out on his own terms and forcing the issue would only cause him to dig his cleats in even deeper than they are.

I can’t imagine him wanting to stick around for the next130 games performing the way he has the first 30 games. It would do neither him nor the team any good.

How many at-bats does he need to get untracked? Will his production improve if the weather is warmer? Would he improve if practically every hitter around him would produce more hits and runs?

But the immediate future is not just about Junior, although he is now the lightning rod for a team gone sour.

Unless this hitters start scoring runs and team starts winning games with reasonable regularity, there would be wholesale changes to a roster that many expected to challenge for the AL West title.

Left-hander Cliff Lee could be among the first to go. He is in the final year of his contract and nothing has happened yet that would convince me he would want to sign long-term. But there is still time, though time is running out, for things to turn around.

The trade market has yet to develop because it’s still early in the season, but GM Jack Zduriencik already has been trying to lay the groundwork for deals that could become the foundation for future years.

As for Junior, I just hope his bat comes to life enough to where he can finish out this season on a good note and he can ride off into the sunset and start working on his Hall of Fame induction speech.

But getting from here to there could be one of the most-watched developments in franchise history.

— Jim Street


Ichiro, Matsui meet again

The first pitch of the Mariners-Angels game is almost four hours away and the press box is unusually active. There are at least twice as many Japanese writers in the ‘box than U.S. scribes.

The reason: the first meeting of the season between Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki and Angels designated hitter Hideki Matsui, still two of the most famous Japan-born players anywhere.

Ichiro, the first player in Major League history to have nine consecutive 200-hit seasons, is off to another good start in quest of 10, 200-plus hit seasons, which would tie Pete Rose for the all-time record for most 200-hit seasons in a career.

The Mariners right fielder has at least one hit in 15 of his past 19 gamjes, batting .363 during the hot streak.

Matsui, meanwhile, is batting .243 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in his first season with the Angels.

Meanwhile, here’s the starting lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Casey Kotchman, 1B
4. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
5. Ken Griffey Jr., DH
6. Jose Lopez, 3B
7. Josh Wilson, SS
8. Rob Johnson, C
9. Michael Saunders, LF
RHP Felix Hernandez.

— Jim Street

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


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.

Thumbnail image for AT&T park.JPG

 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