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<  Shannon Drayer

Notebook: Looking for a 4 and protecting the pitching

By Shannon Drayer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Mariners will do something tonight they haven't done in 18 days – play a game after a day off.

Some of the guys like Justin Smoak and Willie Bloomquist went fishing, both Wednesday night and Thursday, while others opted for catching up on their sleep and movies at a nearby cinema. Some had their families here and some like Brad Miller, who is from the area, went home for the day.

Regardless of what they did, everyone looked well rested today and ready for the next 20 straight.

Some like Mike Zunino get another day off. Lloyd McClendon opted to give his catcher an extended breather with three day games coming up, so John Buck will catch and bat cleanup. McClendon had what is turning out to be his customary answer regarding why Buck is hitting fourth today.

"Somebody has got to bat fourth," he said with a chuckle.

The fourth woes are nothing new. For the season the fourth spot is hitting .205/.297/.323/.620, better than only the 9th spot in the order. Fourth isn't completely foreign to Buck, who hit there 13 times last year for the Mets and Pirates. As for the rest of the order...

Lineup

Jones 8
Saunders 9
Cano 4
Buck 2
Seager 5
Smoak 3
Romero 2
Gillespie 7
Miller 6

Young

McClendon is putting the bench into the starting lineup once again. We know he is looking for offense, but I asked him today how much defense comes into play when he makes out his lineup.

"It's a strong consideration for me," he said. "Depending on who we have on the mound, if it's a sinker-ball or fly-ball guy. We want to protect our pitcher because our pitching is so good, defense is vitally important to us."

Pitching mystery solved

Monday's starter is still listed as TBA but McClendon said today that the Mariners will stay in rotation despite the off day. As of now it looks like Erasmo Ramirez will indeed start on Monday.

"We are staying in rotation," McClendon said.

Unless there was an option available at Triple-A, this makes sense. With 20 straight games coming up, bumping guys in the rotation would only delay the inevitable for a day or two. A bullpen start would impact the days before and after the start. Better to take their chances with just one game.

"My old manager (Don Zimmer) told me this," McClendon said. "Don't ever be afraid to lose one game if you can win several down the road. We are staying on six days."

He continued: "Listen, pitching is our foundation, is our backbone, we better do everything we can to take care of it. Giving guys the extra day whenever you can get it is just the right thing to do. Sometimes you don't get the matchup you like to have but that is just the way it is."

So Hisashi Iwakuma on Tuesday against Masahiro Tanaka?

"That's a hell of a matchup," McClendon said.

It is indeed. Looking forward to it.

Notes

James Paxton is scheduled to resume throwing (playing catch) on Monday, provided everything goes okay this weekend.

Taijuan Walker is scheduled to make his next start with the Rainiers on Monday at Memphis.

• Like other clubs around baseball, the Mariners will honor Derek Jeter with a small ceremony that will include a video and presentation of gift before Tuesday's game against the Yankees.

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