A small group of suitcases sat near the door of the Mariners' clubhouse before Sunday's series finale against the Athletics, set to accompany the team's All-Stars on their flight to Minneapolis after the game. And yes, it included closer Fernando Rodney's luggage.
Rodney was added to his second career All-Star Game on Saturday, replacing Rays ace David Price, who be unavailable after starting Sunday for Tampa Bay. It may have gone down to the wire, but the American League saves leader will be an option in the bullpen for manager John Farrell on Tuesday at Target Field.
Rodney – who has a 1.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 27 saves – was the fourth Mariner to be selected for the Midsummer Classic. Robinson Cano was voted in by fans to start at second base, Felix Hernandez was voted in his fellow players (and remains the front-runner to start the game for the A.L.), and Kyle Seager was added as an injury replacement on Monday.
Though it may seem like Rodney's selection was a no-brainer, it caused a bit of an uproar from the Angels, who were hoping to see starting pitcher Garrett Richards (11-2, 2.55 ERA) added to the squad. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon caught wind of the Angels' grievance and had a response after his team's 6-2 win over Oakland on Saturday.
"I heard one of the guys on the Anaheim telecast (say) that it was absolutely absurd that Rodney was picked for the All-Star game. I guess I don't know baseball," McClendon said. "The guy's leading the American League in saves. To me, he should have been the first reliever on the team. ... I think it's well-deserving."
Seager's extra defensive work showing
Seager has flashed some serious leather at the hot corner recently, including a slick inning-ending double play Saturday. Seager has never been regarded as a particularly outstanding defensive player – as a third baseman, he had 15 errors in 160 games in 2013 and 13 in 138 games in 2012 – but that perception may soon change.
"He has really, really excelled with the glove," McClendon said prior to Sunday's game. "He's putting the time in. That 4 o'clock hour, he's putting the time in. He's working hard."
Infield coach Chris Woodward, a former big-league utility infielder, has had a big hand in helping Seager improve in the field.
"Woody has done a great job with him, with his footwork, centering the ball a lot better, reading hops," McClendon said. "That double play he turned was just phenomenal. Little short-hop, backhand, that's not an easy play. ... And that was a big play in that game."
Endy Chavez, 9
James Jones, 8
Robinson Cano, 4
Kyle Seager, 5
Logan Morrison, DH
Justin Smoak, 3
Dustin Ackley, 7
Brad Miller, 6
Mike Zunino, 2
Chris Young (8-5, 3.08 ERA)
John Jaso, 2
Stephen Vogt, 3
Yoenis Cespedes, DH
Brandon Moss, 9
Josh Donaldson, 5
Jed Lowrie, 6
Nick Punto, 4
Andy Parrino, 7
Craig Gentry, 8
Sonny Gray (9-3, 2.97 ERA)
• McClendon said the Mariners will start Hisashi Iwakuma first after the All-Star break, followed by Hernandez, Young and Roenis Elias. The fifth starter is undecided as of yet.
• Taijuan Walker, a candidate for that fifth spot in the rotation after the break, earned the win in his first start after being optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday, allowing one run on four hits in five innings. He struck out just one and threw only 83 pitches, though, and McClendon made no bones about not being impressed by those numbers.
"I don't see that as a good outing. Five innings, 83 pitches and one strikeout – that's not a good outing for me," he said. "I'm not trying to bash the kid, but how we go about our business and our level of expectations from the minor leagues all the way up to the big leagues, that's gotta change."