By Shannon Drayer

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon and general manager Jack Zduriencik spoke both after the team's loss Tuesday night and again the next morning, but no roster moves were made prior to Wednesday's game against Houston.

After the game appears to be a different story, however.

The Rainiers open a four-game series against the 51s (the Mets' Triple-A affiliate) Thursday in Las Vegas. While there is no confirmation from the club, it would appear Franklin has been sent down. He had started four games and played in seven while with the Mariners, going 2 for 16 with a triple and two runs scored. He started his first-big league game in the outfield Wednesday afternoon.

Franklin was called up when Logan Morrison went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Franklin no doubt is a guy the organization would like to see playing every day and that just wasn't happening at the big-league level.

The corresponding move has yet to be announced, but Cole Gillespie – who would be better suited for spot starts or pinch hitting duties and just so happens to be hitting .362/.456/.741/1.197 for the Rainiers right now – is expected to be called up. The Mariners have an open spot on the 40-man roster with Ji-Man Choi on the restricted list, so Gillespie can be put on the roster without having to designate anyone for assignment.

On another note, after Wednesday's game I talked briefly with Taijuan Walker, who was happy to get the news from team Dr. Edward Khalfayan that he could resume throwing on Monday. Between now and then he will go through workouts to get him ready to throw after being completely shut down for eight days. After that he told me he expects to build back up quickly since he wasn't down for long.

By Shannon Drayer

Lloyd McClendon had an interesting meeting with the media this morning and before that I had a chance to briefly chat with Jack Zduriencik. Their thoughts on a few matters. McClendon first.

On giving Nick Franklin his first big league start in the outfield:

"I'm trying to get a spark, he's a bat and hopefully he will go out and get 3 or 4 hits."

"Nick played the outfield. He's not a neophyte in the outfield. I think he probably just needs to get that first fly ball out of the way and then he will be fine. I think he will get better in time. I was a catcher and I converted to the outfield if I can play the outfield then anyone can play there because I couldn't run worth a damn. These guys are a lot more athletic than I was. They put the proper amount of time in work-wise, they will be fine. They will get it done."

On moving Ackley back to the 8th spot in the order:

"I was just trying to get a spark. It didn't work, I was wrong with it, I tried. I like him in the 8 spot, I probably should have left him in the 8 spot because he is doing very well down there. I'm going to do it my way, he's going back to the 8 spot."

"Right now I am going to leave him there and let him flourish there just like I am going to leave Zunino at the bottom of the order and let him flourish and continue to have success. We will see how it goes in the second half of the season but for right now I think that is the right thing to do."

On what he saw from Ackley hitting 2nd:

"Nothing different than anyone else, just real bad at bats. Trying to do too much. When you are struggling that's what happens."

"I tried to take a little pressure off Miller as well. Hopefully I think he is over the hump and back on course."

In light of the struggles he sees from Erasmo Ramirez, is he considering making a change"

"Yeah, I would say that is a fair assessment. I am not sure what we are going to do as of right now, but yeah."

Does a lot of that depend on how Hisashi Iwakuma comes out of his rehab start:

Yes.

For more on this check out my post from Tuesday night.

On what he has seen from Dominic Leone:

"A very dominating young man. Probably pitched more than I would have liked him to pitch at this point because of the circumstances with our starting rotation but I think he's got a very bright future. And I think he is going to be a late inning guy very, very soon."

Progress reports on Taijuan Walker and James Paxton:

"Taijuan has been cleared to play catch starting Monday, Paxton on (this) Friday."

From Zduriencik:

On the current struggle:

"It's challenging for everybody but I do think you have to put it in perspective. No one wants it to happen but it is a logical evolution if you will, you lost a lot of pitchers. We have a whole group who are not even here with us and it's hard. It's hard when you were going to be competitive and you ve got all your cards on the table and all of a sudden pieces start falling apart. What happens I think is there's added pressure, guys get out of who they are and they want to do to do more. And it is a hard thing to tell guys just be who you are, stay the course."

How does the loss of starting pitching affect the hitting:

"I think there is a reason for it because I think it starts to creep up on you. I think hitters with what I have seen just recently is they are expanding the zone. They are getting out of, we were grinding out at bats in spring training, early in the year we were grinding out at bats. I think right now what's happening is you are trying to do too much you are trying to be the guy to help the club. As a result you swing at a pitch that is 4 inches off the plate, it's tougher to hit. We will get them back together but for some of them there is this youthful exuberance that you have to understand how to control it and at this moment I think a lot of them are searching for that."

On the reaction from many fans that there is a bat that is available out there (Kendrys Morales):

"There is no doubt, but I can't control that. We've done what we could do and every club has limitations. I can't focus on what isn't here, I can only focus on what is here. When you are at your limit there is not much that you can do. This is our club, let's go play baseball."

On believing this group can get this turned around:

"It's a small sample size. Unfortunately it is a time of year you would really love to be able to come out guns blazing and I think we did early but then a few mistakes here, a few at bats here, a couple injuries here, and a bad game here, and it looks bad. and I understand that but I do think what you have to do is have confidence in these guys and let them know, hey you're our guys. We have seen too many good things out of you and too much potential and too much history with some of our older players as well, that it's going to get better and when it gets better its going to get better in a hurry. That's the attitude I think we have to take."

By Shannon Drayer

After the Mariners' eighth straight loss Tuesday night, manager Lloyd McClendon was clearly not thrilled by the performance of Erasmo Ramirez. Although Ramirez retired 14 of the last 17 batters he faced, McClendon was worried about what he saw early.

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The three earned runs allowed by Erasmo Ramirez Tuesday came via a pair of home runs he served up on 0-2 counts. (AP)
"Ramirez did not make quality strikes when he needed to, particularly ahead in the count, and it cost him tonight," McClendon said. "For me, I think he's got to pitch better than what he pitched."

Three earned runs in six innings is not terrible, but from the sounds of things this looked like what McClendon saw in spring training, which led to one of his more animated media sessions in Peoria, Ariz.

"They're horse---- pitches," he exclaimed after a four-hit, no-run performance by Ramirez. "Everybody was all excited about his start, 'Oh, he did such a great job,' but he made a lot of horse---- pitches on 0-2.

"Hanging sliders in the strike zone on 0-2 isn't good. You don't get those back. If you can't execute the pitch then we have to find someone that can. Once that light goes on you don't get those pitches back. You have to make that pitch."

Especially when your team is in the midst of an eight-game slide. McClendon seems to believe Ramirez is capable of better. When asked about options, he said they'd be discussed.

"That's something that (general manager Jack Zduriencik) and I will sit down and talk about," he said. "The fact is the club is struggling you need to go out and throw strikes, put up zeros and we didn't do that early."

So what are the options, who else is there with three starters from the 40-man roster on the disabled list? More than you might think.

With two off days coming up they could decide to go with four starters for the next 10 days. Ramirez's next pitch day actually falls on the off day, so it would not be a problem to skip him. His start after that would come May 3 in Houston and with Hisashi Iwakuma scheduled to throw 70 pitches in a rehab start for the Rainiers this Sunday. That's a start he could could make with one extra day of rest.

If Ramirez or any other starter is sent down, a position player or reliever would be called up. That player would not have to be on the 40-man roster since there is a spot open with Ji-Man Choi on the restricted list. Perhaps someone is brought up to spell Abraham Almonte, who is striking out at an alarming rate and possesses an even more alarming .267 on-base percentage.

Zduriencik was in McClendon's office after the game. We shall see what's next.

By Shannon Drayer

It was good to see a familiar face in the Mariners' clubhouse Monday afternoon. Taijuan Walker was at his locker (yes, he has one now as this is where he is doing his rehab work) and he gave me the rundown on what happened last week when he was scratched from his start in Tacoma and shut down once again. Walker is optimistic he will be throwing again soon. Feeling discomfort for the first time since building back up was something he took in stride.

"I probably could have pitched through it but that's not smart," he said. "I really didn't want to push anything, something could have happened so I thought it was best to get it checked again. It's nothing, just the same thing."

Walker was shut down for a week in spring training with shoulder bursitis. There may have been other contributing factors to this shoulder discomfort, however. The discomfort came three days after flying from Jackson, Tenn. to Tacoma. Walker thinks the flight plus a missed throwing session and sleeping on it wrong may have been one of the reasons why things didn't feel right before his scratched start. He has felt better the last few days and hopes he gets good news from the doctor on Wednesday.

"I see Dr K. (team doctor Dr. Edward Khalfayan) Wednesday, hopefully by Thursday, Friday, I start playing catch again," he said. "I didn't want any setbacks but I am glad it is not a long setback."

Dr. Khalfayan will be busy on Wednesday is he is also scheduled to see James Paxton. Paxton has been receiving treatment and doing the necessary work to be ready to throw when he is given the green light. He told me all has gone well so far and that he hasn't felt the lat in at least a week. He is hopeful he will be cleared to throw after seeing the doctor.

Before Monday's game, manager Lloyd McClendon said that they were sticking to the original six-to-eight-week timetable they were told when he was injured. If he is cleared to begin throwing this week I think there is a good chance we could see him sooner. We should know more on Wednesday.

One last pitching update: Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to make his first rehab start Tuesday for the Rainiers if weather allows.

By Shannon Drayer

MIAMI – I wanted to post this Saturday but technical difficulties prevented me from loading this sound. On the pregame show I talked to Mariners coaches Chris Woodward and Andy Van Slyke about the adjustments players are forced to make because of the new transfer rule.

Neither coach is a fan of the rule. and they may get their wish of seeing it changed. MLB, the MLBPA and the Umpires Association will address the situation this week. The rule won't completely go away but the definition of possession could be tweaked enough to make it look something like what it did before.

In the podcast, infield coach Woodward explains why Kyle Seager just couldn't simply have held on to the ball from Yoervis Medina Friday night that was negated a force out because of a bobble on the transfer.

Van Slyke, the M's outfield coach, addresses the problem the base runners are experiencing under the new rule and how they will need to re-learn how to run the bases when a ball is hit to the outfield if the rule is not changed.

By Shannon Drayer

MIAMI – And then there were two. As in two players, Robinson Cano and Abraham Almonte, who have yet to get a day off this season, as Brad Miller is sitting for the first time today.

"I'm just giving him a day off to relax a little bit and clear his mind," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I think we would all agree that he has some talent. He has some pop in the bat. He's a plus runner and a plus defender. He just needs a day to relax a little bit."

Miller has been struggling, just 2x18 with one run scored and one RBI in his last five games. Although he has always been aggressive it might not hurt to see an extra pitch or two a game. He currently is seeing only 3.41 pitches per plate experience, good for 96th out of 101 qualified hitters in the American League.

How does the rest of the team compare? Well, there is not a lot of middle ground in this department. Kyle Seager is best on the team and 12th in the league, seeing 4.30 P/PA, with Corey Hart and Justin Smoak both top 30. Abraham Almonte is 45th (and recently improving) at 3.97. You thin have to jump all the way to 91 to find the next Mariner, Robinson Cano, at 3.47. Along with Cano, Dustin Ackley, Mike Zunino and Miller are all bottom 10. Definitely an area that needs to see some improvement.

Miller isn't the only one getting a day off today.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Bloomquist 5
Cano 4
Hart 9
Ackley 7
Smoak 3
Franklin 6
Buck 2
Maurer 1


Kyle Seager also gets the day off and Nick Franklin gets his first start at shortstop. Nick at short was I think a surprise for many this spring. He was better defensively than what we had heard. He was able to get to some balls I wouldn't expect him to and has a strong arm. I am interested to see what he does today. The other notable change in the lineup is Ackley hitting fifth in the order less than a week after McClendon said he would probably not move Ackley or Zunino out of the 8 and 9 spots in the order. Apparently the pencil does have an eraser.

Welcome back

Brandon Maurer gets the start, and while McClendon would not say what his pitch count was I would imagine it will be around 65-70. Maurer also gets the added challenge of hitting today. While some pitchers relish the opportunity to pick up a bat, Maurer is not one of them. He's always been a pitcher and really has never hit much. He may actually be the first player in the history of the game to admit that he doesn't like hitting at all. He doesn't see himself swinging away but is hoping to get a bunt down if needed. Interestingly enough we did not see any pitchers' batting practice on the road as McClendon does not allow the pitchers to hit on the field. They get their work in when necessary in the batting cages.

Frequent flyer

Rather than have Felix Hernandez sit on a plane for 6 1/2 hours the night before he pitches, the Mariners sent him home early. He should be well rested for his Monday start.

Clean it up

Pitching and offense has not been the only problem on this trip. The defense, which made just one error from April 2-15, has made six (plus a passed ball) in the last six games.

Down on the farm.

The Rainiers outfielders are tearing it up. Cole Gillespie has hit safely in nine of 12 games and is hitting .362 with five doubles, a triple and three home runs. Endy Chavez is 10x27 with six runs scored and Xavier Avery is 15x52 and has six stolen bases.

By Shannon Drayer

MIAMI – Greetings from a very odd house for baseball. Marlins Park has bright colors, fish swimming around behind home plate and a color of green that I don't believe is in the Crayola box throughout the stadium. It's kind of like the Trop in St. Petersburg with more windows and colors which in retrospect, adds a lot.

There is also a nightclub in left field, which I was told caused problems in the adjacent bullpen until it was moved. Apparently they had to put a flashing light on the phone because no one could hear it. Very different but it makes sense. Safeco Field wouldn't really be a good fit here.

Plenty of news and notes to get to with the big news of the day being that Hisashi Iwakuma had his sim game. He pitched two "innings" and faced Logan Morrison, Stefan Romero and James Jones, who was the only one to get a hit off of him. He threw all of his pitches, including the curve, which he would like to throw more this year. After his 35 pitches and full warmup through on the mound he looked pleased with the effort.

"I'm happy that I am in my shoes right now," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki.

"I felt good in general, first time facing hitters. I was kind of nervous trying to find my balance but I was able to throw strikes so that was good."

Logan Morrison had three at-bats against him and after the first turned to teammates and called the splitter "nasty." He gave the full rundown once he was out of the game.

"His split was pretty good, fastball has life. He threw me one curveball that was really slow and good," he said. "He could probably pitch today in the rotation from what I saw. Just has to continue to build up strength."

If Iwakuma checks out OK tomorrow his next throwing session will be a bullpen here in Miami, and he could then start in a rehab game for Tacoma as soon as Tuesday. After that they will take it game by game, according to manager Lloyd McClendon.

"We have to make sure he is ready to compete with all of his pitches," McClendon said.

As for how many innings he needs to throw, McClendon was not putting a number on that, although he did say that he will need to be able to throw 90 pitches before he rejoins the big club.

On to the game at hand.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Hart 3
Saunders 9
Seager 5
Ackley 7
Zunino 2

Young 1

National League park so Chris Young gets to hit, or hopefully lay down a successful bunt. Talk about a long swing. Corey Hart is in the field on back to back days, not back in right but at first today. This is Justin Smoak's first day off this season.

Notes

• McClendon announced the starter for Sunday and it is indeed Brandon Maurer.

"I think he deserves the opportunity," he said. "He was in consideration in spring training to make this club and I think he deserves the opportunity."

Maurer, who threw 49 pitches in his one and only start in Tacoma, will obviously be on a pitch count, but McClendon wouldn't say how many he would be allowed to throw.

• I asked head trainer Rick Griffin for an update on James Paxton and learned that he isn't throwing yet.

"He's doing everything he needs to do prior to throwing back in Seattle. He won't throw until after the team doctor examines him which will be when we get back on this next home stand and then he will examine him and determine when he can start throwing."

Paxton was placed on the 15-day DL April 9 with the strained lat.

• Last but not least, I ran into a familiar face in the team hotel lobby this morning. Franklin Gutierrez, who lives in the area, was there waiting to see his good friend Felix Hernandez. Franklin said that he was confident he made the right decision in taking the year off, because he realized that he needed both the physical and mental break after fighting to find out what was causing all of his health troubles for almost four years. Now that he's found the right treatment, he said that he is feeling much better and that he hopes to play again some day.

By Shannon Drayer

ARLINGTON, Texas – Major League Baseball announced that Mariners minor-league first baseman Ji-Man Choi has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for methandienone, a performance-enhancing substance.

The Mariners have released the following statement:

"The Seattle Mariners are disappointed to learn of today's suspension of AAA infielder Ji-Man Choi. The organization fully supports Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game. Per the Basic Agreement, the Mariners will have no further comment."

Choi will be placed on the restricted list for the duration of the suspension which will open a spot on the Mariners 40-man roster.

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