By Shannon Drayer

ARLINGTON, Texas – Taijuan Walker will be shut down for two weeks after an MRI revealed a right shoulder impingement. Walker was seen by team Dr. Edward Khalfayan. I spoke with general manager Jack Zdurineick Wednesday afternoon and he expressed hope that after two weeks of rehab and treatment Walker would be able to resume his throwing program.

"You have to take the big picture into account," he said. "It's a setback but it is also a part of it. We are hopeful we get him back 100 percent, and it sounds like we will in due time, but we just can't take chances."

Zduriencik went on to say that pulling Walker from his start for Triple-A Tacoma was the right thing to do, and that the 40-man roster will be taken into consideration when choosing a starter for the Mariners on Sunday.

That starter will not be Blake Beavan, as he was put on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. James Jones was called up to take his place on the roster, but obviously he will not be making the start Sunday – although he did pitch in college so maybe it is a possibility (no, they are not to that point yet). More likely we will see Brandon Maurer or Anthony Fernandez get the start.

Jones wasn't the only new face in the clubhouse today as Nick Franklin was also called up and in the lineup tonight.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Seager 5
Saunders 9
Franklin DH
Smoak 3
Ackley 7
Zunino 2

Felix

This is a new one. Notice anything? Six of the starting nine (seven of 10 if you count Felix) are completely home grown signed or drafted by the Mariners. Eight of nine have spend time in the Mariners minors. Franklin is at DH tonight and most likely will flip positions with Robinson Cano tomorrow. We may not see Franklin every day, but we most likely will see quite a bit of him. Lloyd McClendon said that he will play some short, third and outfield. Franklin did not play any outfield while with Tacoma and told me that he still doesn't have an outfield glove. He used Michael Saunders' in spring training and will use whatever is available tonight.

"I will go out there with a catcher's glove if it means I get to play," he said.

Notes

• The make-up date for the no-rain rainout in Oakland has been set " it will be made up as part of a doubleheader May 7. The first game will start at 12:37 p.m., and the second will be played 30 minutes after the first ends. According to union rep Charlie Furbush, the Mariners wanted to play the doubleheader on May 6, but the A's, who are off on May 8, wanted a day/night doubleheader. With the doubleheader, the Mariners will now play 17 straight games over a stretch in May.

By Shannon Drayer

Update: It would appear we have a new player in the mix and it will be very interesting to see how he is used. Nick Franklin is on his way to join the team with the corresponding move expected to be Logan Morrison to the DL.

ARLINGTON, Texas – There was no new news about Taijuan Walker after Tuesday's game, and I generally operate under the assumption that no news is no news. We should know more on Wednesday.

To add to the bad shoulder news day, Blake Beavan was not able to get loose during the Mariners' 5-0 loss to the Rangers and had to exit after the fourth inning. Again, we should know more about his condition Wednesday but he was hopeful that with some treatment over the next few days he will be able to make the Sunday start. Let's hope so because the Mariners don't seem to have any other options on the 40-man roster and few who are not on it.

My best guess would be if Beavan can't go we could see James Gillheeney added to the roster for the start. Gillheeney got the emergency start in Tacoma tonight and threw five innings of one-run ball.

Moving on from the pitching update. During Lloyd McClendon's pre-game meeting with the media I asked him a number of questions about the lineup, starting with why Dustin Ackley was sitting for the second time in three days. With Ackley actually hitting lefties better than righties so far this season, I didn't think this was a match-up thing. I'm not convinced it was despite the answer McClendon gave me.

"I just woke up and said I'm not going to play him against this guy, that's all," he answered.

He then went on to point out that the Mariners were in a long stretch of games and that he saw this as the only opportunity to get him a break. Still odd considering that he didn't play Sunday. It turns out we could see this a little more than we are accustomed to. On Monday, McClendon said that he believed one of the reasons why Kyle Seager struggled in the second half of last year was because he played too much. He started in 160 games that year. This year McClendon would like to see him in around 150. Ackley falls into the same category.

"If we're going to be a productive team, we'd like to see those guys go 150, 155, until they get to the point where they've matured physically and they got those man muscles. I think that's just the smart thing to do," McClendon said.

There is something else McClendon would like to do to help take care of some of his younger players. With Ackley and Mike Zunino – who he said he believes will be a run producer for this club – he plans to keep them low in the batting order.

"I don't foresee that (moving Zunino up) happening this year, and I think the same for Ackley as well," he said. "I think both of those guys will be real, real good players in the big leagues and I think both of them are going to be capable of producing runs, but I like where they are right now. We just need to let them mature, let them play a little bit and have some success."

I am going to guess a lot of you are not going to like this approach, but think about it. Think about what we have seen the last three years. We have seen lineups so devoid of any dependable run producers that the manager at the time would feel forced to go with the hot hand regardless of experience.

McClendon is a hitting coach at heart. That hat was not left in Detroit. He still thinks like a hitting coach and in his mind it would appear that the right thing to do with some of his young hitters is put them in one place and let them worry about that and that only.

It's kind of like telling Ackley at the beginning of spring that he would play only left field. He could have been an option in center but McClendon wanted him to have one focus and to know that is all he would have to worry about this year.

With Zunino, he has so much on his plate in handling the pitching staff and learning the league, so why not take the pressure off and keep him low? Especially since you have older young players and veterans who were brought in to handle the middle of the order.

You may wonder why are Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller at the top of the order then, since they have less experience than Ackley. I think the simple answer is they profile better in those roles.

Almonte has the skills to be a leadoff hitter – can he step up in the role? He's being given the opportunity. Miller has speed and is more of an aggressive hitter who should be able to handle the demands at two. I think McClendon ultimately believes that Ackley will perform better in a role where he doesn't have to execute situationally as much. I think he would rather see him swing the bat.

The Ackley at the top of the order in 2012 experiment didn't go well. In 440 PA's he hit .233/.296/.355 as the leadoff hitter and .215/.284/.289 hitting second in 148 PAs. The success that he had last year came with the majority of his at bats coming at 7,8,9 in the order. One thing to keep in mind is there are no guarantees that Ackley and Zunino will hit the same in different spots in the order.

The hitter in the lineup with the least experience is carrying some of the loftier expectations from the skipper. Stefen Romero has all of 16 big league plate appearances yet McClendon has hit him fifth. How is he different from the others?

"I look at his numbers in the minor leagues, and he's proven that he can drive in runs and I think when he's given ample opportunities, I think he's going to be a big-time run producer," McClendon said. "And I think he's more than just a utility player. As we sit now, the way our club is designed right now, people are going to have to pick and choose their spots and I think this guy has got a very high ceiling, and I think he's got a great chance at being a really good player."

Not the easiest thing to do – be a rookie who is thrust into an important part of the lineup – but McClendon has been keeping a close eye on Romero and believes he can handle it.

"It's the hardest job in baseball. It's hard from a mental standpoint. And I'm constantly talking to him and encouraging him, making sure he understands where he is and why he's where he is right now and just to keep grinding it out," he said.

McClendon was very clear on his thinking behind the lineups we have seen and could see in the future. That doesn't mean that we absolutely won't see a hitter moved up or down. In the end it is his lineup to do with what he feels is right for both the game at hand and the long-term future or development of the players in that lineup. If he makes changes it will be because he's the manager.

Or as he put it, "Because I have got the pencil."

By Shannon Drayer

ARLINGTON, Texas – This is not the word we wanted to hear from Tacoma: Taijuan Walker was scratched from his start after not being able to get loose in his warm-up. He complained of stiffness in his right shoulder and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.

The Mariners shut Walker down for a week after an episode of shoulder soreness during spring training. An MRI revealed inflammation in the bursa but no structural damage. Until today he had reported no soreness or setbacks since resuming throwing, and he had shown his regular velocity in rehab starts.

While the immediate reaction will be to say that this is exactly what happened with Danny Hultzen last year, I would refrain from making any such assessments until we hear what the actual diagnosis is. There is no telling exactly what this is at this point.

Before today's game in Texas, Lloyd McClendon would not fully commit to Blake Beavan getting another start, but he did say that if all went well he most likely would get one more. I think this had more to do with wanting to keep Walker out of a National League park where he would have to hit than perhaps knowing that there could be a problem with Walker.

So Beavan is on the hill tonight where hopefully we will see something that looks a little more like the Beavan we saw two years ago and less like the Beavan we saw last year, who somehow managed to incorporate a Texas two-step into his delivery. He has focused on getting back to his original delivery and adding a cutter and gave up just three runs in his two starts with Tacoma.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Hart DH
Romero 9
Seager 5
Smoak 3
Bloomquist 7
Zunino 2

Beavan

Note

Hisashi Iwakuma threw a 52-pitch bullpen today and mixed in his splitter. Pitching coach Rick Waits was pleased with what he saw.

"He's ready for a game," he said, meaning a sim game.

That sim game will take place Friday in Miami. He is scheduled to throw a full warm-up and then 50-55 pitches to hitters.

By Shannon Drayer

Arlington, Texas – Mariners open a four-game series here in Texas where it is unseasonably cold and ridiculously windy. We will see if that has an impact on tonight's game. Wind is blowing out to right on top of the stadium but the wind tends to circle in the stadium so it is tough to tell how that will play tonight. Let's get straight to the lineups because they are interesting.

Mariners

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Hart DH
Morrison 9
Seager 5
Smoak 3
Ackley 7
Zunino 2

Rangers

Choo 7
Andrus 6
Rios 9
Fielder 3
Kouzmanoff 5
Choice DH
Arencibia 2
Martin 8
Wilson 4

Start with the Rangers lineup. Really? Sure, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder are in it, but does that look like a Texas lineup to you? Not quite the top to bottom firepower they have had in the past. With Colby Lewis making his season debut the Mariners could have an opportunity to do some damage. Let's see if the bats break out away from Oakland pitching.

Lloyd McClendon has moved Justin Smoak down in the order and moved Corey Hart to the position he originally envisioned him residing at behind Robinson Cano. Hart has battled different aches and pains as well as his swing, but McClendon believes he is ready to be put back into the cleanup spot.

"I think he's probably there now," he said in his pregame meeting with the media. "From a physical standpoint I think he's feeling pretty good."

Now that doesn't mean we will see him paroling right field on an everyday basis anytime soon. McClendon said that his main goal with Hart was to keep him healthy and his concern was how his knees would react to the stopping and starting required of an outfielder.

As for the other moves in the lineup McClendon said it was time to shake things up.

"Maybe get a little bit more power down low in the lineup. Try to get a little bit more balance. Just tinkering a little bit. We got shutout, we scored one run two days ago," he said.

One question that has been asked quite a bit on Twitter and in the comment section of the blog is why not move Dustin Ackley (.308 average) up in the order? McClendon hasn't been asked that question but it is a topic that we addressed on the roundtable segment of the pregame show. Mike Blowers had some insight on why you wouldn't move Ackley quite yet.

"I think it's a couple things," he said. "One, it takes pressure off of him. For example, if he were hitting second like Miller is, maybe Dustin would try to do things differently because of that. I think the other part of it is when you're down at the bottom of the order, there's a tendency for the pitcher to let up a little bit, maybe make a few more mistakes. But I think the biggest change with Dustin is it's freed him up to just go and hack and I think that's when he's at his best. I think if he's not worried about moving a runner over, trying to work counts, do all these different things that are required in different parts of the lineup, and he's just free to go be himself, you're going to get the production.

"From talking to him, even in the spring, he made some comments that I thought were perfect, and that is just not worrying about the results anymore and getting your swings in. I think being at the bottom of the lineup is probably a good idea. I don't think that's a place where he's going to stay, but I think for now it's a great idea. And it seems to be working great. Because with Brad hitting second, he's not going to change his game right now, he's going to be aggressive and he probably will be that way for his entire career – and that's okay. It works right now."

Notes

Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw his simulated game Saturday in Miami. He will throw 45 pitches to hitters and, if all goes well, will most likely be sent out on a rehab assignment when the team returns from its road trip.

• The Mariners are dodging Adrian Beltre, who is on the DL with a mild quad strain, on this trip, but will probably see him in the next home stand. Beltre is eligible to come off the DL April 21 and was on the field before the game running the stadium and doing agility drills.

• If you tune into the radio broadcasts for this series you will hear a new voice. With Dave Sims taking the series off, Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith will trade off calling the games with Mike Blowers on ROOT Sports, and former Mariner and current Rangers analyst Mark McClemore will join us on radio. He will pair with Goldsmith today and tomorrow and Rizzs on Wednesday and Thursday.

By Shannon Drayer

As the Mariners hit the road, I think they will be happy to have the Oakland A's in their rearview mirror for at least a couple of weeks. Six out of their first 11 games have come against last year's division winner, and while the Mariners showed that they can stay with the A's, they haven't quite taken the next step and come up with the W's.

While it is not particularly disturbing to see them lose challenging games against the reigning AL West champs, it would be nice to see them win a few of the games that are supposed to be tough matchups, especially games that their pitchers give them a chance to win.

This week the Mariners have the opportunity to regain some ground, though. While I am not one to make too much out of any series (particularly this time of the year), this next series is an opportunity I would like to see them take advantage of and hit Texas while they are down. The Rangers rotation is in shambles right now and Adrian Beltre was put on the DL Sunday morning. The Mariners will face their ace Yu Darvish, but they will counter with Felix that day. With any luck the Mariners will face Hector Noesi at some point, who Seattle traded to Texas Saturday for cash or a player to be named later. Let's see how the bats fare against a pitching staff that is not wearing green.

I am not panicked about what we saw, or more precisely what we didn't see from the offense this weekend. It is still too early to worry much. A few bad games in April are magnified by lack of total at-bats – for example, Justin Smoak went from hitting .300/.600/.1000 to .220/.304/.742 in four days. We've seen good, we've seen bad, now let's wait and see what we see over the next couple of weeks.

One concern I have about the upcoming road trip is the bullpen. Felix will give you innings, but with James Paxton on the DL there is uncertainty with the rest of the rotation. Erasmo Ramirez has struggled in his last two outings. Roenis Elias has been held to five innings in each of his first two starts. Chris Young got through six scoreless innings and thankfully will not pitch in Texas, where his fly-ball outs would have the potential to go for runs. Recent call-up Blake Beavan is a huge question mark – he was not good against Texas last year but has had some success against the Rangers before that. He has a comfort level pitching in Texas just miles away from where he grew up, but does that add up to more than five innings pitched on Tuesday? Let's hope so, because with no off day until a week from Thursday they really can't afford too many short starts. We should see a good amount of bullpen this week but hopefully it will be in managed situations and not mop up duty. Something to keep an eye on.

Notes

Taijuan Walker will get the start Tuesday for the Rainiers in Tacoma.

Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw another bullpen on Tuesday and most likely will face hitters this week in a simulated game situation.

• Plenty of talk about the catch-transfer rule in the clubhouse and coaches rooms, and I have yet to find a fan of it. Willie Bloomquist talked about the confusion they are now facing with the new rule.

"How do you know whether or not to take the chance and go to the next base if he drops it like that or not?" he asked. "You don't know if you do take the chance and go and they say, 'No, rule it a catch,' and they double you up at first. If you go back to first and they rule it a catch you are out at second. Hopefully we change it back to the way it was. Right now it is one of those sticky situations. You really don't know what to do. There's really no right thing to do."

Lloyd McClendon is also not a fan and has the same concerns for his base runners that Bloomquist described. McClendon and the coaches have instructed the players to watch the umpire, which is an adjustment as they have always watched the play in front of them. The play is nothing until it is called by the umpire, and according to McClendon they have been about 50/50 in the timeliness of making those calls. This is pretty much a huge mess. While the intent has been to play the season out with the new rules and then review, I have to wonder if an adjustment will be made sooner.

• McClendon is also beginning to sour on replay in general.

"I'm as frustrated as the next person," he said in his pregame media session Sunday morning. "You try to be politically correct with your statements but I'm really worried about where we're headed with replay and the effect it is having on the games and the effect it is having on the fans. Hell, I don't even know what to celebrate anymore. You don't know what's going to be challenged. For me, I think it is slowing down the game a little. I've been trying to be a fan of it. I initially thought it was going to be good for the game but I'm not so sure. I'm really not."

• Last but not least, I asked McClendon why he didn't pinch hit Corey Hart in the ninth inning Saturday night. He said he debated using him but decided against it because it was a cold night and Hart had battled back problems in spring training.

"If it were summer I would have had no problem going to him in that situation," he said.

Felix-644
Felix Hernandez surprised a group of middle-school students as part of an anti-bullying campaign. (Mariners)

By Shannon Drayer

Despite the hectic and limiting Major League Baseball schedule, Felix Hernandez always seems to find time to give back. On the only off day the Mariners will have the next two weeks and the day before his next start – which will be a Supreme Court Night where the first 25,000 fans will receive King's Court T-shirts – Felix was at Safeco Field for a few hours to help spread a message that is important to him.

"It is for a good cause, a good cause," he said. "Something that is really important for us, anti-bullying, because we just want everybody to be safe at the school. I think everybody deserves to be respected, and be themself."

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, a group of students from Bellevue's Highland Middle School were brought to Safeco Field to be a part of an anti-bullying public service announcement with the Mariner Moose. The chance to leave school to be on a big-league field with the Moose and shoot a commercial created a big buzz among the pre-teens. That buzz would soon get louder as they had a surprise in store. As they were filming, the director for the PSA stopped the shoot and told the kids that it was missing something. That missing something was Felix, who snuck up behind the kids in full uniform.

"It was a surprise," Felix said. "When I came out of the dugout they were screaming. I see their eyes, they were really happy and it was a real surprise for them."

The surprise didn't end there, however, as the director was still not satisfied with a shoot. Felix had an idea.

"I call a friend, I call Macklemore and it was even better," he said. "They were really surprised."

Grammy-award-winning artist Macklemore emerged from the dugout, and cheering and a few screams ensued. At that point the director was satisfied. The commercial was finished and the kids got to spend a few minutes with Felix and Macklemore and take pictures with them. It was an afternoon one of the attendees, Alexis, will never forget.

"It was really cool how Macklemore and Felix Hernandez could be here," he said. "It was touching, like famous people aren't all about themselves, they actually care what happens to other people."

Felix-Macklemore-Meet
Hernandez and rapper Macklemore made an impression on the youngsters, including one who appreciated how "they actually care what happens to other people." (Mariners)
Felix, who has two young children, was more than happy to take the time to spread a message that he feels is important. It is a message that he has shared with his own children.

"Me and my wife, we just talk about with them we have got to respect each other. You don't have to be a bad guy, you just got to do your thing," he said. "You have got to be yourself, you have got to treat people like they have to treat you. Good. There are a lot of kids who are being bullied and this will help them get support."

I have always been impressed with Felix's willingness to help in the community and something he said Thursday confirmed that he isn't just saying yes to be agreeable, he understands that he as a famous athlete has a voice.

"You know, this is going to be good," he said after our taped interview had finished and he was heading out to take pictures with Macklemore. "People are going to hear us."

The kids at Safeco Field did.

"I think it is very important because bullying is not something that should happen to us or anyone else," said one named Yukta.

"Don't be a bystander," said Adelyn. "If someone is being bullied you should go up to the bully and confront them or go ask someone a teacher or adult to help you out."

It helps to know they have the support of Felix and Macklemore.

"You just might as well tell the bully, Macklemore and Felix do not support you!" Adelyn said.

More on the campaign by Felix, Macklemore and the Mariners to "Stand Up To Bullying" and #ChangeTheGame, including help for teachers and parents, can be found here.

By Shannon Drayer

A good-news and a not-so-good but not terrible news situation for the Mariners Wednesday as two pitchers appear to be well on their way back from injury and one is being shut down.

James Paxton has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left lat. The plan is to rest him and re-evaluated after 15 days. The hope is he will be able to resume throwing after the re-evaluation. Lucas Luetge has been recalled from Tacoma to take his place on the 25-man roster. Chris Young will make Paxton's next scheduled start, which is the series finale against Oakland on Sunday.

If they stay in rotation, Roenis Elias should make the start Monday in Texas and then the Mariners will need a starter for the game Tuesday. Taijuan Walker may be an option. Walker threw five innings of three-hit, one-walk and 10-strikeout ball in his start for Jackson Wednesday night.

Not an option will be Hisashi Iwakuma but he is making good progress. On Wednesday he threw a bullpen session of 34 pitches – 30 fastballs and four curves. He is scheduled to throw another bullpen and will add pitches and a pitch, the slider.

I asked pitching coach Rick Waits about when Iwakuma would throw the pitch that would put the most pressure on the finger that was injured, the splitter, and it turns out he has been throwing it, just not off the mound. I was told Iwakuma has been throwing all of his pitches in his catch sessions. This is good news.

While there isn't a plan put down in ink yet for Iwakuma, if his bullpen sessions continue to go well we could see him throw a simulated game on the upcoming road trip and if he continues to progress we could see him sent out on a rehab assignment on the next home stand. First thing is first, however, he needs to continue to build arm strength in the bullpen sessions.

By Shannon Drayer

James Paxton is scheduled to undergo a MRI Wednesday after suffering what was preliminary diagnosed as a strained left lat Tuesday night.

Paxton first felt what he called a "tweak" in the fifth inning of the Mariners' 5-3 win over the Angels. It disappeared when he returned to the bench, but two batters into the sixth inning the tweak returned. Manager Lloyd McClendon and trainer Rob Nodine made a visit to the mound after McClendon noticed Paxton shake his arm after a pitch to the Angels' Mike Trout. Paxton was then taken from the game.

At his locker following the win, Paxton did not appear to worried about the injury.

"I don't think it's going to be a big deal," he said. "It's not real pain. Just a little soreness."

Paxton was originally scheduled to pitch next on Sunday but that starter is now listed as TBA. Chris Young could easily fall into that spot. The Mariners would then need a starter for Tuesday's game in Texas. Blake Beavan would be an option or they could possibly go with Taijuan Walker, who is scheduled to pitch Wednesday for Double-A Jackson.

McClendon said late last week that Walker could be less than 10 days away, indicating that he could be ready to go after the Jackson start, but they could elect to go with another rehab start before having him return.

We should learn more on Wednesday.

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