By 710Sports.com staff

With the Mariners' home opener tonight, Shannon Drayer will host a live chat at 12:30.

By Shannon Drayer

OAKLAND, Calif. – Michael Saunders is making his second start in right field. I have received a number of emails, tweets and comments asking why we haven't seen more Saunders early on. If you were paying attention in spring training this shouldn't be a surprise. Abraham Almonte is clearly the center fielder for now and with Corey Hart not ready to play in the outfield, the Mariners were taking good looks at others during the spring. Saunders, Stefen Romero and Logan Morrison have all received two starts in right so far. It has been a juggling act for manager Lloyd McClendon.

"Michael's a tremendous defensive outfielder who can play all three," McClendon said Sunday morning. "There's a certain comfort with having him in the outfield. I would be lying to you if I said if I had a chance to DH Morrison or Hart and play Michael in the outfield I would rather do it the other way around. Obviously it gives us the best defensive outfield to have him out there. To this point everything has worked pretty nicely for us."

McClendon is basically sacrificing defense for offense when Saunders is not out there and he knows it. It is not uncommon to see teams do this with one of the corner outfield positions. The commitments have been made to keep Dustin Ackley in left and Almonte in center unless they show they can't handle it. So far so good with both. Almonte I think has shown he is better in center than expected and Ackley is improving. So the sacrifice is made in right when Saunders sits and so far the team has yet to be burned by it. It should be pointed out that McClendon has been quick to go to Saunders as a defensive replacement in games he did not start. This has worked out well for everyone, including Morrison, who saw Saunders make a tough play in right on the first ball put in play after he replaced him.

"He did great," McClendon said of Morrison's play in right. "He was excited to come out, too. When Saunders caught that ball he said, 'That was one hell of a move, Skip.' "

Lineup!

Abraham Almonte, 8
Brad Miller, 6
Robinson Cano, 4
Justin Smoak, 3
Logan Morrison, DH
Kyle Seager, 5
Dustin Ackley, 7
Michael Saunders, 9
Mike Zunino, 2

Erasmo Ramirez

McClendon is still taking things slow with Hart, who is not in the lineup today. Hart is still experiencing pain in his biceps when he swings the bat and with the off day Monday this was a good opportunity give him extra time to help quiet the issue. McClendon is encouraged by what he has seen at the plate from Hart.

"I think the light is starting to flick a little bit," he said. "I can see the hands start to quicken up, he's starting to recognize breaking balls better."

Notes

• Tuesday's Mariners home opener is a virtual sellout with only scattered single tickets remaining. Any tickets that are returned to the box office will be available at Mariners.com.

• Big day for DJ Peterson, who picked up Baseball America Prospect Hitter of the Day honors Saturday as he went 4 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs for the High Desert Mavericks.

• Heading into today's game, the Mariners were tied for second in the Majors with 22 extra-base hits. Justin Smoak is tied for the American-League lead in RBIs with seven.

By Shannon Drayer

Oakland, Calif. – The Mariners game against the A's has been postponed due to poor field conditions that were due to the A's failing to tarp the field overnight. We can't make these things up.

Lloyd McClendon and Jack Zduriencik took a walk out to inspect the field along with the umpires and Oakland manager Bob Melvin at about 6:45 p.m. Shortly after 7 word began to circulate that the game had been canceled.

"It was very soft. That's probably the worst conditions I've seen in all my years in baseball. It was not safe for the players," McClendon said.

Apparently it wasn't safe for the manager either.

"I was walking toward shortstop and my ankle turned and went down I'd say probably two inches," he said.

No doubt you wouldn't want to see your new $240 million second baseman play on that.

Per union rules the decision on whether or not to play one or two games Saturday was made by the players. The teams will stick to the original schedule and make up Friday's game later this season, most likely in May. Felix Hernandez will start Saturday's game as originally scheduled.

One of the reasons I heard that they did not want to play the double header is there was concern the field conditions could worsen if they played back to back games. According to both McClendon and Jack Zduriencik there is a chance that the field may not be ready for Saturday's game. I would be very surprised if this were the case but we shall see.

By Shannon Drayer

OAKLAND, Calif. – There was a new face in the Mariners clubhouse Friday afternoon, as Dominc Leone joined the club. He takes the place of Hector Noesi, who was DFA'd earlier in the day.

Leone and Carson Smith both impressed the coaches this spring, and it was little surprise that it was one of the two who got the call when Noesi was cut. Leone arrived in the clubhouse from Tacoma at about 4:30 p.m. and said that he would be available if needed tonight. He won't be – the game was postponed due to field conditions.

Leone has an interesting story that I never got to during the spring. Drafted in the 16th round of the 2012 draft out of Clemson (where he was a teammate of Brad Miller), he came to the organization as a starter and was quickly converted to reliever. In the pen he saw his velocity take a dramatic jump. The fastball now clocks at 96-97 MPH and he possess a vicious cutter that has topped out at 94. Surprising velocity from a guy who is listed at 5-foot-11 and a generous 210 pounds.

Leone credits coaching and better mechanics with the increased velocity. As for the cutter, well, YouTube is responsible for that.

"After a few rough starts my junior year I thought I needed to change things up. I need to get these hitters off-balance," he said. "I was watching YouTube and saw a couple of cutter videos, you know Mariano Rivera. I always knew it was a good pitch. I kept trying to develop it on my own and when I got to Everett it really took off."

In two minor league seasons Leone has combined to go 4-3 with 21 saves and a 1.95 ERA. Last fall he led the Arizona Fall League with six saves, along with a 3.00 ERA, 15 strikeouts and one walk.

While he is replacing Noesi on the roster, he will not necessarily be assuming his role. Lloyd McClendon said he would not be afraid to use him in "impactful situations."

Lineup

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

Young

Notes

Hisashi Iwakuma threw from flat ground again today and should throw next on Sunday. He is still on schedule to throw his first bullpen sometime next week.

Taijuan Walker gets his first rehab start tonight with High Desert.

• While the line for Stephen Pryor's first appearance did not look good (0.2 IP, 2H, R, HR, BB, K), McClendon said reports were that he threw well with the fastball topping out at 95 MPH.

By Shannon Drayer

OAKLAND, Calif. – Before the Mariners game against Oakland Thursday night, manager Lloyd McClendon was asked for his thoughts on the team's "hot" three-game start. McClendon shrugged and said: "Like I told the players, you gotta turn the page. I don't think Oakland gives a (expletive) what we did."

He then added: "At some point we are going to have to win a game 3-2."

ap da3232aa3e3b5f0d500f6a706700dab2
M's catcher Mike Zunino was visibly frustrated with home-plate umpire Sean Barber's strike zone. (AP)
And they are still going to have to win a 3-2 game at some point as it didn't happen last night. No, the A's came out on top of a frustrating, 12-inning contest at the lovely O.co Coliseum.

I don't think I would be going out on a limb to say that was the worst called game I have ever seen in the big leagues. Perfect pitches were being called balls. No part of the zone was exempt from being called a ball. Top of the zone, left, right, bottom, middle – all was fair game. It was ridiculous to the point of one fateful curveball to Nick Punto being so obvious that the pitcher, catcher and hitter all started to head for their dugouts only to have to return after a ball was called. It was unbelievably bad, but no excuse, according to McClendon.

"The fact is we didn't execute on several fronts and we walked guys. I don't use that type of stuff as an excuse. We just didn't play good," he said.

True, there were miscues, an episode of bad base running, Abraham Almonte getting caught in between on a ball that led to a run, and 10 walks. That said, some of those walks were far from deserved. For catcher Mike Zunino, it was a long night as he tried to keep his pitchers focused while dealing with an unpredictable strike zone.

"Obviously I think there was a couple of really good pitches that he didn't think were strikes," Zunino said. "I'm protecting our pitchers and I wanted to get every pitch we could from our relievers and I thought it was a decent pitch, but he thought otherwise. I'm just protecting my guys and I just want to get all of the strike calls I can get."

Zunino knew better than to talk about the curve to Punto, but it was clear he was still bothered by that call after the game. It was even more clear during the game as Zunino could be seen having words with umpire Sean Barber, who is a fill-in ump from Triple-A. At one point he even turned and faced the umpire while addressing a call, a no-no in baseball. Zunino knows this and usually has a great relationship with the umpires from what I have heard. He knows the importance of the catcher's communication with the umpires and it no doubt would take a lot for him to show that kind of breach of etiquette.

The ball and strike calls were not the only issue with the umpiring. A lengthy, umpire-called review of a play at the plate – not to judge if the runner was out or safe but whether Zunino was blocking the plate, which he clearly wasn't – cost the Mariners an inning from their starter Roenis Elias, who after a nervous start had settled down and retired 10 in a row before the awful Punto call.

"It was unfortunate his pitch count got up and we got that big delay and he couldn't go back out there. It baffled me because my catcher was in fair territory the whole time until he got the ball," McClendon said. "I was not going to send him back out there at that point. That was a very unfortunate incident in a lot of different ways. One that I felt was not supposed to happen, where the team was supposed to stay on the field and you have got your pitcher sitting over there for almost 5 minutes. To me, that is not acceptable, and we have got to get that straight."

A tough, frustrating loss for the team from which McClendon will want to see lessons learned but quickly put behind them. We have seen this group win and we have now seen them lose. On Friday we will see how they bounce back.

By Shannon Drayer

OAKLAND, Calif. – Greetings from the O.co Coliseum, otherwise known as the "Jewel of the American League." The elevators are working and the sewage is staying where it is supposed to stay, so I guess you could say we are off to a great start here.

Roenis Elias makes his big-league debut tonight, having bypassed Triple-A. I have heard some criticize the Mariners for the move, citing Brandon Maurer's lack of success making the jump last year. I think it is ridiculous to lump all pitchers together like that. Each is different. Each reacts differently. You never know what will happen the first time under the big lights. It is different. The field is the same, the batter is the same distance away, but the quality of hitter you are facing is obviously better and the stakes are higher. It is an adjustment and how a young pitcher handles it plays into their chances for success.

Along those lines I think Elias will be fine. Manager Lloyd McClendon has pointed out that to live through what Elias has lived through – escaping Cuba and basically hiding out in Mexico for the chance to play baseball – big-league pressure should pale in comparison. Elias has appeared calm and confident the entire spring and has had his eyes wide open. I have seen him asking Felix Hernandez questions and running stairs and warning tracks with Yoervis Medina, who was taken under Oliver Perez's wing last year.

For him I think the biggest hurdle will be the pitches. Is the curveball as big league as it appeared in spring? Can he keep his command and walks down with hitters that will be more selective? We will get our first look soon.

Lineup!

Abraham Almonte, 8
Brad Miller, 6
Robinson Cano, 4
Justin Smoak, 3
Corey Hart, DH
Kyle Seager, 5
Logan Morrison, 9
Dustin Ackley, 7
Mike Zunino, 2

Roenis Elias

Logan Morrison is making his first start in right tonight. Ever. Or at least in the big leagues. I talked to him briefly before the game and he said he wasn't too worried about it. He actually did play left here at O.co in interleague play and said it reminded him of Sun Life Stadium in Miami, also a football stadium. During batting practice he received a little extra work as outfield coach Andy Van Slyke stood at second base and hit balls to him in right for about 15 minutes. Good to see.

Note

• How good has James Paxton been? Well, according to Elias (the stat company, not Roenis), Paxton is only the second pitcher in MLB history to go 4-0 or 5-0 in his first five games, all starts, with an ERA under 1.25. In 1946 Boo Ferriss of the Red Sox won his first five starts while putting up a 0.60 ERA.

By Shannon Drayer

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Mariners will go for just the second ever opening-series sweep in club history when they take on the Angels tonight. The only other time Seattle has swept the first series of the season was in 1985 against the Tigers.

A little bit of a different lineup as James Paxton makes his season debut.

Lineup!

Abraham Almonte, 8
Brad Miller, 6
Robinson Cano, 4
Justin Smoak, 3
Corey Hart, DH
Stefen Romero, 9
Dustin Ackley, 7
Mike Zunino, 2
Willie Bloomquist, 5

James Paxton

Lineup notes: Yes, Willie Bloomquist makes his Mariners re-debut. Manager Lloyd McClendon said that he would work to get everyone in as early as possible and tonight Bloomquist becomes the last position player to get a start. Robinson Cano is hitting third, where we will most likely see him all year. Interestingly enough, while the team has scored 18 runs in the first two games, Cano has yet to get an RBI. This is a good thing because those RBIs are coming. McClendon had high praise for Paxton before the game, saying he threw better than anyone in camp this spring.

Notes

• LHP Bobby LaFromboise and INF Carlos Triunfel, who were both designated for assignment at the end of spring, have been claimed with the Dodgers picking up Triunfel and the Padres taking LaFromboise. OF Xavier Avery was not claimed and has been assigned to Tacoma.

• RHP Stephen Pryor was assigned to Double-A Jackson and is a full-go to pitch. RHP Taijuan Walker will make his first rehab start Friday for High Desert.

• Oakland has changed its rotation for the series against the Mariners. Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone and Sonny Gray will get the starts and the Mariners will not see Scott Kazmir as originally planned. One fewer lefty is not a bad thing.

• The Mariners, MLB, and MLBPA have donated $225,000 to the Oso Slide recovery efforts. In addition to the donation, volunteers from the American Red Cross will be collecting donations from the public outside the gates of Safeco Field opening night.

The Red Cross is accepting donations at RedCross.org. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. Charges will appear on your monthly mobile service bill.

Erasmo-644
In his 2014 debut Tuesday, Erasmo Ramirez showed a better understanding of how to pitch with two strikes. (AP)

By Shannon Drayer

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon raised eyebrows 10 days ago when instead of praising a four-hit, no-run performance by Erasmo Ramirez, he pointed to an area of concern. McClendon didn't like what he was seeing in Ramirez's 0-2 pitches, and didn't hold back when describing them.

"They're horse (expletive) pitches," he exclaimed. "Everybody was all excited about his start, 'Oh, he did such a great job,' but he made a lot of horse (expletive) pitches on 0-2."

Strong words followed by even stronger ones.

"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," McClendon said. "Once that light goes on you don't get those pitches back. Miguel Cabrera is not going to miss that pitch. Prince Fielder isn't going to miss that pitch. You have to make that pitch."

This was by no means a new frustration with Ramirez. The staff last year saw the same thing and Ramirez himself has admitted that he has trouble throwing pitches that are not strikes. McClendon wasn't going to let him get away with it, however. The message was sent to the pitcher loud and clear well before it was sent to the media. Turns out it was sent to someone else as well.

In Tuesday's lineup notes I noted that I didn't think it was coincidence that John Buck was catching Ramirez. I had a feeling that McClendon may have put the task on Buck to get Ramirez to perform. In our on-field interview after the game, Buck said that the key to Ramirez's success that night was his ability to bury his out-pitch.

"I found myself blocking the ball, which he was having trouble with early this spring and obviously on film last year," Buck said.

It was a quick but necessary transformation for Ramirez, according to Buck.

"I kind of said, 'Look, I am getting tired of getting yelled at too by Lloyd,' " he said. " 'Let's head on down to the bullpen and I will block every single one of your two-strike sliders in the dirt. I will get to work blocking it and you throw them.' I think it was something that Lloyd did intentionally to really sink the importance of it into his mind."

Ramirez was ecstatic about his success.

"I feel better 0-2, 1-2, throwing the pitches in the dirt or else to the strike zone," he said at his locker after the game. "I love it. I love how it looks right now. The hitters know I throw all strikes but when they see me throwing in the dirt 0-2, 1-2 it makes them think a little bit more."

The work with Buck in the bullpen helped.

"He understands what I need, where he needs to put (the glove). He knows he needs to put the glove almost to the dirt. 'I want to glove that ball. Don't worry about it, Just throw it.' That's the kind of security, you know. Be sure you feel confidence to throw it and that's what I feel in the game," Ramirez said.

The success no doubt will reinforce the change. Ramirez may have been happy to put up outing after outing of no-walk, four-run performances, but now he has seen the difference. He still didn't walk anyone Tuesday night but he threw better strikes, strikes with a purpose, not strikes just aimed not to be a ball. For whatever reason, McClendon got through to him and the Mariners may now have an improved pitcher.

« Previous
Next »


mynorthwest.com
Copyright © 2014 Bonneville International. All rights reserved.