Updated Oct 14, 2012 - 11:16 pm
Seattle Mariners Blog with Shannon Drayer
Thursday, February 27, 2014 @ 3:08pm
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – It is always nice to start the Cactus League season on a positive note, and the Mariners did exactly that Thursday afternoon as they cruised to a 7-1 win over the Padres. Manager Lloyd McClendon was happy with the first effort he saw from his team.
"For the most part we executed pretty well," McClendon said. "Our pitchers were outstanding. We still have a few things to work on, but it was a good day for us."
Erasmo Ramirez kicked off his battle for a spot in the starting rotation by pitching two scoreless innings. He threw all of his pitches and was able to keep the ball down and get groundouts, three of which were fielded by Robinson Cano in the first inning.
"When you got a guy like that at second base you think, 'Okay, let's see, we have got a lot of lefty hitters. Cano on second base, everyone has good hands, why not just make pitches, make ground balls?' So just make the infield work a little bit. Keep the ball down," he said after the game.
"I prefer to see the infielders working on the ground balls and not the outfielders on the fly balls. I loved what happened today."
Blake Beavan followed and threw two more scoreless innings. Both Ramirez and Beavan gave up two-out hits, something that McClendon said he would like to see them focus more on when in the heat of battle.
The offense kicked right in from the start with Abraham Almonte – who is auditioning for the leadoff spot – drawing a walk. A batter later, Cano got his first hit that doesn't count with the Mariners, a first-pitch single to center. Logan Morrison scored Almonte with a sacrifice fly and then Justin Smoak drove a ball to the gap in right-center on a 3-1 count and drove in Cano, who was happy with what he saw from the offense.
"It was good to see the way guys were swinging and that is what we want," he said. "We want to go out into the season with he same approach and same mind. Just go out there and swing at strikes."
Cano drew a walk in his second at-bat but jumped on the first pitch he saw in the first. He knows he won't see that pitch often in the regular season.
"It is good to go out there and put an example for the guys and not just swing at everything knowing that this is spring training but during the season they might pitch me different," he said.
Cano has talked about setting an example and being a leader and we have seen him live up to those words, talking hitting with a number of guys and helping out in the batting cages. It is a role that is new to him. He was the young guy in New York and benefited from growing up in the game with a number of players with many years of experience in the big leagues. He believes it is his duty to do the same.
"I would say it is time to pass that on to kids," he said. "Especially a guy like Smoak, a guy that we know he can hit. I talked to him and said you don't want to go this year and hit .230 like last year. If you want to work, I am all for it."
Cano worked with Smoak Wednesday on a net drill designed by his former hitting coach in New York. He has also seen Smoak working with hitting coach Howard Johnson. The focus has been to get Smoak to keep his hands in and stay inside the ball. On Thursday, Cano saw the results.
"That was a beautiful swing," he said. "You could see the way he keeps his hands inside, if he does that this season you will see the difference."
McClendon liked what he saw as well. He believes Smoak was putting pressure on himself to hit home runs. That is not what he wants his focus to be.
"One thing we want to impress to him is we think he has the ability to lead the league in doubles, and that's what I want his goal to be," McClendon said. "You hit doubles, you are doing everything right."
Other highlights from the game game included scoreless frames from Lucas Luetge and Tom Wilhelmsen, who threw a one-two-three inning. A scout's radar gun I kept an eye on had Wilhelmsen topping out at 96 mph, which is some pretty serious heat to have this early in camp. The fastball isn't the concern with him. His success will be determined by if he can find the curve ball he lost last year. He has been inconsistent with it in camp so far but did get a swinging strike with one in the game against the Padres. Just something to keep an eye on.
We will do this again Friday.
Thursday, February 27, 2014 @ 6:58am
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Good morning and happy baseball day. The Mariners are getting ready to face a team in a different uniform for the first time this spring. The game against San Diego can be heard on 710 ESPN Seattle and 710Sports.com starting at 12:05.
Abraham Almonte, 8
Kyle Seager, 5
Robinson Cano, 4
Logan Morrison, DH
Justin Smoak, 3
Michael Saunders, 9
Dustin Ackley, 7
Brad Miller, 6
Mike Zunino, 2
Erasmo Ramirez will get the start and is scheduled to throw two innings. Blake Beavan will follow and also is expected to throw two. Others that could see action include Logan Kensing, Lucas Luetge, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel and Danny Farquhar.
Lineup notes and things to look for
Do not be alarmed that Corey Hart is not in the lineup. He is not being held out for any kind of health reason – his knees, of course, will be a concern and he has had back stiffness this week – and manager Lloyd McClendon said he will have him in the lineup on Friday.
The lineup for the first game is pretty representative of what McClendon would ultimately like to see. Leadoff hitter has yet to be determined but we know Cano will hit third and McClendon wants Seager to hit second. Hart in the lineup will push those after Cano further down and performance could obviously move others up, but there is really not a lot of mystery at the top and middle of the order, other than who the leadoff hitter will be.
Abraham Almonte, leadoff hitter?
McClendon has said that he is looking at a number of players for the leadoff spot and Thursday morning he listed names. Almonte, Nick Franklin, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and Xavier Avery where the players he said would get a look.
"We have got four weeks to figure this out," he said.
As for Almonte, who hit leadoff for the team twice last year, McClendon points out that he could bring a lot to the spot in the batting order.
"Switch hitter, tremendous speed, the ability to bunt, steal bases, first to home," he said. "That's what you are looking for in a leadoff hitter and he gets the opportunity today."
Pitchers on the mend
Taijuan Walker had no problems with his long-toss session Wednesday and the hope is to get him up on the mound in the next couple of days.
As I noted Wednesday, Hisashi Iwakuma's appointment with the hand doctor has been moved up a few days. Iwakuma told a member of the Japanese media that he doesn't know what the doctor will say but his finger is feeling much better.
Who's on third?
Third-base coach John Stearns is out for four to six weeks after surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. A decision on a replacement for him has yet to be made, but coaching third on Thursday will be new Tacoma manager and camp coordinator Rich Donnelly.
• With the 11 club-control players that were announced as signed Thursday morning, all players on the 40-man roster are now signed through the 2013 season.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 @ 12:26pm
By 710Sports.com staff
Above is a video shot by 710 ESPN Seattle's Shannon Drayer of Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez throwing a simulated game Wednesday in Peoria, Ariz.
The first hitter facing Hernandez is minor-league outfielder Gabriel Guerrero, a nephew of Vladimir Guerrero. He's followed by another minor-league outfielder, Dario Pizzano.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 @ 7:44am
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Just one more day until games that don't count. The days will get longer here starting Thursday as morning drills will be followed by Cactus League games and we will get our first look at the Mariners in game situations. Competitions will start and the roster, slowly but surely, will begin to form as questions of both performance and health begin to to be answered.
One of the biggest question marks right now is the starting rotation. Coming into camp there was a need for a number three starter, but with Hisashi Iwakuma on the shelf to start the season and Taijuan Walker being brought along slowly because of early shoulder soreness, there are questions at two and five as well.
It would appear the Mariners could be a little short in the starting pitching department to start the season, but the good news is two of the Tommy John guys, Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, have looked good early in camp.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has the pitching mapped out on a white board in his office. Nothing has been released or announced, so it is far from official and no doubt could change at any time, but going forward for the next week this is what he has.
All starters are scheduled to pitch two innings in their first outings. Erasmo Ramirez will start the first Cactus League game against the Padres and is backed up by Blake Beavan, who is also scheduled to pitch two innings. James Paxton, Baker, Wolf and Beavan and Ramirez in a split squad follow through Monday. On Tuesday, Felix Hernandez makes his first start and will be followed by Paxton, Baker, Wolf and again Ramirez/Beavan the next four days.
McClendon said not to read anything into what was on the board, that they would make adjustments to line people up as necessary as the spring progresses. The order hardly means Wolf or Baker or even Ramirez have won spots yet, just that they are going to get starter work.
I would allow for one surprise, however. If Iwakuma is not able to start the season I think there is a good chance that Paxton follows Felix in the second game of the season. Just something to watch for.
Is Iwakuma ahead of schedule?
Iwakuma was originally scheduled to check in with the hand doctor next Monday, but general manager Jack Zduriencik told us on "The Cactus League Report" that appointment has been moved up to Friday at Iwakuma's request.
Iwakuma suffered a strained tendon in the middle finger of his right hand and has been told not to throw for four to six weeks. Monday will mark his third week of not throwing. It would be hard to imagine he will be given the green light to throw Friday, but he could come away from the appointment with a more certain timeline for a return.
'Cactus League Report' recap
The first "Cactus League Report" of the season aired Tuesday night, and if you missed it, well, lucky for you we have a podcast. In addition to the Iwakuma news, Zduriencik discussed his approach to possibly adding another player before spring, Brad Miller talked about having competition at shortstop and Kyle Seager gave us insight into how Robinson Cano could help the Mariners' hitters. We also visited with pitchers Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez and Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.
A quick "CLR" scheduling change: We will be taping just two more shows this spring at the Salty Senorita and they will be on March 4 and 11.
Felix will throw live batting practice on Tuesday. Walker with throw flat ground, after which we could have an idea of when he will throw his next bullpen. Pryor is scheduled to throw his second bullpen since surgery and Brandon Maurer – who is coming back from a few days of a bad back – is scheduled to throw flat ground.
From the give-me-a-break department
Former Mariner Chone Figgins is in Dodgers camp and has a shot to make the team despite missing 2013 after being cut by the Marlins. When asked by Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times what happened in Seattle, he answered:
"It kind of says it all when you have just signed a $38 million contract and they pinch-hit for you in the fourth game."
Colin O'Keefe at Lookout Landing tweeted the highlights from that game. Figgins was lifted for Ken Griffey Jr., who drove in the tying run. What follows next in the game is a short Franklin Gutierrez highlight reel.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 @ 4:02pm
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – After a week of baseball drills, we finally got a taste of actual baseball. Baseball in the form of a 4 1/2 inning intrasquad game that Mariners No. 1 prevailed over Mariners No. 2, 4-3.
Jabari Blash, who finished last season at Double-A Jackson, hit a blast that cleared the field and complex fences. See the wall behind the shed in the picture above? The ball went over that wall and into the parking lot in front of the stadium. Manager Lloyd McClendon said he was worried it would hit his car, which was parked in front of the net that you can see next to the shed. No chance. The car was safe.
The blast drew oohs and ahs from the crowd and teammates alike. Logan Morrison, who was standing near me at the time, let out a big gasp when the ball came off the bat.
"That is some serious man strength (stuff)," he said, shaking his head. "Wow. Five-hundred feet? Okay, I'm not going to see anything else like that today. I'm going home."
It probably wasn't quite 500 feet but it very well could have been 450. Blash is known to have some pop in his bat, but like many young power hitters he strikes out a bit too much. Still an intriguing youngster worth keeping an eye on.
Other highlights included Stefen Romero's two-run shot to left-center and solid play in right and Nick Franklin's opposite-field home run hitting right-handed. The pitching wasn't much to write home about as none of the pitchers put up a clean inning.
While the fireworks were fun to watch, it was just one intrasquad game and means very little. It is a good start, however, for those who had success and particularly good to for Franklin, who has struggled in previous springs. This spring won't be easy for him competing for a spot with Brad Miller, who has the inside track to the position, and knowing that each game there will be scouts in the stands with eyes on him.
Monday came word that the Mets were interested. On Tuesday the Rays were added to the list. His name will most likely come up throughout the spring in trade rumors, and that can be tough on a veteran player let alone a young one like Franklin.
It is part of the game, however, and for his part Franklin appears to have good focus coming into the spring.
• Taijuan Walker threw Tuesday morning after having two days off. All went well in the short long toss session and trainer Rick Griffin told me he was happy with what he saw, particularly the velocity. Walker should throw again on Wednesday, and if all goes well I would expect to see him start throwing bullpens again by the end of the week.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 @ 6:52am
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – We have the first game action of the spring Tuesday as the Mariners will take on the Mariners in a five-inning intrasquad game. The game will feature mostly younger players in camp but we will get to see Nick Franklin at short.
Scheduled to pitch: Elias, Noesi, Gillheeney, Bawcom, Arias, Fernandez, Carraway, Kohlschien, Ruffin.
• Elsewhere around camp, after two days off from throwing Taijuan Walker is scheduled to throw long toss. He is scheduled to throw again Wednesday but it is not clear if he is throwing a bullpen or playing catch.
"He is doing fine," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He is going along with the program the trainers have for him."
We do have a camp casualty to report. Third-base coach John Stearns will miss time after undergoing surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. Stearns will not be allowed to resume baseball activity for four to six weeks. The team is still deciding who will take his place until he gets back.
• Felix Hernandez is not throwing Tuesday but is locked in a battle with David Wright in the semifinals of the MLB Network's "Face of MLB" contest. Felix will receive a vote for every tweet Tuesday and Wednesday morning, which includes #FelixHernandez and #FaceofMLB.
Felix, who along with the Mariners' marketing department, is having a lot of fun with this, beat Andrew McCutchen, Chase Utley and last year's champ, Joey Votto, to make it to the semis. A record 107,000 votes were cast in that battle against Votto, which Felix won 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent.
If you are on Twitter, and you should be, follow @Mariners throughout the day as they most likely will have a lot of fun stuff and a number of giveaways and contests aimed at getting more votes for Felix, who actually called a couple of voters last round. Each Twitter account is allowed 25 votes and it is as simple as giving a re-tweet. Vote now and vote often.
• Last "Cactus League Report" reminder: The show can be heard Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle. If you are in Peoria stop by the Salty Senorita for the taping, which will be from 7-9 p.m. local time. Guests scheduled to drop by include general manager Jack Zduriencik, infielders Brad Miller and Kyle Seager, pitchers Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez and Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 8:33am
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Word out of the Grapefruit League Monday morning is MLB is about to announce a rule banning home-plate collisions. While the exact parameters of the rule are not yet known, Mariners catchers have been preparing in conversation for this to happen.
"Obviously, this is the time where if we can't take a lane away we have to learn how to do that," Mike Zunino said. "We don't want to have to cost the team any runs. We have been in talks trying to constantly figure out the best way so when the time comes we are prepared."
John Buck was on an MLB Players Association panel that looked into the situation. Heading into the discussion he had one view. He left the meeting with another.
"It's trying to make the game safer but also not jeopardize the integrity," Mariners catcher John Buck said of the possibility of MLB banning home-plate collisions. (AP)
According to Buck, the panel included those inclined to be more old school in their approach like himself and Russell Martin as well as those who have been impacted by collisions at the plate like Buster Posey and Mike Matheny. Posey was lost for the season after Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins came in hard at home plate in 2011. It was an ugly but clean collision according to Buck, who just happened to have an up-close view of the play.
"I was literally on deck when that happened and in my opinion I didn't think it was dirty," he said. "But there is interpretation from three or four angles and what we are trying to do, whether it is dirty or not, is eliminate that particular play where he would have had to slide and then Buster doesn't get busted up, whether it is legal or not. That instance there, (if there is a rule) both players are healthy in that play the way it happened. It's trying to make the game safer but also not jeopardize the integrity."
The catchers are anxious to hear exactly what the rule is, what they can and cannot do and what the runner can and cannot do. How much or how they can block the plate is key.
"There's definitely some grey area," Zunino said. "We have been raising questions. What happens in certain situations? What happens if we get the ball early enough to take away the base path?"
It will be an adjustment, and the aim is to not have to think about that adjustment in the heat of battle.
"That is the toughest thing to break because everything we have been doing up until now, getting our body into position, is instinctual because we have done it so much," Zunino said. "So I think that is the biggest thing we have to do. Get enough reps now to get it to where we don't have to think about it in games."
While the transition may be uncomfortable at first, both players realize it is about keeping all players out of the way of unnecessary harm.
"Listening to Matheny and Buster and listening to everybody as a whole I think it made me realize that for the game overall to have something implemented to where there is a structure to keep everyone safe is best for the players," Buck said. "To hear Matheny really changed my thought. Hearing him about how it would have probably changed his career, probably prolonged it a little bit and as much education we are getting on head injuries it's hard to ignore those facts and be stubborn and say I like blocking the plate. That becomes kind of ignorant. What makes it the correct way is now the question."
"They are trying to protect guys," he said. "You can't be upset about that but at the same time we are just going to have to adapt our game to keep everybody safe."
• In case you missed it (and if you are on Twitter you most likely know what that means. If you are not on Twitter, you should be. Follow me @shannondrayer), the Mariners have given Taijaun Walker a couple of days off from throwing. I expected he would throw a bullpen Sunday and he did not. I talked to Walker and pitching coach Rick Waits about this. The Mariners are still taking things very slow with Walker.
• The Latin American Mariners have joined the Venezuelans and tweeted out another call for peace in Venezuela.
• Rick Rizzs, Aaron Goldsmith and Kevin Cremin are due to arrive in camp Monday, which means ...
• The first "Cactus League Report" of the spring will be broadcast from the Salty Senorita Tuesday. The show will tape from 7-9 p.m. in Peoria (which is one hour ahead of Seattle) and air from 7-9 PST that night on 710 ESPN Seattle. If you are in the area stop by and join us. Guests scheduled to appear at the Salty Senorita include general manager Jack Zduriencik, infielders Brad Miller and Kyle Seager, pitchers Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez and Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.
Sunday, February 23, 2014 @ 1:51pm
By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Last Monday, Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker threw their first bullpens of the spring. The two were a few days behind the majority of the pitchers, which was not out of the ordinary for Hernandez, who generally starts out a little slower. In the case of Walker, he was held back a few days because of a sore shoulder. The first bullpen went well for both players and both players threw bullpens again on Thursday. Only Hernandez threw Sunday.
Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker did not throw Sunday, and his next bullpen session has yet to be scheduled despite the team's insistence that he has not had any setbacks. (AP)
Walker was given the day off from throwing with the reason given that he had thrown a lot in the past week. According to Walker, however, he isn't slated to play catch again until Tuesday, and his next bullpen has yet to be scheduled.
Both Walker and pitching coach Rick Waits insist that he came out of his last bullpen with no problems. I talked to Waits about why Walker wasn't throwing Sunday or Monday and was told that everybody is on their own program and they are just taking it slow with him. He stressed that no additional problems had popped up from the start of camp.
Walker, who expressed that he would like to be throwing now, said that he understood why the organization was taking things slow with him. When asked if anything had changed physically for him since the start of camp or after his last bullpen session, he said no. So no better or worse than Day 1 of camp?
"Not worse," he answered. "Definitely better."
I think it is safe to say he has fallen a little further behind but there is still plenty of time this spring to catch up, particularly if he is in that fifth starter spot. He has yet to fall into a regular routine, however, and if that doesn't happen soon, that could be a concern.
As for the others who threw Sunday, a welcome surprise found Stephen Pryor on the bullpen mound for the first time since undergoing surgery to reattach his triceps. Pryor threw 20 fastballs under the watch of trainers, and after he said that while it wasn't and shouldn't be max effort at this point, he got nothing but positives out of the experience.
"I've been waiting for that for awhile," he said. "It has been a long, impatient offseason."
Pryor said that his schedule for return was completely dictated by how he felt day-to-day.
"If I throw five bullpens and feel really good maybe I will go into a game," he said. "Maybe it takes seven. I don't know at this point."
It wasn't anticipated that Pryor would be back before the end of May but Sunday's session was a big step forward.
Shortly after Pryor threw, Hisashi Iwakuma took the hill for some dry (without the ball) work. He progressed to towel work (conducting a throwing motion with a towel) and it appeared all went well.
"His splitter was unhittable," quipped trainer Rick Griffin.
Iwakuma is scheduled to check back in with the hand doctor March 3 and is hoping he will get the green light to resume throwing at that point.
Last but not least, Hernandez threw his first live batting practice session Sunday. He threw mostly fastballs and changeups and mixed in two sliders. The changeup looked nasty with Chris Taylor, Gabriel Noriega and Ji-Man Choi really not having much of a chance against it.
Waits, who has seen Hernandez in spring training the past four years, said that he appears to be ahead of where he normally is this time of the year. For his part, Hernandez said that he felt good – really good.
Manager Lloyd McClendon came away impressed and joked that perhaps there was a tweak or two that he could give Hernandez to make him better. Could he hit him in his day, however?
"No, I could not," he said with a smile. "I'm not going to lie to you. I asked Chris (Taylor) and he said, 'That's a lot of movement, Skip.' And I said, 'Yes it is.' "
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