Updated Oct 14, 2012 - 11:16 pm
Seattle Mariners Blog with Shannon Drayer
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 @ 1:45am
By Shannon Drayer
Tuesday night's 7-2 loss was frustrating. Not because the youngster, Brandon Maurer, went out and came dangerously close to a repeat of his second big-league start in which he failed to get out of the first inning, but because I got that old and unwelcome feeling that a four-run deficit in the first inning was insurmountable. It shouldn't be, but this club is not clicking on all cylinders, and unlike last year, I think help is available on some fronts.
The page on the calendar has flipped. We are now one month into the season. While the "it's early" card has not been played much this year, in my mind it is no longer early. For some it may still be somewhat early but on a team that is made up mostly of young players who were given a full year look the previous season and guys with very established track records, I think at this point you should have a good idea of where this team is at and whether or not you can expect improvement from individual players.
In other words, I don't think it's too early to make moves.
Help is needed on the bench, which is not the strength I think a lot of us figured it would be coming out of spring training. Help is needed in the pen. Then there is the question of what's best for the development of some of the younger players on the roster.
A move I would make right away would be to get a true long-relief/swingman in the pen. Blake Beavan did not exactly put out the fire, coming in for Maurer Tuesday night and extending the Mariners' deficit from four runs to seven. More importantly, he is not finding answers in the pen. He is nearly moving in the wrong direction. His ERA is now at 8.27. His tempo is off, his delivery inconsistent and for some reason Tuesday night he wouldn't throw his four-seamer. If the Mariners want to see him start again at some point he needs to be starting now. In Tacoma.
Shortstops Robert Andino and Brendan Ryan are hitting a combined .169 through the first month of the season. (AP)
I will take my chances on losing a Double-A outfielder or any minor-league infielder on the 40-man not named Carlos Triunfel with Nick Franklin and Brad Miller on the horizon. Perhaps Erasmo Ramirez can be put on the 60-day disabled list. I would find a way to get Beavan down and get someone, perhaps Brian Sweeney, up. He has got plenty of experience, can easily pitch the swing role and can handle not pitching for longer periods of time. Easy fix there.
A tougher fix is what to do at shortstop. The combination of Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino obviously is not getting it done offensively. Franklin is absolutely tearing it up, hitting .410 at Triple-A right now. Is it too soon to call him up after a rough first season in Tacoma and just 17 games this year? That's for the Mariners to decide. I trust them in knowing where he is in his development beyond the numbers, but if they do not believe he is ready then I have to believe that it wouldn't hurt to take a look at Triunfel.
What about first base? A bunch of you were calling for Justin Smoak to be sent down in the comment section of my last post. I am going to guess that you are overlooking the fact that he has hit .357/.454/.571/1.025 in his last eight games. Small sample size, but clearly progress.
Not progressing much would be Jesus Montero and this is a situation I don't quite understand. Coming into the season we knew that in order to get at-bats he would have to catch because Kendrys Morales was going to be the primary DH. Montero struggled early and Eric Wedge said that Kelly Shoppach would get more time behind the plate.
In my mind, if Montero isn't getting consistent at-bats he shouldn't be here. Whether he is your future catcher, future DH or future currency in the form of trade, he needs to be playing. He has played in just 17 games so far and is projected to get 352 at-bats. That is not helping his value by any means and he has come nowhere near to looking like the hitter many thought he could be, the hitter that earned him high rankings as a prospect.
Who would replace Montero? With Mike Zunino not ready, I would make a move to get Jesus Sucre on the 40-man and up to Seattle. I wouldn't expect much from him offensively but he would be the backup so this is not a huge deal. He is a decent defender and handles pitchers well.
Other moves would appear to be a little further off. As I have been saying for some time now, keep an eye on Stefen Romero. Just nine games into his first season at Triple-A he is hitting well and most interestingly is now playing left field after playing mostly second while in the organization. Will we see him in the outfield mid-season?
What about Danny Hultzen? He was pitching well before being sidelined with the rotator cuff strain. How quickly can he bounce back?
There is little question in my mind that we should see some moves. As I said at the top of this post, it is no longer early or too soon to make the call that help is needed. If a move can benefit the big club or help a struggling player in the long run, it is time to make those moves.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 @ 12:16am
So I think it is safe to say we have seen some signs of life on this homestand.
Who had Joe Saunders becoming the first Mariner to throw a complete game this year? Anybody? How about Jason Bay coming up with his first three-hit game since 2011? No? Michael Saunders coming off the DL to hit his first career leadoff home run? How about the 6-7-8-9 of Justin Smoak, Bay, Robert Andino and Brendan Ryan being the most productive part of the lineup, going 7-for-15 with two runs scored and three driven in? Anyone?
The bottom four in the M's lineup Monday went 7-for-15 with three RBIs, one coming via a Brendan Ryan single. (AP)
Oh yes, wait, I almost forgot. How about the umpire nailing Orioles starting pitcher Zach Britton in the shoulder throwing the ball back? Okay, now.
Or maybe something more. Maybe Joe Saunders was on with his sinker, generating 17 groundouts. Maybe the work Bay has been putting in has helped him find the swing he has been looking for. Maybe the Michael Saunders home run helped the offense take a breath and keep them from pressing. Maybe the bottom-of-the-order bats are coming around. Maybe things aren't as bleak as they looked a week ago.
We saw good pitching, good defense and better hitting against a good team Monday night at Safeco Field. Perhaps more importantly, they saw it. Bay pointed out in the clubhouse after the game that while momentum in baseball is nothing more than that day's starting pitcher, there is without a doubt a difference in that clubhouse as the team starts to win more games.
"The feel is a lot different than when we left Houston," he said. "It was a very blah road trip, very uninspiring. We come here and beat Anaheim, win this game and the feel is definitely different."
Michael Saunders spoke of growing confidence in the clubhouse in his on-field interview with me. on Sunday Michael Morse said he believed the team was poised to have a strong May. Individual performances – Joe Saunders' complete game Monday night and Morse's home run Sunday against the Angels – are in large part helping inspire this confidence, but we are seeing the small victories that no doubt are contributing as well.
I am not ready to say they have completely turned things around. It is just three games, but they have something to build on and that is something they didn't seem to have a week ago. At the very least, they have put the brakes on what looked to be a disastrous slide.
Sunday, April 28, 2013 @ 2:25pm
Good to be back after a couple of days off. Sorry I missed last night's game; it was definitely one of Felix's better starts against the Angels, a team that has given him trouble in the past. Why didn't he go the distance in this game? He admitted to being a bit tired after his eight innings pitched and put up no fight when taken out of the game. No reason for concern over that, according to Eric Wedge.
"When I went to tell him he was done he acknowledged the fact that he was," Wedge said. "It was good to get him out of there, we didn't have the same issues that we had in the previous start."
Felix experienced some back stiffness in that start in Houston, something he has been dealing with on and off with for some time now. While in past years Felix would often put up a fight when the skipper came to take the ball from him during games, he hasn't done that in well over a year. While complete games are no doubt a huge reward for him, staying healthy for the entire season is a bigger one, and Felix realizes that.
"He's a good communicator," Wedge said. "Sometimes I go down there and I am in between and I am going to see how he reacts. Other times I go down there with my mind made up and still listen, but more times than not we are on the same page. I think he has a good understanding. There are real reasons if I am taking him out of the game."
Of course, a trusted closer in Tom Wilhemsen down in the pen makes the move easier for Wedge to make. I was wondering if this has helped save Felix any innings in the early season but not really. Felix has just thrown 2 1/3 fewer innings through six starts this season than last. His numbers this April are slightly better than last April, striking out two more and walking five fewer. A fairly typical April for Felix. So far so good.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Danny Hultzen, who was in the clubhouse this morning getting checked out by the trainers. Hultzen was scratched from his start Thursday after not being able to get loose in his warmup. He was diagnosed with a left rotator cuff strain and tendinitis and shut down. Frustrating, yes, but Hultzen was encouraged by what he had been told.
"There's a lot of tendinitis and inflammation but they said it is not worrisome. Just a couple of weeks of rest and then get after it after that," he said.
Hultzen said that he had felt a little stiffness before Thursday's attempted outing but nothing that he couldn't get past. That day, however, as he was doing his long toss, pitching coach Dwight Bernard noticed that he didn't look right and came out to ask if everything was okay.
"I didn't really want to say anything but he shut me down," said Hultzen, who admitted that obviously it was a good decision. "It's a tough one. You need to know the difference between hurting and being injured. All pitchers, their arm doesn't feel good all the time but they need to know the difference between when to say something and when to just go through it. This was one of the times when I should say something."
It was no doubt tough to take himself out as he had been pitching very well. Hultzen appears to have put his command issues behind him, having walked just six batters in his first four outings.
"I think that the second go-around and going through the full season I am a lot more comfortable in knowing what is going on a little bit and that's helped out a lot," he said of the improvement he has shown.
Hultzen is to be shut down for a couple of weeks but will then need to build back up a bit as he can condition but not throw. Hopefully this is just a minor roadblock because as I said, he had been pitching well and had the look of a pitcher that was getting closer to the big leagues.
As Hultzen was talking to the media, Brandon Maurer and Carter Capps were waiting nearby to talk with their former Jackson teammate. The three are still very close and had a lot to talk about. First and foremost Capps and Maurer wanted to know how he checked out from his training room session. Then Capps had something he wanted to show Hultzen: A small case of flies. The three are fishing enthusiasts and Capps is learning to fly fish and no, he does not cast side arm. It was fun to watch the three interact and hopefully something we will see on a regular basis in the near future.
Last bit of fun: Have you caught Charlie Furbush's Bullpen Banter on the Sunday Magazine Show? He is a rather charismatic host to say the least, and gets a great interview out of Capps. Learn why Capps knows so much about pickles, what nicknames he would prefer and what pet he is hoping to acquire soon.
Thursday, April 25, 2013 @ 7:32pm
By 710Sports.com staff
The Mariners benched shortstop Brendan Ryan and his .143 batting average in favor of Robert Andino Wednesday, a move Shannon Drayer thinks is only temporary.
The video above includes Drayer's thoughts on Ryan's demotion as well as injury updates on outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders. You can hear Ryan talk about his demotion in this audio link.
First pitch for tonight's game against the Angels is 7:10. The game can be heard on 710 ESPN Seattle, and you can also follow along with our live gametracker.
Here is the Mariners' lineup:
Endy Chavez, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Justin Smoak, 1B
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Kelly Shoppach, C
Carlos Peguero, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Robert Andino, SS
Brandon Maurer, SP
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 @ 4:05pm
Again, quick getaway thoughts as there is no Wi-Fi on the plane, so it is now or never from the bus.
Obviously the Mariners are fighting battles on multiple fronts right now. Eric Wedge made a move with Brendan Ryan this morning and pointed to the veterans as being a group that needed to pick things up. He probably should add the pitching to that group.
Joe Saunders allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits over five innings of work in Wednesday's loss to Houston. (AP)
Saunders isn't the lone culprit, however, as the team ranked 11th in the league in pitching heading into Wednesday. The pitching woes have been overshadowed by the hitting, but they are there and quite frankly strange to see. If nothing else there has been decent pitching in years past. Even if the hitting comes around a little bit it will not be enough if the pitching does not improve.
Back to the Brendan Ryan/Robert Andino move. There was plenty of displeasure about the move expressed on Twitter and in the blogs. Why would you replace a defensively superior shortstop with an average shortstop who is only hitting marginally better? I think you had to get Ryan out of there regardless of who replaced him. The defense is not enough when you are hitting .143 and showing no signs of pulling out of it. At this point he is not going to turn it around offensively playing every day.
So Andino gets a look and I suspect it may be a short look. As I noted in my previous post, neither he nor Ryan have options remaining and to bring someone in, someone will have to go out. If you are looking at sitting Ryan for a significant amount of time then the position is essentially open. Andino is here so he played today. Wedge said he will be given an opportunity but he has not exactly put up the best at-bats. I doubt Wedge will have much patience for this if it continues.
Carlos Triunfel is off to a good start in Tacoma. I said earlier that it is important that the Mariners do not rush prospects to fill needs at the big-league level, but would Triunfel be rushed at this point? He has spent seven seasons in the minors and played more than a full season at Tacoma. From what I am told he made great strides defensively. The opportunity to play him every day is there, and if he can't handle that he could fill the utility role having played multiple positions coming up. Andino would have to be DFA'd but there is a good chance he would clear.
I don't know what the plan is but I suspect that since Andino is on the roster he is being given a look. He is not the priority long term, however, so there is a chance we could see a change in the near future.
Wheels up. Talk to you from Seattle.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 @ 11:39am
On Tuesday I asked some of my colleagues here in Houston just how long could Eric Wedge stick with a sub .200-hitting Brendan Ryan. Surely he couldn't go a second year below the Mendoza line and keep his starting position, could he?
Apparently the answer was less than 24 hours more. Before Wednesday's game against the Astros, Wedge announced in his meeting with the media that Ryan was heading to the bench. Robert Andino is being given a shot to take over the starting job at shortstop.
"I am going to give Andino an opportunity to play a little more," Wedge said in his office after talking to both players. "What I am going to do is take it day by day, week by week, month by month. I am going to give Robert a chance to play and see where he takes it."
While Andino is only hitting .161 in limited at-bats, Wedge said that he liked what he saw from him both in the cage and spring training. He was not happy with what he saw from Andino as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night, however.
Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan is hitting .143 with no extra-base hits. (AP)
This move, of course, is more about Ryan. Beyond the .143 average there had to be major concern that he was showing no signs of pulling out of the massive slide. There is little question that he has been given every opportunity to work things out at this level as a starter.
"We stuck with him last year because we felt like we were going to give him every opportunity, and quite frankly we had an opportunity to give him every opportunity, but you can't expect change by doing the same thing every day," Wedge said. "You have got to change your habits. You have got to change the way you go about doing things. It is as simple as that."
Ryan will work with hitting coach Dave Hansen to try to get to where he needs to be offensively. He was given a very specific approach to take to the plate this spring but it is clear he strayed from that in the regular season. And there lies the problem – Ryan is a guy that can change his approach not just at-bat to at-bat, but from pitch to pitch. He is also a guy that battles with the mental side of the game as well. This is a guy I have seen get mad at himself during batting practice.
The problem is he can take that to the field as well. April 13 against Texas is a perfect example. In the fifth inning he struck out on a 3-2 slider from Alexi Ogando. Next inning he booted a grounder from Ian Kinsler that led to a run. It seemed clear that he took his offensive struggles to the field. That can't happen.
This move, however, isn't punishment. While the position belongs to Andino for now, the hope is that Ryan will figure things out, according to Wedge.
"This is going to give him a chance to take a step back to hopefully take two steps forward," he said. "It's an opportunity for him, it's an opportunity for Andino to go out there and take it. He doesn't have to go out there and get four hits today, he just has to go out there and be a good big-league player and let the rest take care of itself."
So after a year of letting things play out and getting young players experience, we have our first in-season competition with the position players. Andino has a chance to "take it." If he falters and Wedge likes what he sees with the work Ryan puts in, he could get another opportunity. Some of you have asked why not Carlos Triunfel or Nick Franklin? Well, for starters, there isn't a roster spot for them. Both Ryan and Andino are out of options. I would also have to believe that the organization does not believe either Triunfel or Franklin is ready to be called up either. This is important.
While there has been a cry for several players from the minors to come up and replace under-performing members of the 25-man roster, in my opinion this would be a mistake. I believe that part of the problem now is there are players on this roster that were rushed to the big leagues. Justin Smoak without question is one of them. You could argue that Dustin Ackley and to a lesser extent Jesus Montero are two more. Do you want to continue to make that mistake? That to me would be the biggest mistake this organization could make at this time.
So will there be more moves? When Wedge was talking with Rick Rizzs for the pregame show about the progress he has seen with Smoak and Ackley, he pointed out that they were not his biggest source of concern right now.
"If anybody needs to be talked to it is our veteran guys right now," he said. "They are not getting it done, quite frankly. We need to get all of these guys going. Morse, Morales, Ibanez, Andino. We have a lot of things we are working on."
Again, until there are young players ready to step in, those jobs would appear to be safe. At some point, however, one or more of Franklin, Triunfel, Stefan Romero and Brad Miller will knock on that door. If that were to happen today, it would swing open easily.
News and notes
• Michael Saunders will head out on a rehab assignment before returning from the disabled list. Wedge said that he wanted to give Saunders an opportunity to see live pitching and get his timing down before returning. He could begin the assignment as soon as Friday. Expect to see him DH for one or two games, play the field at least once and then hopefully rejoin the big club.
• Hisashi Iwakuma did have blister problems once again Tuesday night but will make his next start. After that Wedge said he will juggle the rotation to give him a few extra days off to get the finger healed once and for all.
• The numbers are in and the bomb hit by Kendrys Morales Tuesday came in at 443 feet, according to hittrackeronline.com. It clocked 109.1 mph off the bat.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 @ 5:06pm
By Shannon Drayer
Post game note...The finger did not fare well in the game and Eric Wedge said he would look to get him extra days off between starts once they get the extra off days.
Hisashi Iwakuma takes the hill tonight looking for win number three. The hope going into the season was that he would pick up where he left off in the second half of last year. One of the reasons he had success in the second half was that he found a routine that worked for him which was necessary coming off shoulder troubles and a different work schedule in Japan. The amazing thing about his impressive start this season is he has not been able to do all of that routine as he has been dealing with a blister on his middle finger. In a sense he is taking the field every fifth day without any sort of practice.
Because of the blister Iwakuma has not been allowed to throw any breaking pitches between starts. He gets his feel for those pitches when he takes the mound. His bullpens have been more throwing sessions than anything else. He throws 25-30 fastballs and that is it. How long will he have to continue this way?
There is some optimism that he is close to putting the blister problems behind him. The problem dates back to the end of spring training when the callous on that finger came off. That healed quickly but the new skin was too soft and the contact with the seam of the baseball destroyed it every time he threw the splitter. It has been an ongoing cycle ever since with blood blisters forming during and after each start.
Iwakuma has toughed it out to the extent of having the blisters drained during his starts. According to trainer Rick Griffin once the blister is drained he has 1-2 innings left that he can pitch. That is why he was taken out after only 70 pitches in his start against Detroit.
Between starts the training staff is doing everything they can to toughen up the skin on Iwakuma's finger. Some of you asked if they were soaking the finger in pickle juice. They are not, but he has been using Peruvian Balsam and Bag Cream to help aid the healing and regenerating of skin on that finger.
The good news is they have seen progress and significant progress since the start against Detroit. Griffin is hopeful that Iwakuma may get through tonight's game without tearing up the finger again. If he does, then relief may not be far off as the Mariners have three off days in the first nine days of May. If the blister is not completely healed by then pitching coach Carl Willis told me they will look to use those days to push Iwakuma back and give him a few extra days to let the finger completely heal once and for all.
News and notes...
Franklin Gutierrez has been placed on the 15 day DL with a strained right hamstring and will undergo an MRI when the team returns to Seattle.
Carlos Peguero has been called up to take Gutierrez's place on the 25 man roster. Eric Wedge will use him in left and right and Jason Bay in center if necessary.
Peguero's time with the team will most likely be short as Michael Saunders could return as soon as Friday. He threw from 60 feet today and had a good batting practice session. He has been keeping both hands on the bat on his follow through to better support the shoulder and could do that when he returns as well.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 @ 3:09pm
By 710Sports.com staff
A strained right hamstring has landed center fielder Franklin Gutierrez on the 15-day disabled list, his fifth trip to the DL since the beginning of the 2011 season. The Mariners made the move before tonight's game against Houston, recalling outfielder Carlos Peguero from Triple-A Tacoma to take Gutierrez's spot on the roster.
The video above includes Shannon Drayer's thoughts on how the Mariners will proceed without Gutierrez, a note about some minor back troubles for Felix Hernandez and an update on Michael Saunders, who is eligible to come off the DL Friday.
First pitch for tonight's game against Houston is 5:10. The game can be heard on 710 ESPN Seattle, and you can also follow along with our live gametracker.
Here is the Mariners' lineup:
Endy Chavez, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Michael Morse, RF
Justin Smoak, 1B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Jesus Montero, C
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Brendan Ryan, SS
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP
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