chris young center
Chris Young didn't allow a run in six innings in his first start for the Mariners against Oakland on Sunday. (AP)

By Brent Stecker

Of all the additions the Mariners made before the 2014 season started, the signing of pitcher Chris Young was perhaps the least heralded.

Young, 34, joined the team late in spring training to fill a need, as injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker and releases of Randy Wolf and Scott Baker left Seattle scrambling to piece together the back end of its starting rotation.

Not much was expected from Young, and for good reason - shoulder issues kept the lanky right-hander out of the majors for the entire 2013 season, and he'd just been released from the Nationals camp before the Mariners picked him up.

As worrisome as that all may be, Young's comeback has been strong so far. He made his first start for the Mariners on Sunday, and though they lost 3-0, he kept the A's off-balance in his six scoreless innings and appeared to have put his shoulder problems behind him.

"My arm feels really good, and when I feel good, I feel like I can pitch pretty well," Young told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" on Monday.

Unlike most shoulder problems, Young's wasn't structural, but instead the pain was caused by a pinched nerve in his neck, which had to be corrected by thoracic outlet surgery. It took multiple operations to get Young back to feeling healthy, but he said it's been smooth sailing since the last one.

"The day after surgery was the first time in really four or five years that my shoulder did not hurt. … Once I started my throwing program about four weeks after surgery I just continued throwing and it has felt better and better each week, each month."

Despite the full year away from the MLB, Young has taken it all in stride and is still approaching pitching like he did during his All-Star season in 2007.

"I've been so dedicated and committed and focused on getting here and making it back and fully rehabbing from my injury, I never really expected not to make it," Young said. "It wasn't a goal for me just to get back. I want to get back and I wanna pitch as well as I ever had.

"The style is still the same. I attack, I'm very aggressive with my fastball, and then I pitch vertically as well as horizontally."

By Brent Stecker

The Mariners have survived the first few weeks of the season with a makeshift pitching rotation. That doesn't mean they're in the clear, though.

James Paxton joined Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker as an injured Mariners hurler earlier this week, as the rookie southpaw's strong start to the year was derailed by a strained lat muscle. As a result, Seattle now has a question mark in place for its starter Tuesday.

Manager Lloyd McClendon addressed the issue before Friday's series opener vs. Oakland, and it appears Walker and Triple-A arm Blake Beavan are the two front-runners to pitch Tuesday -- though he added he's unsure if there's another candidate.

Walker, who had his spring training cut short by right shoulder inflammation, was dominant in his second rehab start Wednesday, striking out 10 in five innings of three-hit, no-run ball for Double-A Jackson. McClendon doesn't want to be hasty with the 21-year-old phenom, though, who has just three MLB starts under his belt.

"We want to be cautious with Taijuan and make sure he's ready to compete at this level," McClendon said. "The game's a little more stressful at this level than at the minor-league level. … We have to take all that into account when we decide whether or not we're gonna bring him or somebody else in."

McClendon added that any reticence he has about bringing Walker up too soon isn't related to his MLB experience.

"It has everything to do with the lack of work in spring training and the amount of innings he had because of the injury in spring training," he said.

As for Beavan, 25, he is no stranger to pitching in the big leagues -- he has 43 career starts for Seattle over the last three seasons. He's looked good in two appearances for the Tacoma Rainiers this season (2.08 ERA, eight strikeouts, 13 innings), so a spot start isn't out of the realm of possibility for him.

One person who isn't be in contention to join the team just yet is Iwakuma, who is coming off a career year in 2013.

He finally threw his first bullpen this week after recovering from a strained finger tendon, but won't pitch to live batters until after a few more bullpen sessions.

"He's doing well. His first bullpen session went very well," McClendon said.

In the video above, 710 ESPN Seattle's Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby further discuss the Mariners' rotation situation.

By Brady Henderson

Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette's alleged involvement in what the Miami Police Department is calling a "suspicious incident" that also involves 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

By Brady Henderson

The Mariners will play their 2014 home opener tonight after a season-opening road trip in which they went 4-2 and finished with a loss to the Athletics in Oakland.

Such as start would have been considered a success under ideal circumstances. But considering the injuries that have hit their starting rotation, it's about as well as the Mariners could have hoped to fare over the first week of the season.

"I told our guys it was a disappointing loss in Oakland the last game but the fact of the matter is we're coming home 4-2 and that's pretty darn good," manager Lloyd McClendon said, "and we can hang out hat on that."

McClendon joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" this afternoon. Here's more from that conversation:

Paxton's second start. James Paxton will take the hill for the Mariners tonight with the hope of following up his stellar 2014 debut. Paxton allowed two hits and two walks while striking out nine batters over seven scoreless innings in a win over the Angels. That was six days ago. McClendon said the extra day's rest should be particularly helpful for a young pitcher like Paxton.

"That first start for any young pitcher, they're going to be pretty hyped up, pretty pumped up, and afterwards they're going to be pretty sore. We saw that with (Erasmo) Ramirez," he said. "The veterans know how to handle it a little better. So I think the extra day's rest will help him somewhat. We're going to have to try to keep his emotions under control with this being the opener. We had him out yesterday; he looked real good, he looked real relaxed. I feel good about him coming into this game, we've just got to make sure that his routine warming up is where it needs to be building up to that first pitch."

Almonte's learning curve. The first week of the season has included a few positives from leadoff hitter/center fielder Abraham Almonte, including a .379 on-base percentage and three extra-base hits. There's also been one notable blunder – a base running error on Sunday in which he made the third out of an inning while trying to go from first to third on a single to right field.

McClendon said that was a teachable moment for Almonte and that such mistakes should be expected from a 24-year-old rookie.

"You have to live with them," he said. "You have to understand he is going to make those mistakes, but as he continues to progress he's going to get better at them also. And we'll be raving about this kid one day."

'I just didn't think that was right.' Spring training wasn't a week old when McClendon fired back at a Yankees coach who had made critical comments about second baseman Robinson Cano's occasional lack of hustle during his time in New York. When the television broadcast showed McClendon giving home-plate umpire Manny Gonzalez a piece of his mind after Sunday's game ended on a called third strike, it was another example of the manager having one of his player's backs.

"I certainly think there's a certain way that you do things," he said. "The umpire made the call – live with it, move on. The game's over, go to the locker room. But he chose to have a confrontation with my player, and I just didn't think that was right."

By Brady Henderson

No position in the NFL has a shorter shelf life than running back. It's an established reality, and not a surprising one given the nature and the volume of the contact that is typically absorbed at that position.

Kevin Seifert's latest column on ESPN.com takes a closer look at the so-called "running back cliff", and the upshot is that production begins to precipitously decline after the age of 27. Specifically, ESPN's data showed that after peaking at 27, a running back's production on average drops by 15 percent the next year, 25 percent the year after and nearly 40 percent by age 30.

It's an especially relevant conversation around here now that Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is weeks away from his 28th birthday. Lynch rushed for 1,257 yards in 2013, which ranked sixth in the NFL and represented a 21 percent decrease from his total the year before when he rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards.

"It doesn't mean that Marshawn Lynch's career is getting ready to hit a wall," Seifert told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" on Monday. "It just means that historically it wouldn't be a surprise if his production starts decreasing."

So, how much does Lynch have left? Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby share their thoughts in the video above, offering a couple reasons why Lynch may not experience as steep a decline as some other running backs.

By Brady Henderson

As good as James Paxton was Wednesday in his season debut, it wasn't the first time he'd earned a victory after pitching at least six shutout innings.

He did that twice late last season, beginning with an MLB debut in which he allowed four hits over seven innings while striking out 10 in a win over Kansas City. That was the first of four starts he made during a September callup that saw him allow just four earned runs over 24 innings.

So when Paxton was pitching his way to a seven-inning, two-hit performance against the Angels Wednesday, he was just picking up where he left off.

"It did feel like I kind of just got back into that groove and I was feeling really comfortable out there," he told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz".

Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss Paxton's performance in the video above.

By Brady Henderson

For most Super Bowl MVPs, the award marks the latest and often greatest accomplishment in a career that has already had many. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, though, is just hoping it helps him earn a starting job.

Smith was a part-time starter last season, and his role in 2014 isn't set in stone. As strange as that sounds, it's reality given how Seattle has only three starting spots for four linebackers who are all capable of starting.

977f9d5b-7632-44e3-aae5-5e7f593a6787
Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII, will have to compete for a starting role in 2014. (AP)
"That's the way we do things," Smith told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" on Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to the competition and the opportunity to be able to start. Just trying to pave the way a little bit. The Super Bowl was fun and hopefully I showed a little something, and just trying to build on it."

It wasn't as if Smith came out of nowhere when he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII after returning an interception for a touchdown, recovering a fumble and recording 10 tackles.

He was the one who caught the pass that was deflected by Richard Sherman in the NFC title game, the other half of the decisive play that punched Seattle's ticket to the Super Bowl. In Week 17, Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown to help Seattle beat St. Louis and claim both the NFC West title and the conference's No. 1 seed. He made eight starts during the regular season, all of them coming when Seattle's normal starting linebackers – Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright – were either suspended or injured.

If he's going to be a full-time starter in 2014, Smith will have to break through a linebacker logjam.

Here's what we know: Wagner's spot in the middle is almost certainly secure, not only because of how well he played after returning from a midseason ankle injury but because Smith has only played on the outside during his three NFL seasons. Wright also entered the league in 2011 and has been a starter ever since, first on the strong side before moving over to the weak side last season. And Irvin likely isn't moving back to defensive end. That was the word from defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who told 710 ESPN Seattle that Irvin is "really in the right spot" at outside linebacker.

"I want to start, obviously," Smith said.

Here's more from Smith's appearance on "Bob and Groz":

Life as an MVP. Winning the Super Bowl MVP has meant newfound attention and some nice perks for Smith. He won a new Chevrolet truck, which he's giving to his mother. He's made the media rounds, including appearances on "SportsCenter" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live". There was also the trip to Walt Disney World. He flew there on a private plane and was given his own parade. "A lot of little kids thought I was pretty cool for being next to Mickey Mouse," he said.

No more dunking. Smith will go down as the last player to legally dunk a ball over the crossbar now that the NFL has disallowed the celebration. That's how he punctuated his pick-six in the Super Bowl – sort of. Understandably gassed after his 69-yard return, it was more like a layup. He'll need a new celebration now that it's no longer legal. "I should have had a new one before I did that one," he joked.

In the community. Smith was among the members of the Seahawks and Sounders who visited victims of the Oso mudslide last week. "It was a sad experience," he said, "but at the same time it's one of the most important things I've done in my entire life, being able to kind of just give a distraction to those people and kind of talk to them about what they've been going through." Smith has also worked with Food Lifeline to help launch "The Great American Milk Drive", an effort to provide food banks with milk for those in need. More information can be found here.

Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.

By Brent Stecker

Just like that, Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson is no longer with the Philadelphia Eagles. And just like that, speculation about the Seahawks' interest in him is rampant.

The Eagles parted ways with Jackson Friday, with the widespread belief being that coach Chip Kelly just doesn't see him as a fit in his system. Rumors of a gang affiliation certainly didn't help matters, either.

The Seahawks, however, just may have a spot for the controversial star, especially considering they lost Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions early on in the free-agent signing period.

Is Jackson's reputation too much of an issue for the Seahawks to pursue him? Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 ESPN Seattle get to the bottom of it in the video above.

Next »

Bob Stelton

Bob Stelton is the co-host of "Bob and Groz". He came to 710 ESPN Seattle from 101 ESPN in St. Louis and had previously worked for Sporting News Radio in Chicago and Santa Monica, Calif. Bob began his radio career in Seattle in 1997 after a failed attempt to become a rock star.

The Groz

Dave Grosby is the co-host of "Bob and Groz." The Groz has spent the last 22 years of his 40-year broadcast career as a Seattle sports talk show host. Dave is also the play-by-play announcer for Seattle U basketball on KTTH 770. Before coming to Seattle, Dave worked at KFI in Los Angeles and KFBK in Sacramento. He's been married to his wife Bonnie for 24 years.

Colin Paisley

After two years as the producer for "Brock and Salk," Colin Paisley now produces "Bob and Groz." Colin also hosts "Seattle Sports at Night" with Tom Wassell and Matt Pitman. Colin came to 710 ESPN Seattle after five years at various FM music stations in Bellingham and Seattle. In addition to his time as producer and host, Colin likes to spend his time embracing his "Slacker Gen-Y" persona by napping and not caring about stuff. Plus he likes tons of bands you've never heard of, and once you hear of them he'll stop liking them.

"El Hombre" Michael Bradley

Don't miss "El Hombre" Michael Bradley every Tuesday at 1 p.m. on "Bob and Groz." You can read Bradley's thoughts on his blog or you can follow him on Twitter at @dailyhombre.



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