By Shannon Drayer

After the Mariners 8th straight loss Lloyd McClendon was clearly not thrilled by the performance of Erasmo Ramirez. Although he retired 14 of the last 17 batters he faced McClendon was worried about what he saw early.

"Ramirez did not make quality strikes when he needed to, particularly ahead in the count and it cost him tonight," he said. "For me I think he's got to pitch better than what he pitched."

Three earned runs in six innings is not terrible but from the sounds of things, this looked like what McClendon saw in spring training which led to one of his more animated media sessions in Peoria.

"They're horse (expletive) pitches," he exclaimed after a four-hit, no run performance by Ramirez. "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."

"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. You have to make that pitch."

Especially when your team is in the midst of an 8 game slide. McClendon seems to believe Ramirez is capable of better. When asked about options he said they would be discussed.

"That's something that Jack and I will sit down and talk about," he said. "The fact is the club is struggling you need to go out and throw strikes, put up zeros and we didn't do that early."

So what are the options, who else is there with 3 starters on the 40-man roster on the DL? More than you might think.

With two off days coming up they could decide to go with four starters for the next ten days. Ramirez's next pitch day actually falls on the off day so it would not be a problem to skip him. His start after that would come May 3rd in Houston and with Iwakuma scheduled to throw 70 pitches in a rehab start for the Rainiers this Sunday that is a start he could could make with one extra day of rest.

If Ramirez or any other starter is sent down a position player or reliever would be called up. That player would not have to be on the 40-man roster as there is a spot open with Ji-Man Choi on the restricted list. Perhaps someone is brought up to spell Abraham Almonte who is striking out at an alarming rate and possesses an even more alarming .267 on base percentage.

Zduriencik was in McClendon's office after the game. We shall see what's next.

By Shannon Drayer

It was good to see a familiar face in the Mariners' clubhouse Monday afternoon. Taijuan Walker was at his locker (yes, he has one now as this is where he is doing his rehab work) and he gave me the rundown on what happened last week when he was scratched from his start in Tacoma and shut down once again. Walker is optimistic he will be throwing again soon. Feeling discomfort for the first time since building back up was something he took in stride.

"I probably could have pitched through it but that's not smart," he said. "I really didn't want to push anything, something could have happened so I thought it was best to get it checked again. It's nothing, just the same thing."

Walker was shut down for a week in spring training with shoulder bursitis. There may have been other contributing factors to this shoulder discomfort, however. The discomfort came three days after flying from Jackson, Tenn. to Tacoma. Walker thinks the flight plus a missed throwing session and sleeping on it wrong may have been one of the reasons why things didn't feel right before his scratched start. He has felt better the last few days and hopes he gets good news from the doctor on Wednesday.

"I see Dr K. (team doctor Dr. Edward Khalfayan) Wednesday, hopefully by Thursday, Friday, I start playing catch again," he said. "I didn't want any setbacks but I am glad it is not a long setback."

Dr. Khalfayan will be busy on Wednesday is he is also scheduled to see James Paxton. Paxton has been receiving treatment and doing the necessary work to be ready to throw when he is given the green light. He told me all has gone well so far and that he hasn't felt the lat in at least a week. He is hopeful he will be cleared to throw after seeing the doctor.

Before Monday's game, manager Lloyd McClendon said that they were sticking to the original six-to-eight-week timetable they were told when he was injured. If he is cleared to begin throwing this week I think there is a good chance we could see him sooner. We should know more on Wednesday.

One last pitching update: Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to make his first rehab start Tuesday for the Rainiers if weather allows.

By Shannon Drayer

MIAMI – I wanted to post this Saturday but technical difficulties prevented me from loading this sound. On the pregame show I talked to Mariners coaches Chris Woodward and Andy Van Slyke about the adjustments players are forced to make because of the new transfer rule.

Neither coach is a fan of the rule. and they may get their wish of seeing it changed. MLB, the MLBPA and the Umpires Association will address the situation this week. The rule won't completely go away but the definition of possession could be tweaked enough to make it look something like what it did before.

In the podcast, infield coach Woodward explains why Kyle Seager just couldn't simply have held on to the ball from Yoervis Medina Friday night that was negated a force out because of a bobble on the transfer.

Van Slyke, the M's outfield coach, addresses the problem the base runners are experiencing under the new rule and how they will need to re-learn how to run the bases when a ball is hit to the outfield if the rule is not changed.

By Shannon Drayer

MIAMI – And then there were two. As in two players, Robinson Cano and Abraham Almonte, who have yet to get a day off this season, as Brad Miller is sitting for the first time today.

"I'm just giving him a day off to relax a little bit and clear his mind," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I think we would all agree that he has some talent. He has some pop in the bat. He's a plus runner and a plus defender. He just needs a day to relax a little bit."

Miller has been struggling, just 2x18 with one run scored and one RBI in his last five games. Although he has always been aggressive it might not hurt to see an extra pitch or two a game. He currently is seeing only 3.41 pitches per plate experience, good for 96th out of 101 qualified hitters in the American League.

How does the rest of the team compare? Well, there is not a lot of middle ground in this department. Kyle Seager is best on the team and 12th in the league, seeing 4.30 P/PA, with Corey Hart and Justin Smoak both top 30. Abraham Almonte is 45th (and recently improving) at 3.97. You thin have to jump all the way to 91 to find the next Mariner, Robinson Cano, at 3.47. Along with Cano, Dustin Ackley, Mike Zunino and Miller are all bottom 10. Definitely an area that needs to see some improvement.

Miller isn't the only one getting a day off today.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Bloomquist 5
Cano 4
Hart 9
Ackley 7
Smoak 3
Franklin 6
Buck 2
Maurer 1


Kyle Seager also gets the day off and Nick Franklin gets his first start at shortstop. Nick at short was I think a surprise for many this spring. He was better defensively than what we had heard. He was able to get to some balls I wouldn't expect him to and has a strong arm. I am interested to see what he does today. The other notable change in the lineup is Ackley hitting fifth in the order less than a week after McClendon said he would probably not move Ackley or Zunino out of the 8 and 9 spots in the order. Apparently the pencil does have an eraser.

Welcome back

Brandon Maurer gets the start, and while McClendon would not say what his pitch count was I would imagine it will be around 65-70. Maurer also gets the added challenge of hitting today. While some pitchers relish the opportunity to pick up a bat, Maurer is not one of them. He's always been a pitcher and really has never hit much. He may actually be the first player in the history of the game to admit that he doesn't like hitting at all. He doesn't see himself swinging away but is hoping to get a bunt down if needed. Interestingly enough we did not see any pitchers' batting practice on the road as McClendon does not allow the pitchers to hit on the field. They get their work in when necessary in the batting cages.

Frequent flyer

Rather than have Felix Hernandez sit on a plane for 6 1/2 hours the night before he pitches, the Mariners sent him home early. He should be well rested for his Monday start.

Clean it up

Pitching and offense has not been the only problem on this trip. The defense, which made just one error from April 2-15, has made six (plus a passed ball) in the last six games.

Down on the farm.

The Rainiers outfielders are tearing it up. Cole Gillespie has hit safely in nine of 12 games and is hitting .362 with five doubles, a triple and three home runs. Endy Chavez is 10x27 with six runs scored and Xavier Avery is 15x52 and has six stolen bases.

By Shannon Drayer

MIAMI – Greetings from a very odd house for baseball. Marlins Park has bright colors, fish swimming around behind home plate and a color of green that I don't believe is in the Crayola box throughout the stadium. It's kind of like the Trop in St. Petersburg with more windows and colors which in retrospect, adds a lot.

There is also a nightclub in left field, which I was told caused problems in the adjacent bullpen until it was moved. Apparently they had to put a flashing light on the phone because no one could hear it. Very different but it makes sense. Safeco Field wouldn't really be a good fit here.

Plenty of news and notes to get to with the big news of the day being that Hisashi Iwakuma had his sim game. He pitched two "innings" and faced Logan Morrison, Stefan Romero and James Jones, who was the only one to get a hit off of him. He threw all of his pitches, including the curve, which he would like to throw more this year. After his 35 pitches and full warmup through on the mound he looked pleased with the effort.

"I'm happy that I am in my shoes right now," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki.

"I felt good in general, first time facing hitters. I was kind of nervous trying to find my balance but I was able to throw strikes so that was good."

Logan Morrison had three at-bats against him and after the first turned to teammates and called the splitter "nasty." He gave the full rundown once he was out of the game.

"His split was pretty good, fastball has life. He threw me one curveball that was really slow and good," he said. "He could probably pitch today in the rotation from what I saw. Just has to continue to build up strength."

If Iwakuma checks out OK tomorrow his next throwing session will be a bullpen here in Miami, and he could then start in a rehab game for Tacoma as soon as Tuesday. After that they will take it game by game, according to manager Lloyd McClendon.

"We have to make sure he is ready to compete with all of his pitches," McClendon said.

As for how many innings he needs to throw, McClendon was not putting a number on that, although he did say that he will need to be able to throw 90 pitches before he rejoins the big club.

On to the game at hand.

Lineup

Almonte 8
Miller 6
Cano 4
Hart 3
Saunders 9
Seager 5
Ackley 7
Zunino 2

Young 1

National League park so Chris Young gets to hit, or hopefully lay down a successful bunt. Talk about a long swing. Corey Hart is in the field on back to back days, not back in right but at first today. This is Justin Smoak's first day off this season.

Notes

• McClendon announced the starter for Sunday and it is indeed Brandon Maurer.

"I think he deserves the opportunity," he said. "He was in consideration in spring training to make this club and I think he deserves the opportunity."

Maurer, who threw 49 pitches in his one and only start in Tacoma, will obviously be on a pitch count, but McClendon wouldn't say how many he would be allowed to throw.

• I asked head trainer Rick Griffin for an update on James Paxton and learned that he isn't throwing yet.

"He's doing everything he needs to do prior to throwing back in Seattle. He won't throw until after the team doctor examines him which will be when we get back on this next home stand and then he will examine him and determine when he can start throwing."

Paxton was placed on the 15-day DL April 9 with the strained lat.

• Last but not least, I ran into a familiar face in the team hotel lobby this morning. Franklin Gutierrez, who lives in the area, was there waiting to see his good friend Felix Hernandez. Franklin said that he was confident he made the right decision in taking the year off, because he realized that he needed both the physical and mental break after fighting to find out what was causing all of his health troubles for almost four years. Now that he's found the right treatment, he said that he is feeling much better and that he hopes to play again some day.

By Shannon Drayer

ARLINGTON, Texas – Major League Baseball announced that Mariners minor-league first baseman Ji-Man Choi has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for methandienone, a performance-enhancing substance.

The Mariners have released the following statement:

"The Seattle Mariners are disappointed to learn of today's suspension of AAA infielder Ji-Man Choi. The organization fully supports Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game. Per the Basic Agreement, the Mariners will have no further comment."

Choi will be placed on the restricted list for the duration of the suspension which will open a spot on the Mariners 40-man roster.

By Shannon Drayer

ARLINGTON, Texas – Day games after night games often produce interesting lineups, and today is no exception. In fact, there is a surprise in the lineup.

Just two days after Lloyd McClendon said that he couldn't see putting Corey Hart in the outfield for some time, Hart is in right field. According to McClendon it was Hart's idea to play there, as his two surgically repaired knees have fared well so far. The forearm stiffness is still an issue but it has not affected him at the plate, and Hart would like to get those consistent at-bats. Today the at-bats will come as the right fielder and we shall see what happens.

Lineup

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

Ramirez

Robinson Cano is the DH. Why would you take that glove out of the field? Well it gives him a break without having to give him a day off. The preparation is a little less than it would be if he were playing in the field, and then he has the opportunity to get off his feet a bit during the game. Full days off for Cano are a rare thing – he's missed just nine games his entire career. I would imagine we would see a few others get a day off soon. Brad Miller, Abraham Almonte and Justin Smoak have started every game along with Cano.

Notes

• The Mariners still haven't named a starter for Sunday's game in Miami but should do so tomorrow. Brandon Maurer and Anthony Fernandez are the only starters on the 40-man roster that are healthy, and with Fernandez starting for the Rainiers Wednesday night I would have to think that Maurer gets the call. It most likely would be a short outing for Maurer, who has thrown just 8 1/3 innings in four games for the Rainiers. He started the game Tuesday for the Rainiers and went a scheduled two innings, giving up one run on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He threw 49 pitches.

• If Maurer gets the start in Miami he most likely will get an at-bat, as pitchers hit in National League parks. That means we will also get to see Chris Young and Roenis Elias swing the bat. At 6-foot-10, Young should be particularly entertaining, although playing the majority of his career in the NL he has swung a bat a few times and owns a .144/.188/.199 line with one home run. Dare to dream, we could see it again.

• A little Felix appreciation here – with last night's performance, Felix now not only leads the league in strikeouts with 39 but is second on the all-time Mariners list to Randy Johnson, who once had 41 in his first four games. Want more? Felix has not allowed a hit to an opponent with a runner in scoring position this season. Not bad.

James Jones is with the club. He was called up yesterday but didn't get into Dallas until 9:30 p.m., so he is at the ballpark for the first time today. He is getting a crash course on the ins and outs of traveling with a big league team. This morning he sent his bags down to the wrong bus so he didn't have his equipment when he got to the park. Mike Zunino lent him some warmup gear, including one of the Mariners "Fat Guys Rake" T-shirts. Kyle Seager wasn't sure Jones, who has one of the lowest body fat percentages in the organization, should be allowed to wear the shirt. His gear eventually arrived and he is available to play wearing jersey No. 99, which is the highest jersey number in club history. Mac Suzuki previously had the highest number with 96.

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.

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