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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 19, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Fond farewell to the Hot Stone League…but not goodbye

Seattle Times staff photo

Seattle Times staff photo

I didn’t know quite what I was getting into when I started this blog on Feb. 14, 2009. But after 4 1/2 years, and more than 1,500 posts (not counting hundreds filling in on the Mariners blog), I’ve grown quite fond of this place, and all you crazy kids. Thanks  for providing support, ideas, and passionate feedback, both positive (mostly) and negative (hello, Pedro Calderon. Truthfully, I never minded a dissenting voice, and you have been steadfast in your beliefs). To all of you who let me know how ill-informed and off-base I was on whatever was the topic of the day…Thank you, sir (or ma’am). May I have another?”

If this sounds like I’m breaking up, well, sort of. As some of you may have seen, I’m making a dramatic career shift (not sure why they used a mug shot that dates back to the Clinton administration). I will be joining Jerry Brewer as one of the sports columnists at the Seattle Times, with my first offering coming on Sunday. It’s an exciting move, one that I’m eager to tackle. But one of the necessary by-products is that I no longer will be solely focused on baseball, as I have been for the past, gulp, 17 years at the Seattle Times, and, double-gulp, more than 25 years overall.

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August 6, 2013 at 1:04 PM

Wilhelmsen has rocky start with Tacoma; Capps back up

The Mariners didn’t wait long to start the project of resurrecting Tom Wilhelmsen in the minors. He was Tacoma’s starting pitcher today at Cheney Stadium, and had a rough outing against Iowa. In two innings, he gave up three hits (two of them home runs to two of the first three batters he faced) and three runs (all earned). The semi-bright spot, and I’m not being facetious, is that he struck out four and didn’t walk any. The walks had been killing Wilhelmsen, so it seems like a bit of progress. He threw 31 pitches, 21 for strikes. Mike Curto, Rainiers’ announcer, points out that this is Wilhelmsen’s Triple-A debut. He never made it that far while in the Brewers’ organization, and skipped that level during his rapid rise in the Mariners’ organization.

What I’m told is that the Mariners aren’t necessarily converting Wilhelmsen to starting. Rather, they believe that this gives him a chance to work on all of his pitches, and they’ll see how it progresses.

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August 5, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Montero can serve entire suspension in 2013 — with three games to spare

One point of confusion over Jesus Montero’s 50-game suspension revolved around whether he would have to carry the suspension over to 2014 because the Tacoma Rainiers have just 28 games remaining. Montero is currently with the Rainiers.

Shannon Drayer suggested earlier tody that he’d be allowed to serve it all in 2013, and I’ve gotten that confirmed from an MLB source. The reason is that he is on Seattle’s 40-man roster and thus will be able to count Seattle’s games in September against his total.

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August 5, 2013 at 9:13 AM

(UPDATE) It’s official: Jesus Montero accepts 50-game suspension

An already disastrous season for Jesus Montero clunked to rock bottom today when he accepted, without appeal, a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in connection with the Biogenesis investigation, MLB announced officially at noon, Seattle time. The suspension will be without pay, and effective immediately.

Montero was one of 12 players suspended 50 games without appeal. The others are Nelson Cruz (Rangers), Jhonny Peralta (Tigers), Everth Cabrera (Padres), Francisco Cervelli (Yankees), Cesar Puello (Mets), Fautino De Los Santos (Padres), Fernando Martinez (Yankees), Jordan Norberto (free agent), Antonio Bastardo (Phillies), Jordany Valdespin (Mets) and Sergio Escalona (Astros). The final three names had not been previously linked to Biogenesis.

Commissioner Bud Selig also announced that Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees has been suspended for the remainder of 2013, including the postseason, and all of 2014. MLB suspended A-Rod for violations of the drug policy, not under the “best interest of the game” clause, so he is allowed to appeal, and will do so. The suspension is scheduled to begin Thursday and will cover 211 games, but Rodriguez will be allowed to keep playing until his appeal is heart. MLB said in a release that Rodriguez’s suspension “is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years.  Rodriguez’s discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”

In addition, MLB noted that Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon, and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal would not be further disciplined. All were suspended 50 games last season for violating the drug program stemming from their connection to Biogenesis.

Here is a statement from the Mariners:

“The Seattle Mariners are disappointed that Jesus Montero has violated the terms of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.  Our organization fully supports the Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

The Mariners said that will be their only comment on the matter. Commissioner Bud Selig  and union chief Michael Weiner also had lengthy statements which can be found at the end of this post. Weiner said of the 12 players who didn’t appeal (excluding A-Rod): “The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives.

The Mariners haven’t had a player on their 40-man roster suspended for PEDs since Ryan Franklin, Jamal Strong and current Mariner Mike Morse in 2005. One of the unique things about this case is that none of the players failed a drug test. However, baseball still has the power to suspend players based on a “non-analytical positive” — evidence other than a drug test. The 23-year-old Montero is currently playing in Tacoma. It is believed Montero will be able to serve his entire suspension this season even though Tacoma has just 28 games remaining this season.

Montero has been linked to the Biogenesis Anti-Aging clinic since Februry – an association he strongly and repeatedly denied when the story first broke in the New York Daily News on Feb. 6. The Daily News reported that Montero had been named in the records of Biogenesis, the clinic which is at the heart of MLB’s latest PED scandal.

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August 2, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Felix Hernandez and the Cy Young: If it’s not the offense letting him down, it’s the bullpen

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

New in Take Two: A fan’s Ode To Eric Wedge.

Felix Hernandez is having another epic, Cy Young-caliber season. He’s won one Cy (in 2010), was the runner-up another time (in 2009), and had the award in the bag last year until faltering in his final six starts (0-4, 6.62) to finish fourth.

But games like last night — just about as agonizing a train wreck as you’re ever going to see — aren’t going to help his cause. While voters showed in 2010 that win-loss record is no longer paramount, when Felix won despite a 13-12 ledger, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that wins and losses are completely irrelevant. When a pitcher like Max Scherzer has a 15-1 record, that’s a powerful initial impression, even if a close examination shows that Hernandez’s total package is superior.

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August 1, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Quite a run for the three Seager brothers

Kyle Seager with his brother, Justin, shortly after he was drafted in the 12th round by the Mariners

Kyle Seager with his brother, Justin, shortly after he was drafted in the 12th round by the Mariners

Here is today’s Mariner minor-league report.

This is a great time to be a professional baseball player with the last name Seager. There happen to be three of them — brothers from Kannapolis, N.C. – and all of them are racking up the accomplishments.

The Mariners claim two of the Seager brothers; led, of course, by oldest brother Kyle, who just finished a month of July in which he led the major leagues in batting average. Kyle hit .396 (38-for-96) with 21 runs, five doubles, six homers, 14 runs batted in and a 1.099 OPS (.464 on-base percentage, .635 slugging percentage). And that doesn’t count his bunt single in the first inning tonight in Boston that raised his overall average to an even .300.

Justin Seager, a 12th-round draft pick of the Mariners this year, has begun his pro career with Everett of the Northwest League, and is one of seven AquaSox players just named to the Northwest League Northern Division All-Star team. Everett will host the game on Aug. 6, marking the first Northwest League All-Star Game since 2004. The plan is for it to be played annually, hosted by a different NWL team each year. Other members of the AquaSox making the team were pitchers Aaron Brooks, Lars Huijer and Jose Valdiva, catcher Carlton Tanabe, and infielders D.J. Peterson  and Jack Reinheimer. Peterson and Reinheimer were picked as starters, though Peterson — the Mariners’ first-round draft pick this year — won’t participate because he has been promoted to Class A Clinton.

Back to Justin Seager, 21,  who has spent most of his time (29 games) at first base, with seven games at third base: He is hitting .247 with seven doubles, three homers and 16 RBIs. He has 43 strikeouts and just six walks in 146 at-bats, with a .662 OPS, so obviously there’s work still to be done, but he’s off to a promising start.

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July 31, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Anti-climactic trade deadline ends with Mariners standing pat

Michael Young didn’t go anywhere, nor did Cliff Lee, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan or Alex Rios. Closer to home, Michael Morse, Oliver Perez, Joe Saunders and Tom Wilhelmsen are still Mariners, as are Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales.

I can’t remember a quieter or more anti-climactic trade deadline, which is sure to add more vigor to those calling for the deadline to be pushed back at least to mid-August. And I can’t argue with that school of thought. With a second wild-card, and so many teams on the periphery of contention — 21 out of 30 in single-digit deficit in either their division or the wild card race as of this morning — why not give another couple of weeks for things to sort themselves out? I understand the counter-argument — teams may not be willing to give up as much in return for six weeks, rather than two months, of a player, particularly a rent-a-player — but this glut of pseudo-contenders is not going to change. And I’ll bet that impact trading will continue to wane, considering how much all teams now covet their minor-league prospects, particularly potentially high-impact offensive players, which are now the most coveted commodity of all.

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July 31, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Mariner rumors fly as trade deadline nears

The Mariners have been a wild card throughout this month — seemingly positioned to be a seller at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but sending out vibes that they won’t be aggressive on the trade market. That stance hardened during their winning stretch, which even began to put thoughts in their head that they could make a miracle run at contending, beyond the initial goal of finishing .500.

But now, with two two hours to go before the 1 p.m.  (Pacific time) deadline, it’s time for action, not posturing. And the Mariners are in the midst of numerous rumors. I’ve felt all along that they have little desire to move Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, for three reasons: Their direct on the offense (Ibanez’s two-week slump notwithstanding), their influence in the clubhouse, and the fact that their presence in the lineup keeps too much of the load from falling on young players before they’re ready for it. If a team blew them away with an offer, they would have to listen, but short of that, I don’t expect either player to be moved. In Morales’s case, if they keep him, they can give him a qualifying offer over the winter and either end up keeping him for 2014 if he accepts, or getting a compensatory draft pick (at the end of the first round). So that sets the bar for a possible trade: The return has to be better than a first-round sandwich pick.

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July 30, 2013 at 2:02 PM

For Nick Franklin’s ROY competition, beware of Tampa Bay

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

About a month ago, I did a post on how Nick Franklin had become a darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate because of the lack of dominant choices in the American League.

One month later, I’d amend that to say that Franklin is now one of the frontrunners for the award. Franklin has hit six homers, driven in 17 runs and has a .506 slugging percentage in July, and overall leads all AL rookies in both homers (10) and RBIs (32). Not bad for a guy who didn’t get his first at-bat in the big leagues until May 27.

But that’s the way the ROY race is going to go this year. It’s going to be competed by a bunch of guys with partial seasons. Right now, I’d still list Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias as the man to beat, but even he had a 33-game stint in Pawtucket before becoming the Red Sox regular shortstop. Iglesias is hitting .330 in 62 games, which is eye-catching, no question. But Iglesias, who was hitting over. 400 as late as July 6, is trending in the wrong direction, going 4-for-40 (.100) over his last 12 games. Iglesias’s .787 OPS and 114 OPS-plus are well below Franklin’s .832 and 137.

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July 29, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Mariners DFA Jason Bay to make room for Michael Morse

baystrike

It was obvious the Mariners were facing a tough choice when it came time to activate Michael Morse, and they’ve made it: Jason Bay was designated for assignment this morning. Morse was recalled from his rehab assignment and activated from the 15-day disabled list, where he has been since injuring his right quad on June 22. Morse will join the team on Tuesday in Boston, when they begin a six-game road trip against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Bay, 34, was attempting to resurrect his career in Seattle after some down years in New York with the Mets, including a .165 average in 70 games in 2012. He made the Mariners out of spring training as a non-roster player and had his moments in the first half, but his playing time, and productivity, had begun to diminish.

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