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June 20, 2009 at 4:34 PM

Endy Chavez done for year with torn ACL; Michael Saunders “needs more time” in AAA and won’t be called up

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Yunieksy Betancourt and Franklin Gutierrez, in the photo above, try to fine-tune their strategy for chasing down pop flies to shallow left center. Or, maybe they’re just discussing how wrong it is to have jacket weather at summer solstice time. No idea.
Just got the official word on Endy Chavez, who has a torn anterior cruciate ligament — which explains the thigh-to-ankle cast we mentioned earlier — and other internal damage that effectively finishes off his 2009 season. Chavez also apparently damaged other ligaments in the knee and may have fractured a bone as well, but the ACL is the primary concern. As we mentioned last night, when you plant a leg as he did and then get slammed into right at the kneecap, there is a risk of hyper-extending the knee and blowing the ACL, which is what manager Don Wakamatsu suggested today was the primary cause of the damage.
Chavez is to undergo surgery. For now, the Mariners will go with Wladimir Balentien as the primary left fielder and use Ronny Cedeno, Ken Griffey Jr. and even Chris Woodward as backups. You can see the problem already. Not one of those backups qualifies as a pure outfielder any more with the exception of Griffey, who was to be in tonight’s lineup but has now been pulled and Mike Sweeney inserted in his place. Seems that any time Griffey plays the field, a few nights off tend to follow. Not a long-term solution by any stretch.
So, this is Balentien’s last chance, it would seem. The team is going to see how he responds to the everyday job and adjust accordingly.
I asked GM Jack Zduriencik moments ago about whether Saunders was considered as a call-up from AAA. Zduriencik said that yes, he was considered. But that the team feels he needs more exposure to playing time in AAA first, coming off an early-season injury layoff as the result of shoulder surgery.
“We just want to see him play more,” Zduriencik said. “Yes, he’s putting up some good numbers. But that’s in AAA. We want to make sure that if he is brought up, he’s ready to go. I don’t want to put a timetable on it. But if we’re told that he’s ready to play in the big leagues, then we’ll make a decision.”
For now, he has not been told that. And yes, as some of you have already noted, it wouldn’t make sense to bring Saunders up here to be a backup. He’d have to play every day. Right now, that’s what Balentien will get yet another chance to do — about his fourth such opportunity the past 14 months.
Also, there’s the whole consideration of starting a player’s arbitration clock, which the Mariners are reluctant to do unless they get word that Saunders is absolutely ready. Hope that helps explain why the M’s are now going with a .670 OPS righthanded bat as their everyday left fielder and a bunch of backup infield and DH types as his support. A tenuous situation at best.
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Chavez’s injury means the Mariners do not have to make the call yet on which infielder to demote to AAA so that Josh Wilson can be activated. Wilson will join the team tonight and take the spot of Chavez, who goes on the 15-day DL. Once Jose Lopez returns from bereavement leave, a decision on which infielder to jettison will have to be made.
By the way, yes, it’s true, former No. 1 pick Phillippe Aumont has been promoted to Class AA, which was the team’s plan all along once he got his feet wet. There are no plans yet to move Josh Fields up another level, meaning the West Tennessee team will now feature a one-two bullpen bunch of former first rounders.
“He showed us a big arm, nice breaking ball and his pitches have had a downward plane with sink to them,” Zduriencik said of Aumont, who has been getting most pitches in at between 93 mph and 97 mph. “The biggest thing was to get him used to throwing multiple innings. He’s responded well and the game plan all along was to get him to AA at some point this summer.”

Comments | Topics: Chris Woodward

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