Brendan Ryan walked into the visitors’ clubhouse here today and informed the Mariners he has a stiff neck. So, he’s out of the lineup tonight and Munenori Kawasaki will make his major league debut in his place.
Kawasaki will bat ninth.
Ryan had two hits — including a double — in last night’s 7-3 win over the A’s.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Ryan’s neck stiffness was caused by sleeping on it wrong in the hotel last night. “It’s nothing related to what he went through in the past,” Wedge said.
Ryan was sidelined for much of last season’s second half with neck problems after he collided with Adam Kennedy chasing down a pop fly. His ability to stay on the field this year had been a concern for the Mariners and was one reason they were eager to see Kawasaki handle shortstop this spring.
Kawasaki impresed the team immensely and now will already have a chance to start at that position. Wedge reiterated that Ryan remains the starting shortstop and that this move is largely precautionary, since there is an off-day tomorrow that will give Ryan more than 48 hours to recover.
It was pointed out that Kawasaki is the only Mariners player to face Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish, the Japanese import who makes his MLB debut against the Mariners on Monday. But Wedge reiterated that Ryan remains his starting shortstop and that Kawasaki’s history against Darvish won’t play in to any decision on who starts.
Wedge said that Jesus Montero should get a chance to start behind the plate at some point in the coming week.
Miguel Olivo will get the break with tomorrow’s off-day and then be in there against the Texas Rangers on Monday. But the team has an upcoming string of seven consecutive games and Wedge said he’ll sit Olivo at some point and get Montero in there.
Spoke a bit with Steve Delabar about his five-out performance last night against the A’s, including a huge strikeout on Yoenis Cespedes with two on and one out in the sixth when he came on in relief of Jason Vargas.
Delabar got Cespedes to foul a split-fingered fastball off his foot and then came back with a higher four-seam fastball at 95 mph that the Cuban slugger swung at and missed.
“The whole idea was to go in there, challenge him, work ahead and just put him away,” Delabar said. “By throwing that split in there kind of gets him off the fastball. Then you just speed it back up by throwing another fastball.”
Wedge had liked the Delabar-Cespedes matchup because he wanted to go with somebody whose hard-throwing style was most in contrast with what Vargas had been showing the Oakland hitters. Delabar said he has more background on the hitters he’s facing this year, which makes it easier to know how to approach hitters.
He’s also looking to move beyond his well-told life story — and baseball comeback last year after being a substitute high school teacher — to being seen as a regular major leaguer. That’s hard to do, having just been featured last month on HBO Real Sports, which his former students watched on a big screen in a high school gym back in Kentucky.
“I’m definitely not putting it aside,” he said of his story. “But now the focus isn’t how I got here. It’s what I plan to do now that I’m here.”