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June 6, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Earliest that Felix Hernandez will pitch for Mariners is this coming Sunday

Felix Hernandez came jogging into the dugout after his catch session tonight and gave the two-thumbs-up sign to Mariners manager Eric Wedge. That’s a first step. Hernandez will play catch again in Seattle tomorrow and then the team will meet with him Friday to chart out a course of action.
Wedge told me the earliest Hernandez will be able to pitch in a “best case scenario” is Sunday. But he stressed that the team is keeping its options open, meaning next Tuesday or later is still a possibility.
“I think he’s going to be fine,” Wedge said. “It’s just a matter of, we’re going to work off of him and how he feels. I know he wants to pitch as soon as we can, but we’ll have to wait and see just how he feels after he plays catch.
“And that’s what I told him. I said ‘Listen, we’re not going to hold you back. If you wake up Friday and you feel completely normal and you’re good to go, then we’ll put a more specific plan together. But if there’s any uncertainty, we’ve got some options with the off-day tomorrow and the off-day on Monday.’ ”
Tuesday would be 11 days since his last outing, which is almost the equivalent of a stint on the 15-day DL. The reason the Mariners went this route is because they are using Hector Noesi tonight on short rest rather than calling up an arm from Class AAA. Had that been needed, then Hernandez likely would have gone on the DL.
This way, the team has the luxury of getting Hernandez back in there a few days earlier.
Michael Saunders has been moved up from No. 8 to No. 6 in the batting order tonight. So, a minor promotion, though Wedge says he was considering it even before last night’s three-hit game in which Saunders was a triple shy of the cycle.
Wedge repeated his assertion that he’d be comfortable playing Saunders anywhere in the lineup.

Which Triple Crown is harder to win?

One thing I’d mentioned in last night’s post is how well Saunders is doing against left-handed pitching. It’s something he had success with in the minors, but not in the majors before.
Having him hit both handed pitchers is a huge step towards being an everyday player. Before, he was getting tagged as a plattoon guy, or a fourth outfielder.
Coming into tonight, he’s hitting .288 with a .351 on-base-percentage and a .538 slugging percentage against lefties. Versus righties, he’s at .261 with a .335 OBP and a .428 slugging percentage.
Geez, who’d have thought it would be his righty-splits that were keeping him from elite levels? I’ll admit, when I first read those last night, I had to go online to a website to double-check and make sure there wasn’t some error in our printed post-game stat-packs.
I mentioned that to Saunders today and he laughed.
“This kid? No way!” he said, jokingly.
I asked him why he was hitting lefties so much better this year.
“I think I’m staying aggressive, which has allowed me to see the ball,” he said. “I feel like I’m keeping my hands back and am able to see the opposite field. Which is where I’ve struggled the last couple of years. I think I was having more of a pull mindset, which was causing a lot of wrong things which wasn’t allowing me to have success against lefties.”
Hector Noesi on the mound tonight. It should come as no surprise that Miguel Olivo is in there catching him.
Noesi keeps making the same mistakes on 0-2 pitches and needs a catcher back there who might literally threaten to wring his neck if he throws the next pitch anywhere near the strike zone without any serious conviction. Noesi hangs around Olivo a lot, so chances are, he wouldn’t dare try any funny stuff beyond what’s called.
The lineups:
RF Ichiro
2B Dustin Ackley
3B Kyle Seager
DH Jesus Montero
1B Justin Smoak
CF Michael Saunders
C Miguel Olivo
LF Mike Carp
SS Brendan Ryan
RHP Hector Noesi
LF Mike Trout
3B Maicer Izturis
1B Albert Pujols
DH Kendrys Morales
RF Mark Trumbo
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Erick Aybar
C Hank Conger
CF Peter Bourjos
RHP Jerome Williams

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Jesus Montero


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