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May 22, 2013 at 8:41 PM

Mariners veterans call team meeting after getting routed again

Mariners starter Brandon Maurer is told "This is how you become a man" by pitching coach Carl Willis partway through a three-inning beating by the Angels. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners starter Brandon Maurer is told “This is how you become a man” by pitching coach Carl Willis partway through a three-inning beating by the Angels. Photo Credit: AP

There are going to be the usual jokes made about this, but it was no laughing matter inside the clubhouse post-game as Mariners’ veterans got all of the players inside a private, off-limits room and held a team meeting prior to everybody dressing for the plane ride home.

I know some fans and pundits tend to roll their eyes at team meetings and on some clubs, you can schedule them on your calendar as monthly, or even weekly events. But I would have been stunned to have not seen a meeting after the two-game fiasco we just witnessed here, with the Mariners getting outscored 19-1. There’s a reason some of us were asking Raul Ibanez post-game last night about whether he worried some less experienced players might be tempted to get down on themselves after losing that hard-fought series in Cleveland.

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Ibanez gave his teammates the benefit of the doubt last night. But today, when they were blown off the field for a second day in a row, Ibanez and other vets made sure the players were reminded of how hard they’d worked the past month or so. And — it goes without saying — how close they are getting to throwing it all out the window if they play like they have the past 24 hours.

“I think it’s important to remember all the good stuff that happened,’’ Ibanez said. “Not just on the trip, but prior to the trip. I think we’re going to be all right. We have a good group of guys, guys that are going to fight, that are going to scratch and claw.’’

Ibanez didn’t want to discuss the content of the meeting, but did add that it was “a good time” to call one.

Brendan Ryan agreed with that assessment.

“This is a whole different brand of baseball,’’ Ryan said. “This isn’t the brand of baseball we wanted to come in here and play. The losses in Cleveland were tough, but the hunger and drive was there.

“This isn’t good,’’ he added. “We got behind and I don’t know, that determination – that if they score 15, we score 16 – didn’t seem to be there. I don’t know if we were feeling bad for ourselves, or what. But it’s a good time for an off-day.’’

And really, that’s the difference. In Cleveland, the Mariners looked like a team that could go toe-to-toe with the game’s best, even while getting swept. Here, they looked like the Mariners of 2010.

You’ll remember back in 2011, when the Mariners played .500 ball until July 4, then lost 17 in a row en route to a 95-loss season. They really needed some guys to step up with conviction back then and help pull the team out of that historic slide. That’s one reason manager Eric Wedge was keen on getting more of a veteran presence on to the roster.

Hence, today’s meeting. An attempt to up the intesity level a bit. Not just sit back and take it.

There are things, as I mentioned last post, that the front office and Wedge can do to help. The two losses here were mostly attributable to terrible starting pitching. The Mariners don’t have a whole lot of in-house options in Class AAA right now, but Jeremy Bonderman seems worth at least a look.

If Bonderman is promoted, it is still unlikely to be at the expense of Brandon Maurer, who lasted only three innings today. Wedge said postgame that Maurer is learning a lot up here, took a beating today that all young pitchers eventually go through, but came out of it OK and will be better for it.

Maurer had the bases loaded and one out in the second inning and got Howie Kendrick to ground into a double play.

“(Pitching coach) Carl (Willis) came out to the mound…with the bases loaded and said ‘This is how you become a man’,’’ Maurer said. “So, I go in there and throw a two-seamer and get a double play. I guess that was a positive I could take out of it.’’

Now, that’s all fine and good. But if Erasmo Ramirez and Danny Hultzen were healthy, I doubt we’d see Maurer beyond today until he figured some things out in AAA. But Ramirez and Hultzen are hurt. The bottom line is, the team likely only has one replacement option for a current starter if it chooses to go that route.

As for the infielders, my guess is the Mariners will sit tight and keep things as they are. You’ll remember last year, when many felt that Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero were off to AAA at the all-star break and the Mariners wound up keeping all three.

It’s worth noting that they did eventually option out Smoak just two weeks after that and he returned a better player for it.

So, believe me, I’m not saying that standing pat is the best option here.

With Ackley, it’s tough, because as one person mentioned to me post-game, he’s running an OPS of more than .700 the past month.

But then again, if you run the latest numbers from the past 2 1/2 weeks, the average is .156 and that OPS is at .514.

So, which Ackley would you be pulling the plug on and which one is right around the corner? I’m not saying it’s an easy call, but if you have a guy like Nick Franklin, who some of your scouts and coaches feel is big league ready, I think now is a good time to give him a look someplace (it doesn’t have to be Ackley’s spot). Last winter, we heard Jack Zduriencik lament that he wasn’t getting great trade offers for his young prospects because they weren’t big league seasoned.

Now, I keep hearing the Mariners may be reluctant to play Franklin — especially at shortstop — because he might be exposed as not an everyday big leaguer.

Well, which is it? You can’t complain about both.

Anyhow, the Mariners have 48 hours to figure it out. Beteween the players and the front office, there should be enough initiative to be found where both can help the other look better.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge cautioned postgame that there are no quick fixes in baseball. That’s true, but there are just plain fixes that sometimes can work wonders. Like a starter pitching his way beyond the fifth inning.

“What happened in Cleveland, those things just don’t happen,” he said. “But it did. So, you’ve got to man up and handle it. That’s what it’s all about. And our guys are in the process of doing all that. Here, we didn’t pitch very well, we didn’t hit very well. This is a bad couple of days for us. But a lot of good things happened in Cleveland. The results weren’t good when you get walked off three times. But if we’re playing those games in our ballpark, at least one or two if not all three of them are different outcomes.

“But that’s baseball,” he added. “We’re in the middle of May, the third week of May and we’ve got a long way to go. Like I said, we’ve got the makings of a good ballclub. The most encouraging thing to me is, we’re on our way to being the club we think we can be. But we haven’t approached that yet…it’s all right there for us, we just have to go out and take it.’’




Comments | More in analysis | Topics: brandon maurer; nick franklin; jack zduriencik; eric wedge


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