First, some trade news in that the Mariners have dealt minor league infielder Vinnie Catricala to the Oakland Athletics for a player to be named, or cash considerations. Catricala was DFA just last week.
Once again, the Mariners need Felix Hernandez to be better than he’s looked in many recent outings. I say that because today’s lineup being trotted out by the Mariners is looking rather outgunned. The good news is, they’ll be facing David Phelps on the mound for the Yankees and not C.C. Sabathia or one of the A-listers.
The bad news is, Michael Morse is out as the Mariners give him a day to try to get that painful quad muscle more under control.
Kendrys Morales is in a DH role because of a stiff back that forced him from yesterday’s game. The fact the Mariners have been forced to go with Morales so many days in a row at first base no doubt contributed to his back woes, so we’ll see how effective he is at the plate today.
That means Alex Liddi is in at first base, giving Phelps ample opportunity to up his strikeout totals.
You’ve got Jason Bay at leadoff because Michael Saunders has gone AWOL the past month at the plate. And batting second will be Nick Franklin, called up from Class AAA a couple of weeks back.
“I’ve been debating about it,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said this morning about putting Franklin in there. “We’re thin as it is and he’s been putting together as good at-bats as anybody. He’s not shy, so I think that probably works for him. I’m trying to put the best lineup out there.”
The sad part is, given the circumstances, this might be it.
Thing is, had you told anyone two months ago that this team’s lineup in June would have Bay leading off and Franklin batting second, you’d automatically assume something had gone horribly wrong — which it has.
Some of it is injury related, but the rest amounts to poor advance planning. This team entered spring training with no clearly defined leadoff man and still has not found one.
Franklin Gutierrez was seen as one of the potential solutions, but he’s hurt again and there really is no end in sight where he’s concerned — something the team can no longer claim to be surprised by, given all that’s happened the last several years and the advance warning in spring training that he might not make it through the season on a daily basis.
As of the past few days, Gutierrez has been cleared by MLB to start another 20-day rehab stint in the minors. Only the Mariners are holding off on starting it for now — feeling he still isn’t ready to handle it after 1 1/2 months on the DL.
“He’s yet to feel good,” Wedge said, “I mean, you’ve got to pull him back sometimes. That’s part of it.”
Wedge added: “I don’t want him to start it until he’s further along. That’s what I told (trainer) Rick (Griffin). That’s kind of where we are.”
On Smoak, Wedge said he’s OK from the right side, not so much from the left. The Mariners waited nearly a full week without putting Smoak on the DL, tried to get him in as a pinch-hitter and realized he wasn’t fully healthy. Now, he’s on the DL and will wind up missing at least three weeks (not including the one PH opportunity) and still have to complete a rehab assignment before rejoining the squad.
“Until he’s good to go,” Wedge said, “I don’t want to start that clock.”
Brandon Bantz will get another chance to start at catcher, based on his outing yesterday. Kelly Shoppach is in today but he won’t be able to play seven days per week.
So, for now, the Mariners will keep treading water and hope not to fall too far under .500 so that getting back to it becomes an impossibility.
If they somehow beat the Yankees today, they’ll have earned a tough split and will be 4-3 on the homestand with three games to go against the Houston Astros. Winning at least two of those will be a priority and really, at some point this team will need to sweep somebody soon if this season is to remain relevant to any degree.
They had that chance against the White Sox, but couldn’t get any of their 14 baserunners across in the first nine innings of that finale. And blowing that game — all 16 innings of it — makes taking care of business this coming week all that more critical. The margin for error for this team remains razor thin. Keep skirting it, and Year 5 of the rebuilding plan can have the plug pulled on it well before June ends — no matter who is set to come off the DL in coming weeks.
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