Good afternoon everyone. I’m filling in on Mariners duty this afternoon as the Mariners are back in town to start a six-game homestand.
Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.92 ERA) is on the mound for Seattle, and he could take over the team lead in wins tonight against Tampa Bay. The right-hander is tied with Felix Hernandez, who has been stuck on 12 wins for a while.
The Rays counter with right-hander Alex Cobb, who is having a fine year (8-3, 2.82 ERA).
I’ll update this post with any pregame notes from manager Eric Wedge and I’ll also get a game thread started in a separate post closer to game time.
UPDATE 5:05 p.m. — Here is a transcript of Wedge’s pregame meeting with reporters:
* * *
(On Ibanez being back in the lineup after his big hit last night…) “I thought that was the best ball he’s hit in a while, but he’s hit a couple balls like that lately. Obviously he’s had a tremendous year, and when you impact the ball game like he did last night, you want to give him a chance to get back in there. It’s a fine line for us. We know we have a lot of young kids up here that want to play, need to play, but you have to also respect the major league season and what Raul has done for us, and Kendrys Morales as well as a few of the other veterans.”
(On what he’s expecting from James Paxton’s MLB debut Saturday…) “I’m excited, excited to watch him. I know he’s excited to pitch, as well he should be, but it’s always fun to watch a debut, especially when it’s a starting pitcher. He’s been up here now for a few days and had a chance to get acclimated. He has a chance to do that here at home now, too. I look forward to watching him pitch.”
(On what’s next in Felix Hernandez’ recovery…) “Have him get on the mound. Make sure that he works off that angle and make sure everything is fine, but he felt really good playing catch yesterday, so that’s a good start for him.”
(On when he’ll get on the mound…) “I have to talk to (pitching coach Carl Willis). I’m not sure. I’m sure we’ll see how he feels today and kind of go from there.”
(On if the six-man rotation will stay after Taijuan Walker’s final start…) “Yeah, we plan on having (Brandon) Maurer pick up for him at that point in time. To have the opportunity to have a Walker and a Paxton and a Maurer, although he’s been in the rotation prior to September and now we’ll get him back in the rotation, that’s three of our younger guys. That’s exciting. That’s something we feel like is important for us to do.”
(On what he looks to see from Maurer this time…) “Just to learn from what he’s experienced both as a starter and in the bullpen at the big-league level as well as triple-A. I think that’s the key for him.”
(On the inconsistency of hitting with runners in scoring position…) “I think it’s a combination of things. I think a few of our veterans have tailed off a little bit in the second half. I think a few of our younger kids have, too. We brought up some younger players, as well, so that’s part of it. It’s been an up-and-down year in that sense a number of different ways — the injuries I think are part of it, when I got sick and missed that time. That was instant. That was different. It’s a different program. Just a number of different things. But like I’ve said, what I hold onto, and I know this to be true because I’ve seen it teams I’ve been part of but also with other teams … in the past, if they’ve shown they can do it for a period of time, even if it’s a short period of time, there is no reason that they can’t hold onto it for a longer period of time. You’re not going to be at the apex of your game for six months. You’re going to have ups and downs, but when you can be more consistent than not, then you have a chance to be a solid big-league player. Then you have a chance to be a solid big-league team. That’s what I believe.”
(On if Iwakuma will pitch longer into games with a six-man rotation…) “No, we’re going to still take care of him. We’ve been very consistent in how we’ve used him and just really tried to take care of him. Obviously he’s getting up there with his innings, so we’ll continue to communicate with him, make sure that he’s still strong. He was very strong in his last outing, feels good. One thing that I’ve always liked about Kuma is he’s always been real honest with us, and that helps us handle him. He’s always been very honest about how he feels or what’s going on. Felix does the same thing. When you have veterans that are secure enough in themselves in their careers, it really helps you help them in regard to how you handle that.”
(On if Iwakuma getting to 200 innings will impact things…) “We’re going to watch to see how he gets it. We’ll work off of him. That’s what we try to do, especially with the veterans. We’ll monitor him, see how he feels and how he looks, and how easy or how hard he gets it, and go from there.”