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January 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM

A few notes from the Mariners pre-spring luncheon

Big thanks to Josh Liebeskind for covering this today, while I was dealing with Broncos stuff in Denver. 

Here’s some notes he took.

General manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged that the Mariners are not done making moves, saying some announcements could even come later today.

“I don’t suspect we’re going to make a major move, but hopefully we’ll do a couple things, some tweaks that will help the club certainly for this year,” Zduriencik said.

Zduriencik alluded to the fact that he would like a veteran pitcher to add into a rotation that is very young and unproven behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Manager Lloyd McClendon was more to the point later, saying, “we’d like to have that veteran No. 3 starter.

Zduriencik also said that the Mariners were not “major players” in the Masahiro Tanaka bidding.

Athletic trainer Rob Nodine offered updates on the health of players. Here are a couple that stood out.

  • Reliever Stephen Pryor, who underwent surgery for a lat tear, has began a throwing program and is expected to continue to progress in spring training as doctors allow. Nodine said he would guess Pryor could return at the end of May, but the team will not officially announce a timetable for his recovery. There had only been three similar surgeries when Pryor had his, but it is the same one Jake Peavy was sidelined with for awhile.
  • New acquisitions, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, both coming off knee injuries, are doing well and have no cplaints. Hartt is working out in his normal offseason program and his playing time will be monitored during spring training.
  • Franklin Gutierrez is doing great, Nodine said, and is expected to come to spring training with no complaints.
  • Left-handed prospect Danny Hultzen is progressing well after shoulder surgery and is on the verge of starting an interval throwing program in Arizona.
  • Jesus Montero suffered an injury to his right hand during winter ball that required stitches, but is doing well.

**** Rookie Mike Zunino will enter the spring as the team’s starting catcher, with veteran John Buck serving as his backup. Zunino was drafted in 2012 out of Florida and was called up midway during last season. Despite the quick progression through the Minors, former Seattle catcher Dan Wilson thinks Zunino is ready to handle the position.

“I think that’s really what sets Mike apart from other guys, is mentally, the work that he’s able to do back there,” said Wilson, who will begin a new position as the team’s Minor League catching coordinator. “He’s well advanced in his years. I think the position demands so much physically and mentally, a lot of times you get a guy who’s physically ready to do it, but just mentally isn’t able to handle the rigors of a pitching staff or a manager – all the things that go into the mental side of catching.

“The way I see Mike, Mike can handle both. I think that really is what accelerated him through so quickly.”

****  The team officially announced that former manager Lou Piniella will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Piniella, known as a fiery and passionate leader, among other things, led the Mariners to three AL West championships in 10 seasons (1993-2002) at the helm.

Piniella went 840-711 (.542) with the Mariners, also managing the Yankees, Reds, Rays and Cubs in his 23-year career as a Major League skipper.

The ceremony will take place Aug. 9 at Safeco Field prior to a game against the White Sox. Piniella will become the eighth member of the Mariners Hall of Fame, joining Alvin Davis,Dave NiehausJay BuhnerEdgar MartinezRandy JohnsonDan Wilson and Ken Griffey Jr.

Here’s what Wilson, who is now the Minor League catching coordinator for the Mariners, had to say about Piniella.

“Obviously, extremely grateful to Lou. He was a guy, had a chance to play for Lou in spring training and then September call-up in Cincinnati. He kind of traded for me and gave me an opportunity here in Seattle. Obviously, an opportunity that I was very grateful for and was able to stick around for a little while.

I’m grateful for Lou, not only gave me that opportunity, but then was very instrumental in pushing me and helping me to become the player that I became. I owe a lot to Lou. I’m super excited for him. To not only see him in the Hall of Fame, but the fans love to see him.”

**** The Mariners will unveil two new projects in the coming months. The Mariners basebacll academy in the Dominican Republic is set to open in February. It will feature, among other things, three full-sized fields, a practice field, covered batting cages, a bullpen facility, dorms, a dining hall and classrooms. The facility can hold up to 80 players, which is roughly the equivalent of two teams.

One team will operate out of it for now, but assistant general manager Jeff Kingston said if the political situation in Venezuela forced the Mariners to pull their team out of the country, they would have the capacity to bring it to the Dominican Republic academy.

The Mariners are also renovating their Peoria Sports Complex, which is expected to be completed in time for spring training. The clubhouse will see a 60 percent increase in size and pretty much everything will get a major facelift.



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