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July 27, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Mariners pregame notes and lineup vs. Orioles

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With rookie left-hander Roenis Elias taking the mound today, and recently re-acquired designated hitter Kendrys Morales batting cleanup, the Mariners have two Cuban-born players in the starting lineup for the first time in club history.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he isn’t concerned about Elias today after the rookie left-hander exited his last start on Monday with cramping in his left hand/forearm.

“Everything checked out fine,” McClendon said this morning.

Elias had allowed only one run in 5.1 innings against the Mets on Monday before the cramping came up.

“His last start he was pretty good,” McClendon said. “He had command of his fastball, which helps his secondary stuff. I think the 10 or 11 days off (for the All-Star break) really helped kind of clean him up a little bit. He was probably fatiguing a little bit. …

“I’ve said all year that his stuff was pretty good. His biggest challenge is just commanding the strike zone, and we just want to continue to cut down on walks and attack hitters. If he does that, he should have a chance to be pretty successful (the rest of the season).”

Elias enters today’s start with an 8-8 record and a 4.41 ERA in 118.1 innings, with 104 strikeouts, 42 walks, 14 homers allowed, a .245 batting average against and a demeanor that, McClendon agreed, belies his age.

“He really doesn’t act like a rookie in that respect. He’s pretty mature for his years,” McClendon said. “Obviously from where he’s come from and what he had to do to get here probably had a lot to do with that. I think he’s just enjoying the journey.”

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Endy Chavez (jammed finger), not in today’s lineup, remains day to day, McClendon said.

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McClendon believes Dustin Ackley can sustain his recent surge at the plate. Ackley is batting .358 in 20 games in July and again hitting second in the lineup today.

That’s what we’ve been looking for all year. He’s aggressive; he’s attacking the baseball, and he’s using the entire field to hit. If he does that, he’s a dangerous guy. I think he can sustain that.”

McClendon agreed that batting Ackley second is an “ideal” spot for him.

“He runs well. You can do a lot of things with him. He’s got some power. He certainly can hit a lot of doubles, and he hits left-handers,” McClendon said. “So I think it’s an ideal spot. It didn’t work out earlier in the year. I think he’s a lot more comfortable now with where he is as a hitter.”

Batting second for two games in April, Ackley went 0 for 8 with six strikeouts against the Astros. He quickly found himself back in the bottom third of the order.

Saturday, he had two doubles and scored two runs back at the No. 2 spot. And he’s back there again today.

“I think I’m more comfortable with it because he’s more comfortable with it,” McClendon said. “I’m not sure he was ready to handle that the first time.

“I think he probably put a little too much pressure on himself the first time. I can’t speak for him, but maybe he thought my expectations for him in that spot were higher than what they were, but I think he’s feeling comfortable in his own skin now and he’s feeling good about what he’s doing and he’s more (prepared) to handle it.”

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On bullpen usage:

“I think our numbers are great,” McClendon said. “We’ve made a conscious effort to really take care of those guys down there and as a result it’s paying off. I don’t think we’re in the top 10 of any of our guys in relief appearances, and that’s what we wanted. And we’ll try keep it that way.”

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