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Topic: Jason Bay

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March 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Leadoff by committee for Mariners? Seems tough to avoid it

Yesterday afternoon, I went on 710 ESPN Seattle on the Bob & Groz show and they stumped me right off the bat by asking who was going to hit leadoff for the Mariners. Who indeed? Sure, I’ve got the same list many of you have. But who would be the go-to guy? Tough to find an answer to that one. It’s one of the reasons I thought the Mariners might go harder after Michael Bourn.

Simply put, they don’t have a leadoff guy right now. They had Ichiro for years, but did not replace him when he left. Dustin Ackley was not the guy to go into this season with, primarily because of how badly he performed last season. The last thing you want to do with a guy who has yet to establish much of anything in the majors is saddle him with a batting order role that actually requires some responsibility — as I belive the first four or five spots in an order actually do.

After that, you can throw in whatever’s left.

But to bat a guy leadoff? Well, you’d better know he can handle it.

For the Mariners this year, they just don’t have a prototypical leadoff guy. I’d setlle for them just going with a guy who can get on base.

Based on recent history, they don’t really have that either.

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Comments | More in leadoff | Topics: Dustin Ackley, franklin gutierrez, Jason Bay

March 13, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Jason Bay as a leadoff guy? The Mariners are taking a look

Jason Bay says he isn’t as surprised as others that his name this morning is pencilled in atop the Mariners lineup for a second day in a row. The Mariners are taking a look at leadoff candidates and want to see what Bay can do.

“I think everybody else thinks it’s a little more novel than I actually do,” Bay said.

Well, there were those 1,200-plus MLB games in which he’d never hit leadoff before. Then again, Bay has done it in spring training. Right?…um, right, Mr. Bay?

“I think I have,” he said, backtracking from an earlier assertion. “I know I’ve hit second a bunch of times.”

Ah, but second is not first. Just ask the 49’ers post Super Bowl.

In any event, Bay says he’s got the formula for leading off figured out pretty well.

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Comments | More in spring training | Topics: Dustin Ackley, eric wedge, Jason Bay

March 12, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Mariners lose 5-4 to Diamondbacks despite late comeback

Remember back when we were saying spring training wins and losses don’t matter much? Well, keep that in mind now that the Mariners today dropped their fifth game in six tries since that 10-game win streak. Today’s 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was secured when Hector Noesi, a pitcher who won’t be anywhere near a big league mound when April 1 rolls around — unless he’s traded to the Astros (get used to these jokes from me, Houston) — yielded a three-run homer to Mark Teahen in the fourth inning.

Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin grounds out to end today's game.

Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin grounds out to end today’s game.

The Mariners started scraping back from a 5-1 deficit in the fifth on a solo homer by Brad Miller and an RBI single by Brendan Ryan. Miller then doubled with two out in the ninth and scored when a Julio Morban pop-up was dropped in the infield. But Nick Franklin grounded out to the right side and that was the game.

Prior to that, we saw Felix Hernandez toss three innings of one-run ball with 38 pitches, then throw another 12 in the bullpen to get his total up to about 50. That sets him up nicely for a 65-pitch outing his next time out. The Mariners didn’t want him starting the fourth inning and having tocome out partway through once he reached 50, hence the bullpen work.

“I had more command,” Hernandez said of the outing. “More command and there was a good finish on the pitches. It was a little bit different.”

Hernandez said he needed work on throwing from the stretch position, something he tried more of in the bullpen.

“It’s coming along pretty good,” he said. “I’m feeling better and better.”

The home run, he said, came when he left his sinker a little bit up to Hinske. Hernandez also cited “Arizona” as a reason, meaning the air here might have contributed to the blast leaving the yard.

“He was strong and using all of his pitches,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He looked great out there today.”

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Comments | More in Cactus League | Topics: eric wedge, felix hernandez, hector noesi

March 12, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Felix Hernandez takes mound for second time, while Jason Bay bats leadoff for the Mariners

Felix Hernandez deals to Adam Eaton of the Diamondbacks during the first inning of today's game.

Felix Hernandez deals to Adam Eaton of the Diamondbacks during the first inning of today’s game.

Just got done the fifth inning, with the Mariners scoring twice on a solo homer by Brad Miller and an RBI single by Brendan Ryan to cut the D-Backs’ lead to 5-3. Felix Hernandez threw 38 pitches over three innings of one-run ball today, the only blemish being the Erik Hinske homer. Hernandez then threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen afterwards, building arm strength for his next outing — in which he hopes to throw 65 pitches. See Hernandez speak after his outing in the video below.

Hector Noesi came in after Hernandez, walked a pair of batters, then yielded a three-run homer by Mark Teahen that made it a 4-0 lead for Arizona. Noesi just looks awful out there this spring.

Another pitcher who has had his struggles, Lucas Luetge, yielded a single to Josh Wilson, a walk, and then an RBI single to Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the fifth that put Arizona up 5-1 at the time. Luetge had a solid start to 2012 but faded as the season wore on and was used less and less in high leverage spots. While many assume he’ll make this year’s squad, that might not be a safe guess considering Luetge has Class AAA options left — unlike last year when the Mariners had to keep the Rule 5 pick in the majors — and two other lefties for the bullpen in Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush. Luetge has given up 11 hits in six innings this spring and with the Mariners already paying Perez seven figures to be their late situational and set-up guy from the left side, you’d have to think carrying two such pitchers is a bit luxurious for a squad that could have a roster crunch late this spring.

In other words, Luetge will have to step it up.

1:30 p.m.: Erik HinskeĀ opened the scoring in the second inning with a one-out solo homer to right field off of Felix Hernandez. Hinske is a former AL Rookie of the Year from 2002 who I covered in Toronto a decade ago. He has since become a platoon left-handed bat off the bench for several teams, earning the distiction of playing in three straight World Series for three different teams with Boston in 2007, Tampa Bay in 2008 and the Yankees in 2009. First player ever to do that.

Hernandez retired the side in order in the third inning, getting former teammate Josh “Paperboy” Wilson on a flyout, Adam Eaton on a popout to shortstop and a strikeout on Cliff Pennington. If Hernandez is done, he threw 38 pitches total.

1:12 p.m.: Felix Hernandez got the side in order in the top half of the first inning. He retired Adam Eaton on a second-pitch flyout to center, struck out Cliff Pennington, then got A.J. Pollock on an easy groundout to third.

12:30 p.m.: Those of you who read this morning’s earlier post might have noticed Jason Bay batting leadoff for the Mariners. It’s the first time Bay has done that in his entire 10-year career.

Dustin Ackley bats second and you’d have to think that’s where the team would like to have him to start the year. The Mariners have never been sold on Ackley as a leadoff guy.

Felix Hernandez takes the mound for his second Cactus League start. The Mariners have droped four of their last five games after winning 10 in a row.

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Comments | More in Cactus League | Topics: diamondbacks, felix hernandez, Jason Bay

February 25, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Constant change what MLB all about and Mariners no exception

Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan walks to indoor batting cages for some early, pre-workout hitting this morning in Peoria, AZ.

Just last night, it struck me that I’ve done four stories in less than a week involving players who have hired their own coaches and/or personal trainers to make some pretty radical shifts in the direction of their overall game and approach to it.

Blake Beavan is the latest I’ve written about and you can read the story in today’s print edition about how he spent a month working with University of Texas pitching coach/guru Skip Johnson in order to generate a more downward plane on his offerings. You all remember Doug Fister and how his downward angle on pitches from a 6-foot-8 height made it extremely difficult for hitters to make solid contact and do much more than pound balls into the ground.

Well, that’s what the 6-foot-7 Beavan is aiming for. He and Johnson worked three days a week — with Beavan sleeping over at minor leaguer Chane Ruffin’s place — at the Austin, TX campus of the U of T altering the pitcher’s delivery. The idea is for Beavan to create more downward angle and then to repeat his delivery so that it becomes consistent and enables him to disguise what’s coming. In the past, Beavan struggled to repeat the same mechanics when he switched from a fastball to a breaking ball. That’s a no-no in pitching — especially in the majors — because the hitters today are so smart and skilled that they will easily pick up on any slight change. So, if you know Beavan does things differently when he throws his breaking ball, you can just sit back and wait for it. Ditto on the fastball. And since Beavan’s fastball wasn’t generating any downward plane, the hitters who sensed it was coming would hit it a long, long way if it flattened out on him.

So, anyhow, that’s what Beavan has taken it upon himself to try to change. You have to admire the thought process, though the execution is a whole lot tougher to pull off than I’m making it sound. A pitcher altering his mechanics is no easy thing to pull off at the MLB level. It takes weeks and weeks of repetition to gain the confidence to use the tweaks in a game and then months, sometimes years, afterwards to hone it to perfection.

It may seem, sometimes, as if we’re constantly writing about players making tweaks and serious changes. Fact is, we are. This is a constant part of life at the higher levels of baseball, where raw talent alone is rarely enough to get you by forever. The players are just too sophisticated in how they attack opponents these days, studying traits and tendencies well in advance and now having high-speed computers as well as ample video to help them out.

The “classroom” part of MLB is the stuff fans never see. The stuff off the field. It’s a constant battle — part of an ongoing, never-ending war — to emerge on top of all comers. But just because we can’t always see it doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore it.

There is too much money at stake for players not to do this extra work, put in the preparation. Frankly, any player who isn’t constantly trying to stay ahead of “enemies” trying to get the better of him is an idiot.

We saw last year just how quickly Dustin Ackley, everybody’s flavor-of-the-week in 2011, went from hero to zero once opposing pitchers figured him out a bit and exploited his weaknesses. Now, he has to adapt.

So, as camp has progressed, we’ve done our best to tell you what some Mariners are planning in order to try to improve. As always, it’s the process we’re interested in at this stage. The results come later. And as we all should know by now, a process alone in baseball is no guarantee of results.

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Comments | More in spring training | Topics: Blake Beavan, Dustin Ackley, Jason Bay

February 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Jason Bay and Mariners beat Padres by score of 8-6

Jason Bay made his presence felt today, clubbing a two-run homer in the first inning of his spring debut. Justin Smoak and Mike Jacobs later added a pair of two-run blasts of their own to complete an 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres.

Bay is in a dogfight with Casper Wells for the fifth and final outfield spot, barring any injuries. Wells hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning yesterday, so Bay just evened the count between them. I’d spoken to Bay about this, his chances this spring and his outlook on his future even before he took the field today. More on that later.

But today, he repeated some of what he told me when speaking to reporters after coming off the field.

“I’m more worried about what I can do,” he said. “I understand there’s a limited number of people and a limited number of spots. I’m not so concerned about ‘Who does this?’ I’m worried about me. I was under that impression when I came here. I’ve still got to make the team.”

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Comments | More in Cactus League | Topics: Blake Beavan, danny hultzen, Jason Bay

February 21, 2013 at 9:01 AM

New infielder Robert Andino gives Mariners flexibility they didn’t have before








You’ll hear a lot a at this camp about the Jason Bay-Casper Wells battle for the final outfield spot. But in reality, we wouldn’t even be having a battle had the Mariners not gone out and gotten Robert Andino to be their backup infielder. The Mariners acquired Andino via trade with the Baltimore Orioles, sending Trayvon Robinson over in return.

Robinson has already been designated for assignment, taken off the 40-man roster and been re-signed to a minor league contract by Baltimore after nobody claimed him.

Mariners infielder Robert Andino during batting practice this morning in Peoria, AZ.

Meanwhile, Andino remains an integral part of Seattle’s major league plans. You see, he’s the reason the team has chosen to go with only one backup infielder instead of the two they’d usually carry. And that call will enable the team to carry a fifth outfielder after the quartet of Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez. Hence, the battle between Wells and Bay.

Sound good? I mean, we may only be talking about the 24th and 25th spots here when we discuss backup infielders and fifth outfielders. But every job counts on a roster and a team that’s hit as poorly as the Mariners the past four years needs any fix they can get. And Andino should help add to the Mariners’ offense, both by his own numbers and the ability to allow the team to carry an extra outfielder.

The reason the Mariners can carry only Andino has to do largely with the fact that he’s a natural shortstop who, when healthy, can play the position multiple days in a row without hurting the team. He is also a guy who — up until last year — could actually hit a bit in the backup role. To get a guy who can be a regular shortstop, play the corners and actually hit somewhat like a regular when needed is not all that common. You’ve got backups who can play all kinds of positions for a day or two, maybe. Kyle Seager can fill in at shortstop for a few innings, or maybe a start once in a while. But not several games in a row. Not without stats dropping through the floor.

“Over the years, I’ve learned how to play third and second so I got comfortable with it,” Andino said. “But I’ve been playing shortstop my whole life, so it’s been comfortable for me. So, I’m comfortable at short, second and third. I don’t really have to worry about it.”

Mariners minor league infield coach Chris Woodward is here working with the team in spring training. Woodward played for a decade as both a starting and utility infielder at various positions around the infield — including shortstop — and agreed that a guy like Andino can be a valuable addition to any team.

“Usually, when you play shortstop you can play everywhere else,” Woodward said. “But it’s up to you to go out of your way to get some work in at the various positions, maybe go to the outfield and shag. But yeah, having a backup guy who can play shortstop every day and who can actually hit and do some things with the bat, that’s really important.”

And Andino can play more often than the backups the Mariners have used in their infield lately.

As recently as 2011, Andino actually got 511 plate appearances with the Orioles. He hit .263 with a .670 OPS while playing in 94 games at second base, 30 at shortstop, 22 at third and three in left field.

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Comments | More in spring training | Topics: casper wells, Jason Bay, Munenori Kawasaki

December 10, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Newest Mariners outfielder Jason Bay meets the Seattle media

Jason Bay insists that he truly does not believe his problems with concussions were the real reason behind the sub-par numbers that he put up for three seasons with the New York Mets. Bay had trouble staying on the field during his three years in the Big Apple and the Mariners had him checked out by three different doctors prior to signing his one-year, $1-million deal to play here.

“I’ve had a lot of people, coaches, try to convince me that it has,” Bay said of concussions impacting his play, “Maybe 15 or 20 years from now, they’ll come out with a study that says it does A, B, or C. I don’t feel like it did. All it really did, I felt, is that I lost more time. It was never ‘Man, before I had that I was faster’…none of that. I had played for the first six years of my career, every day. And I think that was the hardest part. Understanding that. It had nothing to do with that (concussions). It was just the time away.”

So, I asked him, what can he do — if anything — to prevent concussions from sidelining him yet again in Seattle?

“I think right now it’s not more the reccurence, but the maintenance,” he said. “It’s basically the protocol. Guys get banged up all the time. If you look at football or any sport…football by definition, it should happen a hundred times a play. For the first time, I missed quite a bit of time because it was really new and we didn’t know what we were doing and we weren’t really pro-active about it. We were just kind of waiting and waiting and waiting. When we kind of figured out how to attack it and look after the neck and stuff, I felt great instantly. And the second time, that’s what we did.

“So, I think it’s more the protocol. And we know more now, so we’re being extra cautious.”

Still, what is it about Seattle that leads Bay to believe he’ll have more success here than in New York?

Mariners outfielder Jason Bay is looking forward to a fresh start with his new club after three disastrous seasons with the New York Mets.

“I think it’s just the fresh start,” he said. “I’ve had a few really good hitting coaches and sometimes with just a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh perspective, you kind of wipe the slate clean. Regardless of where I was going, whether it was here or anywhere else…that was kind of the number one thing I was looking forward to — starting over. You’re just kind of swimming upstream for so long that you’re not getting anywhere. And that’s basically it. Just trying to start fresh.”

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Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: fences, Jack Zduriencik, Jason Bay

December 5, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Report says Mariners have one-year deal with Jason Bay

Seattle-area resident and former Gonzaga star Jason Bay has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Mariners. Photo Credit: AP

ADDITIONAL NOTE 12:46 p.m.: My source tells me that “nothing is finalized yet” on the Jason Bay front. He apparently has taken a physical already and the Mariners have a six-figure offer on the table, but nothing has been signed off on. So, while it still seems highly probable that Bay is joining the Mariners, nothing is done yet and it’s very unlikely anything will get announced before the team leaves Nashville.

Our annual manager’s lunch session with Eric Wedge ended just a few minutes ago and when we were leaving the ballroom, word came out via Twitter that Jason Bay has agreed to a one-year deal with the Mariners pending a physical.

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News had the report on Twitter. I’m trying to get my own confirmation of the deal and will try to find out more of what the Mariners have planned for Bay. But we pretty much covered it in last night’s blog posts.

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Comments | Topics: free agents, Jason Bay

December 5, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Another bat off the board as Royals say they aren’t trading Billy Butler

Agents hustle off to meetings on Day 3 of the baseball winter meetings in Nashville

We’re well into Day 3 of the baseball winter meetings in Nashville and the Mariners continue to be the team that is most linked to every available hitter out there without actually landing any of them. One that will not be landed is Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals, unless teams step up their offers to acquire the slugger.

Royals manager Ned Yost would not be talking like that unless he was pretty certain that Butler was staying put. The Royals have talked to several teams about a Butler deal, but, reading between the lines here, it sounds like nobody was willing to step up and meet their rather steep asking price. We got an indication of that from the Mariners yesterday when they suddenly seemed to shift focus from acquring a 1B/DH type and an outfielder and instead are now exploring the two-outfielder scenario we explored in-depth on the blog and in today’s paper.

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Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: free agents, Jason Bay, nashville

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