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Good morning from scenic and sunny Peoria, Arizona! This place is just a little warmer and brighter with the arrival of venerable columnist Larry Stone to the complex. He’s going to be down here until March 9. So we will be doubling up on the coverage. Actually, we will even have a trio of writers here for a few days when Sounders’ reporter Matt Pentz joins us to write about the real beautiful game.

On the workout schedule …

Felix Hernandez throws his first bullpen session of the spring.

“He’s traditionally a slow starter in spring training,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But actually I think is probably a little early for him. But he’s feeling good.”

There will also be live BP sessions for these pitchers:

  • Field 3: Taijuan Walker, David Rollins, Carson Smith
  • Field 4: Roenis Elias, Dominic Leone, Mark Lowe
  • Field 5: Mike Kickham, Mayckol Guaipe, Forrest Snow
  • Field 6: Erasmo Ramirez, Jordan Pries

The Mariners will play an intrasquad game on March 2nd …. so prepare your lineup complaints.

*** McClendon watched Rickie Weeks workout briefly in the outfield on Wednesday.

“He moved ok,” he said. “I didn’t see much of it. But he moves like an athlete.”

When told that he doesn’t really seem to be too concerned about Weeks learning to play the position, McClendon replied:  “I really don’t. It’s a combination of him being a good athlete and him having one of the best outfield coaches in all of baseball.”

Weeks only brought an outfielders glove and an infielders glove, he did bring a first baseman’s glove to spring. There was some thought he might be a back-up candidate to Logan Morrison at first base if needed. But McClendon downplayed that a little.

“At some point this spring, we’re going to get him some reps over there,” McClendon said. “I don’t anticipate that a lot, but it gives us options over there.”

The other options are Willie Bloomquist and Dustin Ackley, who can both handle the position.

*** Speaking of Morrison, McClendon was asked what he saw from him at the end of last season.

“That he can be an every day first baseman,” McClendon said. “I thought he played defense at an average to slightly above level. He got big hit after big hit for us, including against left-handers. I thought he took a big step forward.”

How many more steps can he take?

“LoMo is still relatively young and he’s still maturing from that standpoint, and he’s still learning,” McClendon said. “I think his ceiling is very high. I’m trying to teach him to learn himself and learn what he can and can’t do – when to try drive the ball and when to take your walk. Those things take time. But all in all, he’s got a chance to be a guy that can hit 25 homers and drive in 100.”

Morrison likes to the pull baseball and McClendon isn’t upset about that.

“I think he’s very capable of using the other half of the field,” he said. “But having said that, I want him to pull every ball he can pull with authority.”

*** McClendon gave a small breakdown of the shortstop battle that he’s mentioned before: Chris Taylor ahead on defense, Brad Miller ahead on offense.

He later confirmed what’s been pretty apparent with the Mariners roster situation. If everyone is healthy heading into opening day, the loser of the shortstop competition will likely be in Class AAA Tacoma.

“If we don’t have injuries, I doubt if we can take them both,” McClendon said.

*** Asked about Franklin Gutierrez and what he expects to see, McClendon was honest.

“Listen, there are no expectations for Guti,” McClendon said. “We hope that he’s healthy. That he can make it through the camp feeling good about himself and get back to playing baseball. Do we expect him to be the guy he was two years ago, three years ago? I doubt it. He’s been off a long time. He needs to ease himself back into things. It’s going to take time.”


I wrote about Nelson Cruz for today’s paper and “Mariners river of dreams” about his power presence that he brings to the Mariners lineup.

There was this part of the story …

Cruz has played enough games at Safeco not to be intimidated.

“I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” he said. “What I can do is what I can do. When the day comes, whatever happens it will happen. I try to hit line drives. If it goes out, it goes out. That’s my approach.” 

In 52 career games at Safeco, Cruz is hitting .234 (43 for 184) with nine homers and a .749 OPS. In four games in Seattle last season, Cruz hit .167 (2 for 12), but he did hit a homer — off Felix Hernandez. And it was similar to that homer Wednesday and what Cruz says he usually hits — a low, screaming line drive that just cleared the wall in left field. 

Cruz chuckled when asked about that homer because he hit it off his new teammate. 

“He reminded me about it,” Cruz said. 

Hernandez also brought up the line-drive home run over the Safeco wall in dead center that Cruz blasted off him in the eighth inning of a game in 2010 when he was in the midst of trying to notch his first no-hitter.

“I like to face the best, and he is one of the best,” Cruz said. “Every time I got ready to face him, it was a special day. I got pumped up and ready to go. And I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore.”

 

I went to MLB and dug up the  video of those  homers off of Hernandez …. Here is last season’s homer …

 

 

And the homer that broke up the no-hitter in 2010.

 

 

Not that I think that homers are the be all or end all as a stat, but do I think Cruz will hit 40 homers for the Mariners this season? Probably not, but I think he will hit more than 30. Here’s the list of recent Mariners to hit 30 or homer dingers in a season.

 


Disappointing news out of Dunedin, Florida.

Former Mariner outfielder Michael Saunders was injured in a fluke fall in the outfield when he hit a soft spot in the grass.  Saunders suffered a torn meniscus in his knee, which will require surgery. He’s out until the all-star break.

Here’s the story from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca

Many of the Mariners players had already heard the news.

“You can’t help but  feel bad for the guy,” said Mike Zunino. “That’s such a bad break.”

Dustin Ackley had seen Saunders deal with fluke injuries before and just shook his head.

“That’s just brutal,” he said. “You hate to see that happen. He’s had some bad luck with injuries. And the way it happened is such fluke.”

McClendon called the news, “Just awful.”