The Mariners made one last trade just before the deadline, sending left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ to the Pirates in exchange for right-handed pitcher Adrian Sampson.
Sampson has spent the entire season with Class AAA Indianapolis and is 8-8 with a 3.98 ERA in 21 starts. He has 95 strikeouts and 29 walks in 124 1/3 innings pitched. He will take Happ’s place on the 40-man roster and report to Class AAA Tacoma.
Sampson is a native of Redmond and a standout at Skyline High School in Sammamish. He was drafted out of Bellevue College in 2012 by the Pirates in the fifth round.
“Our guys liked out of the draft,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He’s got a big hard sinker and has really solid makeup and really good intangibles.”
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To replace Mark Lowe and Happ on the roster, recently acquired relievers Rob Rasmussen and Jose Ramirez will be in uniform tonight.
Happ was scheduled to start on Tuesday, August 4 at the Rockies. It seems likely that Roenis Elias will make that start instead, but Vidal Nuno or Sampson could also slide into that spot as well.
*** The other expected roster moves have been made official. First baseman/DH Jesus Montero and infielder/outfielder Ketel Marte have been recalled from Class AAA Tacoma. They replace Dustin Ackley and Chris Taylor on the 25-man roster. Ackley was traded to the Yankees on Thursday afternoon while Taylor was optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma after Thursday’s loss to the Twins.
Marte and Montero participated in early batting practice and then did a defensive workout. Marte spent the entire time at second base, while Montero was at first base. With Robinson Cano ailing from an abdomen strain and unable to play in the field, Marte will be starting at second basem.
“He’s a very energetic young man, a very instinctive player with the ability to steal bases, runs the bases well and is a switch hitter,” McClendon said. “I don’t think there’s any manager in baseball that doesn’t like a switch hitter. It certainly brings a different dynamic to what we are doing. We’ll put him at the leadoff spot and see what he can do.”
Marte had been working out in center field with Tacoma before his call-up. McClendon wasn’t certain when he might play Marte in center field. But Marte will work with outfield coach Andy VanSlyke before games in the outfield.
Montero and Mark Trumbo will handle the first base duties in the interim while Logan Morrison recovers from a bruised thumb. Morrison is available for emergency defensive purposes tonight. How manager McClendon handles the playing time once Morrison is healthy will be interesting. Realistically, Montero should still be playing five times a week to determine if his AAA success is real at the big league level. Montero is out of minor league options next year, meaning he will have to make the big league club out of spring training or be designated for assignment. The Mariners have 59 games to evaluate that process.
“My hope is to play him as much as possible,” McClendon sadi. “We need to find out about him and see what he’s got.”
Montero was brutalizing Pacific Coast League pitching since being sent back down, hitting .472 (17-for-36) with seven extra base hits and seven RBI in six games.
“I went out with a good attitude and did my best every time,” he said. “I was pushing harder. I wanted to get back here. I was more focused. I wanted to hit more and I wanted to do more damage.”
*** A few people asked on Twitter if the Mariners are making a mistake of rushing Marte like they did with Mike Zunino or even Dustin Ackley.
Marte is only 21 years old and turns 22 in October so he is young. But he’s played in 444 minor league/winter ball games and had 1,896 plate appearances. That includes 111 games at Class AAA and 84 at the Class AA level. By comparison, Zunino played in 96 games minor league games and had 419 plate appearances when he was called up. Ackley played in 225 minor league games and had 1,044 plate appearances at the time of his arrival.
The circumstances are also different. Zunino was called up and handed the starting catching job – a position with massive defensive responsibilities. There was also no one behind him. He was handed the job as the catcher of the future without a fallback plan or even a legitimate back-up. Ackley was the team’s top prospect at the time of his call-up and considered to be a sign of an improved future. He was brought up to be the M’s starting second baseman for the rest of his career. Marte is under no such expectations.
Had Robinson Cano not been hurt, there is a chance Marte wouldn’t have been called up now. But with Cano unable to play in the field and Chris Taylor not doing much to keep him on the big league club, the Mariners brought up Marte to give him a taste of big league life. He was going to be called up on September 1. So he’s here a month early. Marte isn’t expected to be an every day player now or even next year for that matter. Based on current roster set-up, there’s a chance that Marte starts the season in AAA next season, particularly if he’s not comfortable in the outfield.
*** Sources close to Mark Lowe said that he’s be interested in returning to the Mariners next season. Lowe is building a house down in Vancouver and loves the Pacific Northwest. But it’s beyond unlikely that Lowe will sign him for a minor league deal like he did this past offseason.