Manager Lloyd McClendon had the unenjoyable task of telling 11 players today that they didn’t make the big league roster and were being sent to minor league spring training.
While the players are still in the organization and basic roster deduction and common sense said they weren’t going to make the team, it’s still difficult for a player to hear he’s not going to be living his dreams – at least for the start of the season.
Among the cuts were a few notable names – Danny Hultzen and Jordy Lara.
Hultzen’s return from reconstructive shoulder surgery has been well documented this spring. After missing all of last season, he came to camp completely healthy and showing hints of being the pitcher the Mariners hoped could be when they selected him with the 2nd overall pick of the 2011 draft.
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But Hultzen’s recovery from that surgery is far from complete. He’s healthy. Now he must build up strength and innings. McClendon had said early in camp that the focus for Hultzen is 2016. This season will be preparation for that. The plan how to do that is still being worked on.
“We’re still formulating it,” McClendon said. “It’s something we have to be right on, making sure that this young man is healthy throughout the year. If anything, we are going to error on the side of caution, particularly with the number of inning, the number of pitches per inning. But at the same time, we have to treat him like he’s a health pitcher.”
One part of that plan is for Hultzen to pitch in warm weather early in the minor league season.
The Mariners don’t exactly have great warm weather places. Class A Bakersfield and Class AA Jackson are two possible spots, but both places get relatively cool at night. It’s possible that Hultzen stays in Arizona and makes his first three or four starts at extended spring training instead. It’s a much more controlled environment.
McClendon said he has an innings limit for Hultzen, but wouldn’t release the amount.
“There is a lot of factors that go into it,” McClendon said. “You can be certain the plan is set where we can keep him healthy and pitch him throughout the year.”
Hultzen pitched one scoreless inning in his only Cactus League appearance. It was a bit of a reward for the hours he put in last season trying to get ready.
“I thought it was important that we got him out there,” McClendon said. “He worked hard for that moment. And I didn’t want to deny him that.”
In that one inning, McClendon saw what could be with Hultzen if he is healthy – the talent, the competitiveness, the efficiency.
“From a selfish standpoint, I could have kept Danny Hultzen here, but I figured why torture myself,” McClendon said. “The best thing was to get him out of camp and let him go pitch and compete. I know the right thing to do is not have him in this camp to continue to compete and try to make this club because he wasn’t going to make this club this year. The best thing to do was to get him out and let him go get ready for the season.”
Lara was the Mariners’ minor league co-player of the season after putting up ridiculous numbers in Class A High Desert and Class AA Jackson. Not sure where Lara starts the season, but with a glut of first base/outfield types, he may end up back at Jackson to start the season.
“He’s a very talented young man with the bat,” McClendon said. “My guess is he’ll either be a first baseman or a corner (outfield) guy. He can hit and his bat plays. And as he continues to grow, he’s going to be a fine major league player one day.”
Here’s the full list of cuts.
Catcher Marcus Littlewood, who had been on loan from a minor league camp, was also sent back there.
Chris Taylor was in the Mariners’ clubhouse wearing his new brace on his right wrist. He’s trying to stay optimistic about the broken wrist, but it was hard from him to hide the disappointment.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I had a similar feeling last year with the pinkie. That’s what happens. It’s baseball. I just have to keep my head up and bounce back.”
After Friday’s game, Taylor seemed to think the injury was nothing but a bruise. But he later began to realize it was much more serious.
“That night when I was trying to go to bed and it just kept getting worse and worse,” he said. “I probably got about one hour of sleep. It was swelling up a lot. For it to be swelling up that much, I knew there had to be an issue.”
Taylor said wearing the braces and immobilizing the wrist has helped with the pain. He will wear it for 7-10 days.
“I’m going to get back as quickly as I can, but I have to make sure I’m 100 percent,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. There really is no reason to rush it at this point.”
Taylor knows that wrist injuries can be a lingering issue if not treated properly.
“You have to be careful with the swing because it has a lot of wrist in it,” Taylor said. “I’m going to listen to the trainers and do what they tell me to do.”