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Good morning from sunny Peoria, Arizona!

It’s a pretty quiet morning here at the Mariners’ complex. There’s 13 days remaining until the Mariners leave Arizona for a return to Seattle.  Opening Day is basically two weeks away. I think we are all ready for the monotony of spring to be over and the season to begin.

On the news front — it’s relatively quiet.

*** Jesus Sucre’s sore hip will keep him out of action today. But manager Lloyd McClendon said Sucre should be ready to go by tomorrow if needed.

*** Hisashi Iwakuma will throw in a minor league game today at 1 p.m. here in at the complex against the Rangers’ Class AAA team. McClendon said Iwakuma is scheduled pitch around 5-6 innings.

*** Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled to throw between 4-5 innings today against the Angels. Jordan Pries will follow with 2-3 innings.

*** I was asked the other day why Tyler Smith is seeing so much action in Cactus League games. Smith is starting at second base today. Well, there’s a few reasons per McClendon. The Mariners are down a shortstop with Chris Taylor being hurt. And since Ketel Marte is on the 40-man roster, but optioned back to Tacoma, the Mariners can’t play him in Cactus League games because of issues that would arise if he were to get hurt. So Smith and Jack Reinheimer, who aren’t on the 40-man, get the call instead.

*** Willie Bloomquist makes his first start at shortstop this spring.

“It is an important step,” McClendon said. “I think his legs are under him a little bit more and he’s feeling a lot better.”

*** If McClendon decided to give Robinson Cano a day off or a DH day, who would he play at second base – Bloomquist or Rickie Weeks?  Weeks played only second base for his career, but hasn’t worked out there this spring.

“That’s a good question,” McClendon said. “I don’t have the answer. I could use either one. It would obviously depend on who is pitching and how they match up against that guy.”

It doesn’t matter to McClendon that Weeks hasn’t worked there this spring.

“It’s like riding bike, get back on there and pedal,” he said. “Get three hits and get out.”

*** Reminder that Friday’s game in Surprise against the Royals was switched to a night game a while back. It’s a 6:05 p.m. start.

*** We all know that spring training stats are largely meaningless to the regular season. Remember when Mike Wilson hit eight homers in spring a few years ago? But for players trying to make adjustments, some positive results aren’t a bad thing.

Mike Zunino is a pretty good example of this.

Last spring, he hit .239 (11-for-46) with five doubles, two homers, seven walks and 14 strikeouts.

This spring, Zunino is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with two doubles and three homers with just six strikeouts and two walks. There is some improvement and several of those hits have come with two strikes.

“You like to look at things and compare and there’s some improvement there,” McClendon said. “Obviously,  in the big scheme of things, spring doesn’t count. But you like to have those positive results. It solidifies his conviction into what he’s trying to do – that it works. This helps.”

McClendon was quick to caution the other day that Zunino is far from a finished product.

“I had to remind some people the other day – he’s doing really good with his two strike approach, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to strike out,” McClendon said. “The best of them still strike out. We just want cut them down. If he can put the ball in play instead of striking out. If he can strike out maybe 50 times less, we are probably going to have more positive things. His batting average is going to come up and he’s going to drive in more runs.”

Zunino feels like it is helping.

“I’m just continuing to clean some stuff up,” he said. “Clean up my direction a little bit and still stay aggressive. It’s progressing. I’m feeling better at the plate. The pitch is going to dictate where you hit it. If my path and direction can stay to the pitch and trust my hands, that’s going to be the key.”

And with two strikes?

“I feel like I”m night and day better,” he said. “I feel like I know what I want to accomplish with two strikes. I feel like I have the base and trust myself now. Instead of going up there and hoping to get a pitch to hit, I know what I’m doing with two strikes. I’ve had two strikes a little more than I wanted to this spring. I feel like it’s all the time. But I guess it’s a good time to work on it. It’s always nice to get some two strike hits and know that you can get them.”

Here’s today’s game roster

Linkage

Here’s my notebook yesterday on James Paxton’s first Cactus League start.

Here’s the daily update from the Mariners Baseball information staff’s blog

FoxSports and Fangrapsh’ Eno Sarris looks at the least replaceable players in baseball. Robinson Cano made that list.

The A’s Kendall Graveman appears to have won a spot in the starting rotation

Nick Franklin didn’t win the starting shortstop job in Tampa. But he may make the team as a platoon second baseman.

It sure looks like Carlos Peguero will make the Rangers out of spring training.