SEATTLE -- Ruppert Jones, the Mariners' first player selected in their 1976 expansion draft, threw out the first pitch before Friday's game at Safeco Field, as part of the team's year-long 35th anniversary celebration.
For Jones, 57, it was an emotional return to the city where fans used to chant "Ruuuup" every time he came to the plate in the Kingdome. Jones was the team's first All-Star, selected in 1977, when he hit .263 with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs.
"I've been a few places, but this is my home," said Jones, who now sells insurance for the Boon Group in San Diego. "I walked upstairs to the All-Star Room and saw my picture and my name on the All-Star board and my name was the first one.
"I told myself, I never thought about it, but this is my legacy," he said. "And I kind of broke down a little bit because I realized I do have a legacy."
Jones pointed across the street, beyond Safeco's left-field seats where the Kingdome used to stand, and recalled his time with the Mariners from 1977-79.
"I wasn't used to going inside to play baseball, but we'd go in at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and you'd come out at 10:30 and think, 'Wow, where have I been?" he said with a chuckle. "And the first year I got here, it rained the whole year. I wasn't used to that. I was a California boy, so it took me a while to get used to that. But I loved my time here. I tell people, I consider this to be my home."
Jones spent time talking to Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis, who was a teammate of his briefly in the Minor Leagues in Evansville, Ind., in 1984 when both were in the Tigers' organization. The catcher on that team was Bob Melvin.
"Jiminy Christmas, I played in the Minors with some guys who have been very successful," he said.
Jones said he's largely stayed out of the game since retiring from the Majors in 1987. He played in a World Series with the Tigers, made two All-Star teams and carved out a 12-year MLB career, but now limits himself to coaching a team of 13-14 year-olds in San Diego with former pitching great Dave Stewart.
As he threw out the first pitch Friday, fans serenaded him with one more "Ruuup" chant. He said the only other place that cheer ever was used was briefly in San Diego during his time with the Padres, but not nearly to the same extent or effect.
"This was the place they really did it," he said. "They embraced me here and it was special."
Carp gets first rehab start in left field
SEATTLE -- Left fielder Mike Carp was scheduled to make his first start in the outfield on Friday for Triple-A Tacoma, as he continues his rehabilitation from a sprained shoulder sustained on opening night with the Mariners in Tokyo.
Carp was scratched from his first outfield start with Tacoma on Thursday after "he slept on his arm wrong" the night before, according to Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
Carp has played seven games at designated hitter for the Rainiers, including an 0-for-3 outing Thursday after being removed from his outfield duties.
"He was going to play in the field, but I got a text just before the game saying he was going to DH," Wedge said. "It is what it is. He's coming along. He's to the point, obviously, where he can play in a game, as long as he doesn't sleep on it wrong. He's not 100 percent yet, but far enough along where we can get him in a ballgame."
Carp hasn't been hitting well yet in Triple-A, however, as he's hit .148 (4-for-27) in his first seven games at DH.
Carp is further along than teammate Franklin Gutierrez, however. Gutierrez remains in Peoria, Ariz., working with Minor League players in extended Spring Training at the team's facility, as he recovers from a partially torn pectoral muscle. Once he's ready, he'll be sent out on a Minor League rehab stint as well.
Wedge impressed by Felix's performance
SEATTLE -- When Felix Hernandez threw eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Indians, it was his 16th no-decision while throwing seven or more innings with one run or less.
That's the most by a Major League pitcher since Hernandez joined the Mariners in 2005. But this particular effort ranked among the best manager Eric Wedge said he's ever seen when it came to gritting out his final two outs with a pair of bases-loaded strikeouts as his pitch count reached 126 with a 1-0 lead.
"That eighth inning ranks up there," Wedge said. "When I went out to talk to him, I knew I was going to leave him in the game. I just wanted to give him a break and let him know where I was at. It wasn't exactly how I had it scripted out, but he got it done.
"When guys dig deep like that, it means a lot. It says a lot about what they're all about and what they're capable of. We've seen him do that multiple times, but that was impressive. I've had guys before that have had that ability to dig deep, but for him to be at that point in time with his pitch count rising, that was impressive."
Wedge wasn't wild about pushing Hernandez to 126 pitches, two shy of his career high, this early in the season. He'd thrown no more than 107 in his first three starts of the year. But the skipper said an off-day in the schedule Monday as well as the following Monday helps.
"It's further than you like to take him, but he had an extra day before that start and he'll have an extra day before his next start," Wedge said. "So you take that into consideration, too. The most important part of the equation is what you're seeing and how he's throwing and that was all good. That was all above board."