Mariners boast four All-Star Game candidates
Cano likely to start based on fan vote; Felix, Rodney, Seager also deserving
SEATTLE -- With just a week left before Major League Baseball announces its All-Star squads, the Mariners appear to have four qualified candidates for berths on the American League team.
Five-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano currently leads the fan voting at that position and three other Mariners -- Felix Hernandez, Fernando Rodney and Kyle Seager -- have put up the kind of numbers that should draw notice when MLB players fill out their own votes this weekend, as well as when AL manager John Farrell completes the rest of the squad prior to the announcements on Sunday, July 8.
Hernandez seems a sure-fire selection for his fifth All-Star Game, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon feels his ace should be more than just a normal participant this year after going 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 17 starts.
"He's been fabulous," McClendon said. "What more can you say about him? He's been great. Heck, he should start the All-Star Game. If they want to win, they should start him."
Hernandez's primary competition to start the game seems to be Yankees rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka, who headed into his Saturday start against the White Sox with an 11-2 record and league-leading ERA of 2.11. Hernandez has the second-best ERA in the league at 2.24.
Hernandez threw a scoreless inning of relief in last year's game but couldn't pitch the prior year after he'd started for the Mariners on the Sunday before the All-Star Game, thus only giving him one day's rest before the Midsummer Classic. This year, Hernandez is lined up to make his last pre-All-Star start on Thursday, July 10, which would put the July 15 All-Star Game in Minneapolis right on his next normal start day.
Rodney also seems strongly in the All-Star mix as he heads into Saturday's games with a 2.30 ERA and 22 saves in 24 chances, second only to the 23 saves of the Royals' Greg Holland among AL closers.
"I don't see why not," McClendon said when asked about Rodney's candidacy. "He's done a tremendous job, as well as Seager."
Though Seager hasn't yet been in the top five vote-getters at third base among results released so far, he has very comparable numbers to Oakland's Josh Donaldson, who currently leads the balloting. Seager heads into Saturday's game hitting .274 with 20 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and an .836 OPS. Donaldson was hitting .249 with 12 doubles, two triples, 18 home runs, 59 RBIs and an .807 OPS. Among all AL third basemen, Seager is first in triples and stolen bases (four), second in RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage (.491) and OPS, tied for second in home runs and third in hits (78) and on-base percentage (.345).
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 8:59 p.m. PT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15, on FOX.
Endy relishing shot to provide veteran presence
SEATTLE -- Endy Chavez won't wow anyone with his offensive numbers, but the veteran outfielder has played a valuable role in the Mariners' recent surge since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on May 30.
Chavez, 36, was hitting .277 with a .291 on-base percentage and eight runs and seven RBIs in 25 games heading into Saturday's contest with the Indians. Though much notice was paid to his rare seventh-inning home run in Friday's 3-2 victory over Cleveland, of equal value was his run in the first after he singled, stole second and scored on a Kyle Seager base hit.
Chavez is 8-for-10 the last 10 games in his first at-bat as the Mariners' leadoff man. He's been setting the table well for a club that is now scoring runs at a much better clip, even without a lot of big-name hitters beyond Robinson Cano.
The Mariners are 13-6 with Chavez in the lineup, and he's slid into the leadoff role in most games against right-handed starters. Chavez re-signed with Seattle this year on a Minor League deal and was brought up in late May even though he'd only posted a .272 average with two doubles in 37 Triple-A games.
"He brings a lot of intangibles to the table and I thought that in Spring Training," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's a veteran presence, and these are things you don't measure with sabermetrics and those type of things. There's a calming effect to the locker room and what he can do for other players with his experience in the game. He's won and knows what it takes to win. His success from an offensive standpoint is OK, but I thought his intangibles were just as important."
And if Chavez seems to have found some renewed life in his 13th Major League season since being promoted from Tacoma, there's a reason.
"It's totally different," Chavez said of being back in the big leagues. "Down there I didn't have that desire or intensity. That's why I was thinking even to go home because I didn't feel I was competing. At this level, every day you have to compete and that's the difference here."
Chavez is relishing his role on a team that has one of the best records in the Majors in June.
"Oh definitely," he said. "I enjoy when things are going well. I enjoy the game. Right now we're pulling together. The combination between hitting and pitching, we're doing pretty good. When your pitching stops their offense, it gives us a chance to win a lot of games."
And Chavez has been a big part of that recently, appearing to be feeling as young as ever.
"Not young," Chavez said with a smile, "but I am feeling good. I'm glad to be part of it, making things happen for the team."
LoMo's strong return bolsters options at 1B
SEATTLE -- Logan Morrison has capably filled the Mariners' first-base spot for the past two weeks while Justin Smoak has been on the disabled list, hitting .273 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 16 games since coming off his own DL stint June 10.
But manager Lloyd McClendon remains in a wait-and-see mode on what will happen once Smoak and fellow first-base candidate Corey Hart rejoin the team once they also get healthy in the next few days.
"He's done a nice job," McClendon said of Morrison prior to Saturday's game with Cleveland. "He's swinging the bat extremely well and has been an important part of our offense. As we move forward, we'll continue to evaluate and see what makes us better. If you're asking me if he's going to play first base over Justin Smoak or Corey Hart, I don't have that answer right now."
Morrison has rebounded after a rough start to the season and nearly two months on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Smoak and Hart are both with Triple-A Tacoma on rehab stints as the Rainiers play at El Paso, Texas, this weekend. Smoak has been out since June 10 with a strained quad, while Hart has been sidelined since May 19 with a strained hamstring.
"They're getting better," McClendon said. "I think they're both getting anxious. They're both texting me. We'll see."
The Mariners open a three-game series in Houston on Monday, while the Rainiers wrap up a four-game set Sunday in El Paso, making for a logical connection point if they're ready at that time.
"It's a short flight, yeah," McClendon said. "We'll see. I don't have those answers right now."
• Manager Lloyd McClendon continued saying he's not ready yet to name his starter for Monday in Houston, a spot that opened up when Erasmo Ramirez was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday. But the skipper said a decision would be coming shortly. Though McClendon offered no clues, all signs point to Taijuan Walker being the logical addition, as he's lined up to start Monday and is coming off a four-hit shutout in his last start with Tacoma.
• Left-hander James Paxton came out of his Friday bullpen session "feeling great," according to McClendon, after throwing 25 pitches off the mound for the first time since being shutdown in late May with more shoulder problems. Paxton will likely throw a more extensive bullpen on Monday but is still likely several weeks from being ready for another Minor League rehab stint.
• Hisashi Iwakuma threw a brief bullpen session Saturday afternoon as part of his normal routine for his next start Tuesday in Houston. Iwakuma had skipped his between-start bullpens the past two weeks due to a sore neck and struggled in his last start, going a season-low four innings in a 5-4 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday.