06/30/10 7:49 PM ET
Between Lee and Felix, Johnson's hands full
By Jim Street / MLB.com
They are as different as left and right.
"It's a lot more work catching Felix," Johnson said. "All of Felix's pitches are nasty. I'm not saying Cliff's aren't, but he is more about locating. He keeps the ball out of the middle of the plate.
"Cliff is a pretty easy guy to catch, because he locates so well."
Johnson was on the receiving end of Lee's third consecutive complete-game victory on Tuesday night against the Yankees and was behind the plate, as usual, when King Felix went to work on Wednesday night.
And when Hernandez pitches, Johnson knows he must be on his toes.
"When you call a pitch for Cliff, you know what it's going to do," Johnson said, "and when you call a pitch for Felix, you don't know. With Felix, I can set up on the outside corner and it will hit the inside corner because there is so much run."
One particular statistic stands out when discussing the difference between the two star pitchers. Hernandez, who shared the American League lead last season with 17 wild pitches, has uncorked 10 this season, compared to just two for Lee.
"I think you have seen improvement over the last month or so," manager Don Wakamatsu said of Johnson's blocking prowess. "I think he went through a stretch, just like a hitter, where you can lose confidence to the point where he knew it was affecting a lot of the games he was catching.
"One ball that isn't blocked or has a passed ball can affect the game and I know he has worked hard on it [defense]."
Johnson appears to have fully recovered from offseason surgery on both of his hips.
But even if he wasn't fully recovered, he said he is 100 percent.
Bedard's final rehab start could be Thursday
NEW YORK -- The Mariners end their three-game series against the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, but there will be much more than a passing interest in a game being played that night in Tacoma, Wash.
Left-hander Erik Bedard makes what could be his final rehab start before rejoining the Mariners.
Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair spoke to Bedard via phone on Wednesday, and, according to manager Don Wakamatsu, "[Bedard] is ready to go and pretty excited. We're just as excited."
The lefty is slated to throw between 75 and 80 pitches.
"If this outing goes well, his pitch count goes up and there are not problems, we're looking at starting him against Kansas City on Tuesday [at Safeco Field]."
"I've been hoping for that all year," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "It will be good. We're excited. He's feeling great."
The Mariners re-signed Bedard to a one-year, incentive-laden contract in February that has a $1.5 million base salary. The hope back then was that the team would be in the thick of the American League West race at the All-Star break and a healthy Bedard would provide a Trade Deadline-like addition.
Zduriencik feels no pressure to make move
NEW YORK -- The last thing Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik wants to do is to be pressured into making a trade.
"Right now, we want to win baseball games, that is our focus," he said on Wednesday. "We owe it to these [players] here. I think they are feeling good about each other, winning eight of their last 11 games.
"We have five tough games coming up on the road and then we'll see what happens."
The trade rumors concerning left-hander Cliff Lee appeared to calm down a little the day after he pitched a complete-game victory over the Yankees.
At least it was nothing like Tuesday, when a horde of media surrounded the Mariners' GM to pepper him with Lee questions.
"I think it's just good copy," Zduriencik said. "Everybody has to write, there's obvious things out there that are intriguing, if you're a true baseball fan or a casual baseball fan.
"You have your hometown team you root for, a lot of personal interest, and you have your emotions invested in the club. Anytime something happens, whether it's an injury or what happened last night, whether it's a winning streak -- something that affects the balance of the ballclub -- it's news, it's a curiosity.
"That's what drives talk radio, the blogs, buying newspapers. It motivates people. You just have to take it in stride and understand that's all part of it."
Zduriencik said he evaluates the players he has day-by-day, series-by-series, week-by-week.
"You hope to think through everything and let things unfold," he said. "If you try to force something, that's not the best way to do things."
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez left Wednesday night's game in the second inning because of an upset stomach. ... Mariners left fielders were tied for third in the American League with 12 home runs entering Wednesday's game. Seattle left fielders also lead their AL counterparts with 38 walks. ... The complete-game effort by Cliff Lee on Tuesday night was his third straight, the longest streak by a Mariners pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1998 -- which came less than a month before he was traded to the Astros. ... Lee has allowed the same number of home runs this season as batters he has walked -- five. ... Catcher Eliezer Alfonzo, designated for assignment on Tuesday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, an assignment he accepted.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.