09/18/10 9:46 PM ET
Cortes brings heater, passion to Seattle 'pen
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
OK, maybe it was the sting of the champagne that the right-hander and his teammates had popped after his Triple-A Tacoma club finished off Memphis to win the Pacific Coast League championship, but then again, Cortes did say he got very emotional.
Cortes has always been emotional on the mound, and since he asked the organization to convert him from a starter into a late-inning reliever, he's begun to harness that emotion better.
"I just got really impatient up there on the mound and I started walking a lot of people," said Cortes, who joined the Mariners after not much sleep and a long plane flight, of his experiences early in the season in Double-A West Tennessee before he requested to become a reliever.
"I've always had kind of a closer mentality as a starter. I've always been aggressive as a starter, so It wasn't that much of a change to me. It's the same. But instead of reserving energy, now I just let it go for one or two innings. I don't hold anything back."
Cortes, 23, began the season as starter, going 5-4 with a 6.08 ERA in 16 starts for West Tennessee, but took to relieving, going 1-0 with a save and a 0.71 ERA (one earned run in 12 2/3 innings) with 20 strikeouts to earn a promotion to Tacoma. With the Rainiers, Cortes, who was acquired last year along with Derrick Saito from Kansas City in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt, went 1-2 with one save and a 4.97 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.
Now he'll try to control the nerves that he says he knows will be present when he takes a Major League mound for the first time. And the Mariners know that about Cortes.
"We're not going to throw him into a one-run ballgame in the eighth or ninth inning right off the bat, but he's obviously a guy we want to get his feet wet," Mariners interim manager Daren Brown said. "We'll look for the right situation to get him in there -- probably as low a pressure situation as we can find.
"That's tough to do at this level. He is a kid coming in, and any situation's going to be a pressure situation when he comes in. But he has an outstanding arm."
Mariners giving Smoak another look
SEATTLE -- The Mariners aren't wasting much time getting another look at their future. Less than 24 hours after the Triple-A Tacoma team won the Pacific Coast League championship series in Memphis, the team recalled first baseman Justin Smoak, whom the team got in the Cliff Lee deal earlier this year.
Smoak, who began the season in the Texas Rangers' system and made it to the Majors in late April, had difficulty adjusting to big league pitching. He hit .159 (10-for-63) with two home runs and five RBIs for the Mariners and .198 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs overall between Seattle and Texas.
In Tacoma, the 23-year-old switch-hitter hit .271 with 23 runs, seven doubles, seven home runs, 25 RBIs in 35 regular-season games. He finished the regular season on an 11-game hitting streak with seven runs, four doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs and continued the hot hitting in the playoffs, batting .423 with a homer, six RBIs and 11 walks for a .595 on-base percentage in eight games.
Mariners interim manager Daren Brown put Smoak in the lineup in Saturday evening's game against the Rangers -- and, as coincidence would have it, Lee -- and will possibly play him a lot more over the final few weeks of the season.
"He struggled up here early, went down, and has had a really good run in the playoffs," Brown said. "Hopefully we'll see a different guy, a little bit more confident guy.
"He's a guy that we need to see. He's obviously a key part in a trade earlier and somebody that we need to see. I think it's like it is with a lot of young kids. You get them up here, they go through some anxiety and go through some confidence being shot down a little bit, and you want to get some of that back.
"I think he's been doing that in Triple-A and hopefully we'll see a more confident player this time around than what we saw. This kid's still young. If you look at where he's been the last couple years, he's probably been pushed along, but at the same time, he has a lot of talent and a lot of ability, and hopefully we'll see some of that come out in the next couple weeks."
Smoak said he's been doing a better job of relaxing lately at the plate and letting the game come to him.
"I feel a lot better as of late," Smoak said. "I'm trying to just play the game how it's supposed to be played. I feel like if I do that, good things will happen."
Fan website campaigning to honor Griffey
SEATTLE -- A sign in the Mariners' clubhouse showed the URL of a new website created by fans to get another street adjacent to Safeco Field named after a Mariners legend.
With Edgar Martinez Drive already a reality, the site, KenGriffeyJrWay.com, has the following mission statement: "We, the many fans of Ken Griffey Jr. from around the world, want to show tribute to the best player in Major League Baseball in modern days. Our goals are ... to change the name on one block of First Avenue South that runs in front of Safeco Field from Edgar Martinez Drive to Royal Brougham Way into Ken Griffey Jr. Way. To raise funds to construct a statue in Junior's likeness and to work with charities in his name.
"In order to make this happen, we need to convince the local business along the one block to endorse the name change. We need your help in getting this done! By signing the petition you, the fans of Ken Griffey Jr., are saying that we want to say thank you for his years of service in baseball not just in Seattle by having a street named after him in front of the 'House that Junior Built.'"
Russell Branyan might be the biggest power threat on the Mariners, but he was out of the lineup for the second straight game after experiencing lingering stiffness in his lower back. "He came in yesterday a little bit stiff, so we'll give him another day and see how he is tomorrow," interim manager Daren Brown said. Branyan leads the Mariners with 25 homers and a .487 slugging percentage this year. ... The Mariners stole five bases Friday night for the second time in the past three games. They have 135 steals this year and are on pace for 149, which would be the third-most in club history. ... Chone Figgins is hitting .373 in September with a .413 on-base percentage.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.