08/27/11 11:30 PM ET
Mariners celebrate 'Larry Bernandez'
By Taylor Soper / MLB.com
That's because he was busy being Larry Bernandez.
Saturday's game against Chicago at Safeco Field was "Larry Bernandez Bobblehead Night," in honor of Hernandez's alter-ego that was born from a commercial filmed during Spring Training.
In honor of the special night, Hernandez slapped on a Bernandez jersey, a black mullet wig and long sideburns before heading down to the concourse to hand out some of his very own bobbleheads to the some of the first 20,000 fans attending the game.
The fun didn't stop there for Bernandez. He also came out of the dugout and threw out Saturday's ceremonial first pitch.
"It's one of those things where, obviously, it was done to get the fans excited. I think they've done that and more," said fellow starting pitcher Jason Vargas. "We were out in the outfield shagging today and everybody is yelling at Felix, 'Hey, where's Larry? Where's Jerry?
"It gives them something to look forward to coming to the field and getting excited for the game."
The media had some fun pregame asking manager Eric Wedge about his take on Larry Bernandez. Wedge was the co-star in the famous commercial that features Felix wanting to pitch more, and thus dressing up as Bernandez.
"I remember we did that commercial in Spring Training," Wedge recalled. "I'm not the big commercial type -- in fact I remember at the end, I said, 'This is the 10th take and this is the last take. You're going to pick one of them, so let's make it a good one.'
"I was worried about how it came off. That's not my area. But I know they've been doing commercials here for a lot of years and I've done commercials before, but they really went about it a great way."
Although he wasn't super excited to appear in what would become one of the Mariners' most successful marketing stunts, Wedge says he's happy with whatever promotes the team.
"There are so many reasons why I came here to Seattle and one of the things I love about it is that we're so far removed from Major League clubs and the fan base is so widespread," Wedge said. "As we continue to get better and figure this out, it's going to be real exciting for these fans. And for Felix to lead the way, it's the way it should be."
Will Larry ever appear on the bench during an actual game?
"I wouldn't put it past him," Wedge said with a laugh. "You're killing me right now, because you're putting these thoughts in his head. ... I've had players do a little bit crazier things than that before, so it wouldn't surprise me."
Smoak, Figgins close to rehab stints
SEATTLE -- If all goes according to plan, first baseman Justin Smoak and third baseman Chone Figgins will both return to the diamond this week --- just not with the Mariners.
Smoak, who fractured his nose on Aug. 12, will be available to come off the disabled list on Sunday. Manager Eric Wedge said that he plans to send his first baseman down to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday for a rehab assignment.
Smoak has been taking batting practice for the past week, and finally took ground balls on Friday and Saturday. He looks to be making a full recovery and said he feels fine.
"Everything felt good," Smoak said on Saturday. "It's nothing physical in my body -- it's just my face."
It's been a tough season for Smoak, who has sat out with left and right thumb injuries this year. He has played just three games this month, and being injured is something foreign to the South Carolina native.
"You're always used to playing every day, so it's not easy -- especially because I've never really been sidelined before," Smoak said. "It's tough. The days go by a lot longer. It's going to be good to get back and play.
"Mentally, it's just been a crazy year from a personal standpoint. Just one of those things you got to play through. Hopefully, I stay healthy for the rest of the year and finish strong."
Smoak hit just .141 in July, and is 10 for his last 75 (.133).
Figgins, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 2, seems to be progressing with his hip flexor. He went through a light workout on Friday and did some simple jogging on Saturday. Wedge is hoping that Figgins can be sent on a rehab assignment later next week.
"It's just a tricky thing, and really a day-to-day thing -- we really have to work off of him, too," Wedge said. "He's the only one who can really let us know how exactly he feels and what's going on."
So how does he feel?
"It's better," Figgins said. "I ran the bases for the first time Friday, and there is still a little pain once I really extend. But otherwise, it felt pretty good."
It's the first time Figgins has had a hip flexor ailment in his career, and he's learning what type of injury it is.
"Especially being an aggressive baseball player, stealing bases and running the bases, it's not something you can hide -- that's the problem," he said. "If you have a tight quad or tight hammy, you can kind of hide it and protect it. But not with the hip flexor."
Figgins is hitting .188 this season in 81 games.
Robinson ribbed for high-fiving fan
SEATTLE -- A playful tip to Trayvon Robinson from his teammates: Make sure you save some high-fives for your teammates.
The rookie left fielder was the subject of a few dugout jokes after his athletic catch along the third-base foul line in Friday's 4-2 loss to Chicago. Robinson reached over the short wall on the third-base side to reel in a foul pop, and when he looked up, there was a young fan wearing a Chicago White Sox jersey wanting a high-five.
"I made the catch, and it was like, 'Hey, what's up, man?" Robinson said. "I just gave him a high-five."
Then came the good-natured jabs in the dugout.
"They told me, 'We noticed you gave a couple high-fives to the other guys before you gave it to us. Just make sure you give us a high-five,'" Robinson recalled. "That was pretty funny."
But isn't it hard to turn down a congratulatory high-five from a kid?
"When you got a 12-year-old boy up putting his hand up, well, yeah," manager Eric Wedge said. "At least he didn't take any of his popcorn like we've seen guys do in the past."
Though Robinson has made three errors in 17 games, the skipper has been pleased with his attitude.
"He's still learning," Wedge said. "He's made a couple of great plays and a couple of easy errors where he's looked up a little bit quick. I [could] tell early on that he's hard on himself -- we got to help him with that a little bit, but that's OK. You'd rather have that than the other. He's a good kid, athletic and got some strength to him. There is a lot to be said with what we have with Tray."
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.