04/07/12 9:30 PM ET
Ryan's stiff neck leads to Kawasaki's debut
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Wedge plotting Montero's debut at catcher
OAKLAND -- Mariners rookie Jesus Montero was at designated hitter for a fourth straight game Saturday against the A's, and manager Eric Wedge said it would likely be somewhere during the four-game series in Texas next week when he makes his debut at catcher.Montero, 22, became the first rookie in Mariners history to start at DH on Opening Day and the first in the Majors since Ken Harvey for the Royals in 2003. Seattle's club record for rookie starts at designated hitter is 52 by Juan Bernhardt in 1977, the franchise's first year. Veteran Miguel Olivo has remained Seattle's starting catcher because Wedge wants to work the highly regarded Montero in slowly behind the plate, while having his right-handed bat in the lineup every day. "We'll probably [play him behind the plate] at some point this next week," Wedge said. "The off-day Sunday helps us with Miggy, but then we play seven or eight in a row, so we'll get him back there sometime in there." Montero worked with all the starters during Spring Training, and Wedge said the youngster won't be aligned with any particular pitcher during the season. "I don't think so right now," Wedge said. "I'm comfortable with him back there with anybody." Montero caught a bullpen session before Saturday's game as Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood both got some side work in to keep them fresh for their starts on Tuesday and Wednesday in Texas.
Wedge still establishing bullpen roles
OAKLAND -- With four rookies in his seven-man bullpen, Mariners skipper Eric Wedge is still working out who exactly will fill which relief roles. But obviously some new guys are going to be called on quickly to establish themselves.For instance, 21-year-old Erasmo Ramirez was warming up in the eighth inning of Friday's game when Tom Wilhelmsen got in some hot water by giving up singles to three of the first four batters he faced. Wilhelmsen bore down and got out of that jam by striking out Yoenis Cespedes and Kurt Suzuki, but clearly Wedge won't be afraid to go to the strike-throwing youngster from Nicaragua in tough situations. The other rookies are Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge, Japanese veteran Hisashi Iwakuma and right-hander Steve Delabar, who pitched six games for Seattle last year. "I'm not sure exactly what his role will be yet," Wedge said of Ramirez. "It's a little tough here early on because a couple guys haven't been in a big league game and we're still establishing roles with most of our guys down there, with the exception of Wilhelmsen and [Brandon] League. "Then we've got the off-day Sunday, we're coming off Spring Training II, so we're just trying to navigate this thing and get into our routines." But Wedge liked what he saw from Ramirez "from Day 1" this spring, as the youngster came to camp along with top prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker and became the one who survived the cut. Wedge doesn't rule out an eventual return to the rotation for Ramirez, who says he came into pro baseball as a reliever in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2008 but quickly was converted to a starter. "I think he's a guy that can go either way," Wedge said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him out of the bullpen first. In regard to where he ends up, he'll be able to dictate that to us just by what we see. My thought process with him is this is a good way to break him in, in the bullpen. Then we'll see where it goes from there."
• Left fielder Mike Carp, who stayed behind in Arizona to rehabilitate a sprained right shoulder, continues swinging a bat and improving his range of motion as he works toward a potential return by the home opener on Friday in Seattle. Carp will throw on Sunday for the first time since going on the 15-day DL after hurting himself in the season opener in Tokyo on March 28.Franklin Gutierrez also continues working to rehab his partially torn pectoral muscle. Gutierrez is getting close to a full return as well, but he'll need to start in the Minor Leagues first since he missed almost all of Spring Training. • Felix Hernandez will turn 26 on Sunday, already having made 207 starts in a Major League career that began at age 19. • The Mariners 25-man roster to open the season is the second-youngest among American League clubs and fourth among all Major League teams with an average age of 28.33. Only the Royals (27.42), Astros (27.82) and Braves (28.27) are younger. If you include everyone on the 40-man rosters, the Mariners are third in the Majors at 26.96, behind the Royals (26.83) and Astros (26.87). • Jason Vargas became just the fifth Major League pitcher since 1980 to start back-to-back games for his team against the same opponent and first since the Rangers' Aaron Myette vs. the Angels on Sept. 3-4, 2002. Gil Meche was the last Mariners pitcher to start consecutive games against any opponent when he pitched back to back around the All-Star Game in 2006. Freddy Garcia is the only previous Mariners arm to pitch in that situation against the same team, having faced the Angels on Sept. 10 and 18, 2001, due to the 9/11 cancellations.