2/17/2014 3:40 P.M. ET
McClendon believes Mariners' youngsters are underrated
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- While Lloyd McClendon keeps hearing that his club needs to add more players, the new Mariners skipper believes there's plenty of talent already lined up on his club and the key will be getting the core group of youngsters to perform up to expectations to compete in the American League West.
"I always get a chuckle," McClendon said Monday. "People say, 'Well, the Seattle Mariners signed [Robinson] Cano. They can't stop there. What else are they going to do? Well, last time I looked, we have a pretty talented club.
"We have a third baseman that is one of the top 10 in baseball. We've got kids at shortstop that can play, kids that are going to battle. [Nick] Franklin and [Brad] Miller are going to compete. Those are talented kids. One hit eight home runs and the other hit 14. [Justin] Smoak is starting to come into his own. He hit 20 home runs last year. We've got some arms that everybody in baseball would do backflips to get.
"So I just find it amusing when people say what else are they going to do? It's not like we've got chopped liver in that locker room. There's a certain maturation process that takes place with any player. The one thing I know, Miguel Cabrera had to have his first at-bat at one point before he got good. It's the same things with guys in that locker room. They've got to get their first at-bat or throw their first pitch."
The Mariners finished last season playing four rookie starters in Miller, Franklin, Mike Zunino and Abraham Almonte and had eight position players on the field much of the time who were age 26 or younger, as well as rookie starters in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, a rookie closer in Danny Farquhar and several other youngsters in the bullpen as well.
The club has added some experience in key players over the offseason with Cano, Corey Hart, Fernando Rodney and others, but McClendon has said, from the time he was hired, that he's not worried about the team being inexperienced.
"Part of the message we're sending here is just because you're young doesn't mean you can't be good," he said. "That's not an excuse. We develop in the Minor Leagues, we win at the Major League level."
McClendon reiterated that Franklin and Miller will compete at shortstop this spring, with no thought of moving either into the outfield.
"We've got a pretty crowded outfield," he said. "There's a lot of talented outfielders as it is. And that's a good problem to have. At the end of the day if we're sitting here in late March and we have real, real tough decisions to make, that's good for the Seattle Mariners. I hope the decisions are not easy. I hope they're real tough. I'll take that."
Rodney, Cano eager to join forces as Mariners
PEORIA, Ariz. -- All the Mariners are naturally eager to see Robinson Cano's arrival in camp Tuesday, but perhaps none more so than new closer Fernando Rodney.
Cano and Rodney were teammates on last year's Dominican Republic team that won the World Baseball Classic championship, but this will be their first time together on a regular-season squad.
The two veteran free agents were key acquisitions to help bolster a young Mariners squad looking to improve on last year's 71-91 record.
"That's the kind of player you want on your team," Rodney said. "A good guy, good teammate, he'll bring energy to the clubhouse. Just like we did in the WBC, that's the kind of team we want to bring here, where everybody is together. We've got the pieces here to make a good team. There are a lot of good young guys and that's what you're looking for."
Rodney said the five-time All-Star will bring more than just a strong presence in the lineup and at second base.
"With an experienced guy like Cano, the young guys can learn a lot of situations in the game from him and take advantage of all of that," Rodney said. "And I can help, too, with the guys in the bullpen. I think when you've got two people like that who can help, you can make something good."
Cano won't arrive in camp until Tuesday, the first day of full-squad workouts. The club's new $240 million man was flying in from the Dominican Republic on Monday and will meet with an expected media crush in an informal press conference after Tuesday's practice.
Cano was at the Mariners' grand-opening ceremony for their new Dominican Republic baseball academy Thursday and his eyes lit up when asked about the acquisition of Rodney.
"Oh, that was good," Cano said. "That's a big one. We know what he's capable of doing as a closer. Not only that, he's a guy that will motivate a team. He'll come out early. He'll be sitting in the dugout in the first or second inning, cheering guys on. It was the same way in the WBC. Those are the guys you want on your team, guys who know the game and want to win."
• The Mariners expect all 68 players in camp for Tuesday's first full-squad workout, including veteran right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez, who is scheduled to finally arrive from the Dominican Republic after clearing up a visa issue.
• Most of the pitchers took Monday off from throwing bullpen sessions, with just Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and Yoervis Medina taking the mound for their initial sessions of the camp. While Hernandez and Walker got most -- or all -- of the attention, pitching coach Rick Waits said Medina was impressive as well.
"He's a guy that likes to get in here and play a lot of long toss before he gets on the mound," Waits said. "Medina looked really good today, really sharp. It was fun. What a pleasure, for as many years as I've got in the game, to see those three guys on the mound at the same time."