3/20/2014 4:09 P.M. ET
Miller, Franklin continue battle for shortstop job
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Brad Miller didn't play in the Mariners' 3-0 victory over the Cubs on Thursday, which may be the only thing that could cool off the young shortstop's torrid spring.
But despite Miller's .447 batting average and Cactus League-leading slugging percentage, manager Lloyd McClendon insisted again that no decision has been made on his battle with Nick Franklin for the starting job in Seattle's infield.
Miller has put up a 1.000 slugging percentage and also led the Cactus League in triples (four), total bases (38) and run scored (13) going into Thursday's games. He was second in batting average, extra-base hits (nine) and tied for second in home runs (four), third in on-base percentage (.512) and tied for sixth in hits (17) in 13 games.
Franklin went 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored against the Cubs as the two youngsters continued alternating starts. Franklin is hitting .243 with three doubles and a home run in 13 games.
Despite the discrepancy in offensive numbers, McClendon didn't bite when asked to compare the duo's performance.
"I think they've both played well to this point," McClendon said. "I'll reserve my thoughts on that for a little longer. But they've both done a nice job. I've been pleased. As far as separation, I don't think they've really separated themselves. I evaluate things a little different than how you guys evaluate it. I don't particularly evaluate on a given performance on any day. I see good things from both of them."
Franklin, 22, hit 12 home runs last year while batting .225/.303/.382 in 369 at-bats last year while playing second base. He offers some power potential and is a switch-hitter, which is a bonus in a lefty-heavy lineup.
Miller, 24, hit .265/.318/.418 with 11 doubles, six triples and eight homers in 306 at-bats last year after taking over at shortstop midseason last year, so he'd shown some potential with the bat. But he added 15-20 pounds with an aggressive winter conditioning program and has been pounding the ball this spring.
"In the offseason, I was thinking, 'Shoot, what do I want to do?' I want to make an impact," Miller said. "I want to be able to drive balls, especially to the opposite field. So I've felt pretty good, just being able to hit it with authority that way. I'm trying to do damage, for sure. That's still the goal. I'm going to go up there and try to drive some balls, so that's been good."
Beavan looks to regain control after hitting speed bump
MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged he was disappointed in Blake Beavan's rough outing Wednesday, when the big right-hander gave up four home runs in a 9-7 loss to the Brewers, but the 25-year-old remains in the hunt for a rotation berth as decision time approaches.
McClendon said Thursday that "nothing is set" in the rotation outside of Felix Hernandez, his Opening Day starter. But Beavan is one of four pitchers who appear to be battling for the final two starting jobs behind Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton. And the tall Texan had pitched very well this spring until getting lit up for eight hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings by the Brewers.
"I expect more," McClendon said. "I think he's better than what he showed yesterday. But he'll get another opportunity to get out there. I just need to see him use both sides of the plate and use all his pitches and get the ball down in the zone. He's better than what he showed."
Beavan hadn't allowed a home run in 12 2/3 innings over four appearances prior to Wednesday's blowup. He said he struggled to command his fastball and got away from the changeup that has helped keep hitters off balance in prior games.
"For the most part, I was up and they exposed that," Beavan said. "My fastball command was terrible and I'm usually a lot better than that. That was probably the most frustrating thing, but that is when I do need to have the other stuff working -- the curveball, changeup, slider and mixing in the cutter."
Beavan said he only used three or four changeups out of 93 pitches he threw, a vast departure from the successful pattern he'd been developing.
"That has helped my success in the early part of spring, so that's something to think about. I need to go back to the bullpen and work on a couple things," he said. "I just didn't have a good feel for the changeup, but those are the days you have to keep throwing it. Hopefully, you get it there in the fourth or fifth inning and it helps you get through those later innings without giving up the late-inning damage. For me, I was kind of all over the place. It was frustrating and I tried to just work through it the best I could."
Beavan has felt stronger and healthier this spring, getting back to the form of 2012, when he went 11-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 26 starts and proved to be a reliable innings eater with excellent control. So he'll try to brush off his latest setback and push for a better impression in his final spring start Monday against the White Sox.
"You just have to have short-term memory, forget about it and get ready for the next one," he said. "I'm just looking forward to getting back in the bullpen, getting back to some of the basics, working downhill and getting back in the bottom of the zone."
Felix tunes up with seven Minor League innings
MESA, Ariz. -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez allowed three runs (two earned) over seven innings in a Minor League game against the Brewers on Thursday as he continues tuning up for his Opening Day start.
Hernandez threw 82 pitches, of which 60 were strikes. He gave up five hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
The veteran right-hander said he was happy with his work against an aggressive group of young hitters, who, he said, swung at the first pitch in almost every at-bat.
"It was good. Real good," Hernandez said. "Everything was working. I was throwing a lot of strikes. They were swinging at everything."
Hernandez chose to pitch against the Brewers' Class A Advanced team at the Peoria Sports Complex rather than travel to Mesa for the Mariners' Cactus League contest with the Cubs. He'll make his final spring start Tuesday against the Rangers in Surprise and said he's on schedule to throw 100 pitches in that game before facing the Angels in Anaheim on March 31 in his club-record seventh Opening Day outing.
"I felt pretty strong," Hernandez said. "I was down the zone and happy with myself."
Lucas Luetge and Charlie Furbush each threw scoreless innings in relief of Hernandez, while catcher Mike Zunino went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored while catching the first seven innings.
Rodney regains velocity, command in scoreless frame
MESA, Ariz. -- New Mariners closer Fernando Rodney threw just his second scoreless inning of the spring on Thursday with a hitless eighth against the Cubs in a 3-0 victory at Cubs Park.
Rodney, 37, lugged a 15.75 ERA into the game after allowing five runs (four earned) and four hits with a walk and hit batter in 1 1/3 innings over his previous two outings. He'd given up runs in four of his first five Cactus League appearances, but manager Lloyd McClendon said he was unconcerned as the veteran went about his work in non-save situations without normal closer adrenaline.
Things went better against the Cubs. Rodney walked the second batter he faced, but then struck out the next two hitters while hitting 93-95 mph with his fastball.
"I'm just throwing strikes," Rodney said. "My fastball is there. A little bit I'm working on my location. I need a little more work, maybe Sunday I'll throw again."
McClendon said pitching coach Rick Waits "did some real good things" with Rodney in a Thursday morning mound session that seemed to help.
"He fixed some things in his delivery and felt real good about it," McClendon said. "As a result, he threw a lot of strikes and looked real good."
McClendon did go out to the mound midway through the inning to check on Rodney after noticing a drop in his velocity, but the pitcher said he was having an issue with the mound that affected his lead foot.
"The mound had a hole in it, so the velocity was going down and he thought something was going on," Rodney said. "I had it in my mind that hole was there, but I was fine."
• Right-handed starter Hisashi Iwakuma will throw a tennis ball on Friday, his first time throwing any sort of ball since he sprained the tendon in his right middle finger just prior to camp six weeks ago. Iwakuma had the splint removed from his finger on Tuesday and has been doing stretching exercises to regain the motion and strength in the finger, while also continuing his "towel drills" on the mound to keep his arm in the best shape possible.
• Thursday's game against the Cubs will be replayed on MLB Network at 10 p.m. PT on Friday. MLB Network will also be showing two more of the Mariners' remaining spring games. Monday's 1:05 p.m. game against the White Sox will replayed at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, while Tuesday night's 6:05 p.m. start against the Royals will be shown starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
All those games are available live on MLB.TV to subscribers. The Tuesday night game against the Royals will be Hernandez's final tuneup before Opening Day.
• Veteran left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, pitching for the first time in 12 days, threw a 1-2-3 seventh against the Cubs. Beimel is one of several pitching candidates coming back from Tommy John surgery and had been experiencing some soreness in his elbow, but McClendon said he's feeling better after getting some anti-inflammatory medication.
"The ball came out very good, it was very good to see," McClendon said. "He looked healthy. He had a finish to his fastball with good sink, threw some good changeups and even mixed in a curveball."