3/29/2014 2:06 A.M. ET
Young gets new life as Mariners' fifth starter
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- After wondering a year ago if his Major League career was over due to ongoing shoulder issues, veteran right-hander Chris Young is eager for a new lease on his baseball life.
The 34-year-old will get that chance with the Mariners as he's scheduled to pitch Seattle's final Cactus League game Saturday and then slot immediately into the rotation as the club's fifth starter when the regular season begins next week.
Young brings a towering 6-foot-10 presence and a renewed confidence, thanks to surgery in June after doctors determined he was suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve condition that he feels has hampered his throwing shoulder since his 2007 All-Star season with the Padres.
After pitching only a handful of Minor League games last year for the Nationals, he was released by the Nats on Tuesday, but quickly signed on with the Mariners as they look to fill out their short-handed rotation.
Veteran left-hander Randy Wolf asked for his release from the Mariners on Tuesday after declining to sign an "advance consent release" that would have allowed the club to cut him in the first 45 days of the regular season without owing the rest of his $1 million salary.
Young agreed to a $1.25 million base salary that also includes up to $3.4 million in incentive bonuses, much the same as Wolf had in his deal. But Young signed off on the advance-consent clause, willing to take that risk if the team decides to release him before the 46th day of the season.
"I felt it was really a non-issue," said Young. "I always tell myself it's a performance-based game and the club has the right to release you at any point. It's just a matter of whether your salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season. For me, I don't play for the money. I play because I love the game. I'm just super excited to be out there and looking forward to making the most of the opportunity."
Young posted a 3.48 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances with the Nationals this spring, allowing eight hits and four runs with four walks and nine strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings. He also threw 75 pitches in a four-inning Minor League outing and said he's stretched out enough to start right away.
As a nine-year Major League veteran with a career record of 53-43 with a 3.79 ERA, Young has done well when healthy. But he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012 with the Mets when he was 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts.
He's eager now to show what he can do following his surgery, where doctors removed a three-inch segment from his top rib and unwrapped neck muscles that had tightened around the nerves between his neck and shoulder.
"The doctor said, 'I hate to tell you this, but this has probably been the cause of the last five years of your shoulder issues," said Young, who had two prior shoulder surgeries, as well, that failed to relieve his ongoing pain. "But hindsight is 20-20 and I'm just glad it's corrected and I can hopefully look forward to some good years ahead."
Despite his size, Young has never been a power pitcher. He relies on command and his lanky frame to make things difficult for opposing hitters.
"He's a veteran guy that knows how to pitch," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "One thing about Young, he creates angles. He's so tall and if he creates those proper angles, he has a chance to be successful, particularly in Safeco. He's a fly ball pitcher and he knows what he's doing and knows the league, so it'll be pretty interesting."
Elias earns job in rotation before making start
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Roenis Elias, a 25-year-old Cuban defector who has never pitched above Double-A ball, had an eventful day Friday as he learned he'd made the Mariners starting rotation in the afternoon, and then went out and gave up two runs over five innings in Seattle's 3-2 victory over the Rockies.
Elias weaved in and out of trouble in his 79-pitch outing, allowing seven hits -- including two triples and a double -- along with two walks, but limited the damage to a pair of runs.
"He did OK. He got a couple balls up and was a little erratic in the one inning," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "I thought he was a little bit charged-up today. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a disastrous outing for him. That's usually how it works when you tell a young man he's made the club and he's starting. Couple that with being on TV, that was a recipe for disaster. But he came through it pretty good."
Escaping from jams is becoming something of a habit for Elias, who stranded runners in scoring position twice with no outs in his previous outing, as well.
"If you look at the history of this young man, he has a tendency to walk guys and then strike people out and get them out," McClendon said. "He doesn't give up runs. He's a little quirky and we're going to have to shore that up a little. I don't want to start smoking."
Elias said he didn't pitch as well as he wanted in his final Cactus League outing, but was thrilled at learning he'd made the team and is slated to pitch the fourth game of the season Thursday in Oakland.
"I was lifting weights when they called me in," Elias said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "Once they told me that, I didn't do any more weights. I just called my mom, my dad, my wife, my son, everybody in the world.
"I'm very happy the team has given me this opportunity. Every time I go out there, I'm going to give it all I can with my heart to help the team win."
Miller to start at shortstop as Mariners make cuts
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brad Miller left little to chance this spring, putting together a tremendous Cactus League season to win Seattle's starting shortstop job, a decision that became final Friday when the club optioned Nick Franklin to Triple-A Tacoma.
With Opening Day looming Monday in Anaheim, the Mariners also narrowed down their pitching staff by sending down starters Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan and relievers Lucas Luetge, Carson Smith, Dominic Leone, Zach Miner and Ramon Ramirez.
The roster now stands at 28 players, with starting pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker and reliever Stephen Pryor expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list by Sunday's final roster deadline.
Franklin, 22, played 102 games for the Mariners last year as a rookie second baseman, but lost that job when Seattle signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal.
New manager Lloyd McClendon gave the youngster every opportunity to compete at shortstop with Miller, who also was promoted at midseason a year earlier. But Miller came out hot and never slowed down. He headed into Friday's games ranked first in the Cactus League with a .439 average, .895 slugging percentage and 17 runs scored, while second to Mike Moustakas of the Royals in on-base percentage at .500.
Miller has been driving the ball all spring with 14 extra-base hits (six doubles, four triples and four home runs) in 19 games.
Franklin played well at shortstop, the position he was drafted at coming out of high school in Orlando, Fla., as a first-round pick in 2009. He hit .265 with four doubles, one home run and six RBIs in 17 games, but couldn't match Miller's production.
He'll play mostly shortstop in Triple-A Tacoma, but could also see some outfield time as well to increase his future opportunities.
"They both played extremely well, but Brad separated himself," McClendon said. "I'd be a fool if I told you he didn't. I think we all saw that. He separated himself and played extremely well. He deserves the opportunity and he's getting it. Nick didn't lose the job. It was more Brad winning it."
Though the club could make additional roster moves before the 25-man roster needs to be set on Sunday, the Mariners now appear set with their final position players with catchers Mike Zunino and John Buck, infielders Justin Smoak, Cano, Miller, Kyle Seager, Willie Bloomquist and Logan Morrison and outfielders Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Michael Saunders, Corey Hart and Stefen Romero.
The pitching also solidified with Thursday's signing of right-hander Chris Young to a one-year Major League deal, which adds a veteran at the back end of a young rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez. McClendon said Young will start Saturday's Cactus League finale and then be his fifth starter when the season opens.
Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton and Roenis Elias will fill the other three slots and that trio has a combined 25 Major League starts between them, with Elias making the jump from Double-A ball and Paxton having pitched just four games for the Mariners last September.
Elias, a 25-year-old Cuban defector who earned a job by going 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA in five Cactus League games, was thrilled to get his first Major League opportunity.
"I didn't understand everything he said because most of it was in Spanish, but I think in the end he tried to kiss me," McClendon said. "I figured he was happy at that point.
"Getting here was a major accomplishment," McClendon said. "When we talk about the lights coming on, I don't think there's anything that's going to faze this young man. He came off a boat, where he was fighting for his life to get here. I think he'll be just fine. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him."
All-Star right-hander Iwakuma and top prospect Walker are recovering from injuries and could be back sometime in late April, but for now the youngsters will get their chance to shine along with Young, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2012 due to shoulder problems.
The bullpen is set now as well with closer Fernando Rodney and fellow right-handers Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Hector Noesi, and Tom Wilhelmsen, along with left-handers Joe Beimel and Charlie Furbush.
McClendon said Beimel brings a veteran presence, while Noesi earned the long reliever position with a strong spring as he posted a 2.77 ERA in six outings. Noesi is out of Minor League options and would have been exposed to waivers if he'd been sent down.
"He threw the ball extremely well," McClendon said. "I don't think anybody will argue that fact. I thought he made drastic improvements over last year. The staff was very impressed and he deserved that opportunity. The young kids, Leone and Smith were sent out. They threw well. They're young, they need a little more seasoning, but I think they'll be knocking on the door very soon. They're very impressive."
Leone, packing his bags to head to the Minor League clubhouse, said he understood the process.
"It was a move that had to be made and I completely understand," said the hard-throwing 22-year-old. "I'll work my butt off down there and try and get back up here, that's all. I did everything I could. That's the biggest thing. I just came in trying to throw and prove to myself and everybody else that I belong here. So it's not at this time, but hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later."
Beimel and Elias were non-roster invitees who had to be added to the 40-man roster, so outfielder Xavier Avery and shortstop Carlos Triunfel were designated for assignment to clear spots.
• McClendon set his starting rotation with Hernandez (Monday), Ramirez (Tuesday) and Paxton (Wednesday) to face the Angels in Anaheim next week, followed by Elias (Thursday), Young (April 4), Hernandez (April 5) and Ramirez (April 6) in Oakland.
That lines Paxton up to pitch the home opener April 8 at Safeco Field against the Angels.
• Designated hitter Hart played in a Minor League game Friday to get extra at-bats as he returns from a sore forearm. McClendon said he'll play in Saturday's Cactus League finale against the Rockies if all goes as planned.
• The tentative plan for injured pitcher Iwakuma is to travel with the team to Anaheim to continue rehabbing his sprained finger tendon, while Walker likely will report to Class A Advanced High Desert to pitch in warm weather as he returns from a sore shoulder and Pryor is likely headed to Double-A Jackson as he returns from shoulder surgery.
• Baseball Tonight ranked Hernandez as the fifth best player in the Majors and Cano seventh. The only other team with two Top 10 selections was the Tigers with Miguel Cabrera second and Justin Verlander 10th.
• Fans in Seattle will be able to watch Monday's season opening game in Anaheim, live on the jumbo screen at Safeco Field, with gates opening at 5:30 p.m. for the 7:12 p.m. game.
Admission is $1 for adults, with all proceeds benefitting Northwest Harvest. Kids 14 and under are free, but still require a ticket for admission (available online, at Team Stores, Safeco Field ticket office, by phone and at Ticketmaster Ticket Centers).
All fans will receive a free True to the Blue T-shirt at the gate and pizza, hot dogs and beer will be on sale at concession stands on the main level and in The 'Pen.