8/5/2014 8:48 P.M. ET
Mariners close to sending Saunders on rehab stint
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Right fielder Michael Saunders took part in Tuesday's pregame outfield work and batting practice with the Mariners and is close to being sent out on a Minor League rehab stint to Triple-A Tacoma as he recovers from a strained left oblique.
Saunders has been sidelined since July 10 and is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list as soon as he's healthy. That now seems imminent as the six-year veteran appeared to be throwing full out during Tuesday's work, though manager Lloyd McClendon was awaiting word from the trainers.
"My hope is that Michael will be able to go out on Thursday," McClendon said. "That's my hope. Most likely DH [initially], but there's a possibility he could play in the field. We'll see."
Tacoma is off on Wednesday, then opens a five-game homestand against Fresno before hitting the road again.
Veteran utility player Willie Bloomquist was scheduled to meet with doctors Tuesday as he continues recovering from a bruised right knee that put him on the 15-day DL on July 24, while designated hitter Corey Hart returned to Seattle with the club after going on the DL on Saturday and will begin treatment on his own right knee bruise.
McClendon shuffles rotation to keep starters fresh
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is juggling his pitching rotation so every starter except Hisashi Iwakuma gets an extra day of rest in the upcoming homestand and a sixth starter will be added this Sunday.
The moves line up his top trio of Felix Hernandez, Chris Young and Iwakuma to face the Blue Jays next Monday through Wednesday, but McClendon insists his motivation is not to set up his best pitchers against the team that held the final American League Wild Card berth with a two-game lead over Seattle entering Tuesday's action.
"It's the same as always," McClendon said of his thinking. "Every chance I get to give them an extra day, I'm going to do it. I think we've done OK with it. Last time I checked, we had the best pitching in the American League. So why break something that's not broken? Keep doing it. Keep resting them. I want to protect them. … It had nothing to do with Toronto."
The Mariners stayed with their normal rotation for the next three games -- Hernandez and Young facing the Braves on Tuesday and Wednesday to open the nine-game homestand and Roenis Elias taking on the White Sox in Thursday's series opener.
But Iwakuma was jumped ahead of rookie James Paxton and will face the White Sox on Friday, followed by Paxton on Saturday. The Sunday starter against the White Sox is currently undetermined, with Hernandez, Young and Iwakuma then pitching the next three days against Toronto.
Sunday's decision boils down to either bringing Erasmo Ramirez or Taijuan Walker up from Triple-A Tacoma or going with a bullpen day, with long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen given another spot start. That option would presumably depend on how much the current eight-man bullpen gets used in the next five games.
Walker, the club's top prospect, gave up eight runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings in a rough start Monday in Albuquerque to put his Triple-A record at 4-3 with a 5.44 ERA in 10 games. McClendon said that was disappointing, but wouldn't be a determining factor.
"That has nothing to do with it," he said. "Obviously I'm disappointed in his numbers down there, but if he was the guy we're going to bring, that wouldn't have anything to do with it."
Ramirez won his last start Saturday in Albuquerque, allowing just two unearned runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings and is 3-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 11 Tacoma starts. He also threw seven innings of two-run ball with 10 strikeouts in a spot start for Seattle against the Mets on July 22.
"Erasmo is throwing fairly well," McClendon said. "And he threw well when he was here. He gave us an opportunity to win games. I would say he's definitely in the mix, so is Walker. The bullpen is an option, because we have eight guys. We're just not sure yet."
Piniella set to enter Mariners Hall of Fame
SEATTLE -- Lou Piniella, the winningest manager in Mariners history, will become the eighth member of the club's Hall of Fame during a ceremony before Saturday's 6:10 p.m. PT game against the White Sox at Safeco Field.
The induction ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. and the first 20,000 fans will receive a Piniella Hall of Fame bobblehead. Tickets are still available through mariners.com.
Piniella will join the seven members of the Mariners Hall of Fame: Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Dan Wilson and Ken Griffey Jr.
Piniella is the only Mariners manager with a career record over .500 as he guided the team to seven winning seasons in his 10 years in Seattle, including the only four playoff appearances in franchise history.
Piniella led the team to its dramatic 1995 postseason run and also was the skipper of the record-setting 116-win team in 2001. Overall, he posted a .542 record (840-711) and won three American League West championships in his decade in Seattle.
Piniella managed in the Major Leagues for 23 years and was American League Manager of the Year in 1995 and '01 with Seattle and the NL Manager of the Year in '08 with the Cubs. He retired in 2010 with a career .517 winning percentage, having guided the Yankees (1986-88), Reds (1990-92), Mariners (1993-02), Rays (2003-05) and Cubs (2007-10).
To be eligible for selection, an individual must have been active in a Mariners uniform for at least five seasons and be retired at least two years. In addition to his impact on the field, other considerations for induction include a positive impact on the Northwest community outside of baseball and a positive impact in enhancing the image of the Mariners and/or Major League Baseball.
• Since the All-Star break, 10 of the Mariners' 16 games have been decided by one run, with the club 3-7 in those contests going into Tuesday's series opener with Atlanta. Four of those games went extra innings. Seattle is tied with Baltimore with the most games decided by two or fewer runs for the season with 62 and the club is 28-34 in those contests.
• Mike McCready, the lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, will perform the national anthem before Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT game against the White Sox.