8/19/2014 6:44 P.M. ET
McClendon mastering art of bullpen management
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Going with an eight-man bullpen for much of the last two months has provided Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon the luxury of having multiple choices and the ability to keep that group from being overused as the season stretches toward late August.
But the flip side is getting everyone enough work to stay sharp, and McClendon has done a masterful job with that as well, as his bullpen had posted an American League-leading 2.43 ERA going into Tuesday's game against the Phillies.
In Monday's series opener, McClendon brought closer Fernando Rodney in to get the last out in the eighth even with his team trailing, 4-1, strictly to keep the veteran right-hander sharp.
"Rodney had been off four days and I just didn't want him to go five days without pitching," McClendon said. "The danger of that is bringing him in the eighth and then you come back and you don't have your closer, so we had to double switch to make sure he was still out there just in case we came back in that ballgame."
Rodney retired Chase Utley on a groundout to end that frame and now has pitched 51 innings this season in 53 appearances while posting a 2.29 ERA. His 35 saves are second in the AL to the Royals' Greg Holland.
McClendon said he doesn't like any of his relievers going more than four days without pitching in a game, but particularly with Rodney, whom he's worked with since his days as the bullpen coach with the Tigers in 2006.
"Command can become an issue with him from time to time," McClendon said. "And if he's not out there on a regular basis, you're asking him to close a game without pitching for five days, it could become an issue."
McClendon was the hitting coach his last seven seasons in Detroit, but the former utility player appears to have an excellent sense of how to work his pitching staff.
"He's been outstanding," said veteran lefty Joe Beimel, who has put up a 1.23 ERA in 43 appearances after not pitching in the Majors since 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. "The way I've been used has been very enjoyable. He's put me in the best situations to succeed and I think he's doing that with everybody."
Mariners practice patience in Saunders' rehab
PHILADELPHIA -- Right fielder Michael Saunders went 0-for-3 with two walks for Triple-A Tacoma in Monday's 6-2 victory at Round Rock in his ninth rehab start as he continues working back from a strained oblique muscle that landed him on the 15-day disabled list on July 11.
Saunders has hit .258 (8-for-31) with 13 walks in his nine games for Tacoma. He's 2-for-14 with six walks in four games since returning from paternity leave following the birth of his second child.
Since Saunders got hurt, the Mariners traded for center fielder Austin Jackson and right fielder Chris Denorfia, so there appears less need to rush the 27-year-old back until he's fully healthy. Denorfia and veteran Endy Chavez have been splitting time in right field in a platoon situation that has been working well, with Chavez hitting .276 and the right-handed-hitting Denorfia hitting.320 over his last eight games after a slow start.
Saunders has hit .276 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 65 games for Seattle and is a strong defender, but he's on his second DL stint this season and manager Lloyd McClendon wants him to be right when he returns.
"He's working it out, he's trying to get back," McClendon said. "We knew there would be some rust. That's why you have the 20-day rehab. He's trying to get himself sharp and ready to get back here."
Saunders began his rehab assignment on Aug. 7, so the Mariners have until Aug. 27 before they need to make a decision. Minor League rehabs for position players can be a maximum of 20 days.
With James Jones optioned back to Tacoma on Monday to make room for starting pitcher Roenis Elias, Seattle is going with four outfielders for now in Dustin Ackley, Jackson, Chavez and Denorfia, though Logan Morrison played right field on Monday with no DH spot available in the Interleague road game.
If Saunders returns before Sept. 1, when rosters can be expanded beyond the 25-man limit, it will require a tough roster decision for a club that's been carrying an extra reliever and would likely need to make a move in the bullpen.
In Philly, Cano thanks Bowa with timely gift
PHILADELPHIA -- Robinson Cano is one of baseball's biggest stars, but Seattle's $240 million man hasn't forgotten the people who've helped him get to where he's at now as a six-time All-Star.
On Monday, Cano surprised Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa by sending over a new Rolex watch to the former Yankees infield coach as a quiet thank you for helping him as a youngster when he was first breaking into the Majors.
Bowa, who worked as the Mariners' third-base coach in 2000, was touched by the gesture and informed media members of Cano's gift. Bowa, 68, was a five-time All-Star shortstop himself for the Phillies during his playing days and served as the Yankees' third-base coach in 2006-07 when Cano was in his second and third seasons in the big leagues.
"He's one of those guys that told you when you get a ground ball, always have in your mind that it could be a bad hop or come up on you," Cano said. "And when you go to second base, always expect a bad throw from the shortstop or anybody, so you'll be ready. You can control that. Those are things that helped me a lot. That's what I really liked about him. He was a good mentor for me. He was a guy who really helped me out."
Bowa brings a fiery personality to the game and an up-front approach that resonated with Cano.
"He's just a guy that liked to win," Cano said. "If you don't know him in the beginning, you might not know what he's about. He'd get angry because he wants to win and those are the people you want to be around. He was a guy that always was there if you wanted to work. That was the main thing. He didn't wait a few days or say, 'Let me see what we can do.' He was always right there."
• Opposing baserunners were 0-for-8 trying to steal against Hisashi Iwakuma going into Tuesday's game against the Phillies. In 69 career starts, Iwakuma has allowed only 15-of-30 runners to steal. The most caught-stealings with no successful attempts in a season is nine by the Indians' Luis Tiant in 1968. Tiant went 21-9 with an American League-leading 1.60 ERA that season.
• The Mariners are 11-5 with Austin Jackson hitting leadoff since he was acquired from the Tigers on July 31.
• Kyle Seager entered Tuesday's action tied for ninth in the AL with 77 RBIs. He is tied for fourth with two-out RBIs at 29.