Fresh off a three-game sweep of the previously on fire Kansas City Royals, the Mariners return home for a six-game homestand with the Red Sox and Indians to close out the month of June.
The big news pre-game today for the M’s is the official signing of Alex Jackson. He was in the clubhouse at about 3:15 meeting manager Lloyd McClendon, the players and coaching staff. He had his own locker set up between those of Dustin Ackley and Stefen Romero and spent about 10-20 minutes talking with Ackley while changing into batting practice attire.
On the field, Jackson spent another 10-15 minutes talking with Mike Zunino and Mariners’ coaching staff members, Chris Woodward among them, prior to throwing and then taking batting practice around 5:05.
Jackson took six rounds of 5-6 swings on the field. He sprayed line drives from the left-field line to the right-field line after taking a few nerve-filled hacks. Overall, he looked good. He hit quite a few balls hard and showed good line drive power. Whereas second-round pick Gareth Morgan was able to hit a few out, including a titanic blast into the upper deck of the left-center bleachers, Jackson settled for line drives, a few bouncing off the wall in both the left-center and right-center gaps.
Also in the house were a number of scouts including the area scout Gary Patchett who was the primary scout on Jackson, director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara, general manager Jack Zduriencik and Jackson’s agent Scott Boras.
So there’s that. Felix Hernandez will take the hill for the M’s tonight looking to snap a unfortunate run of winless starts despite yielding one run or less in all three. It has seen him fall from second in the AL in wins on June 2 to tied for sixth going into tonight. The good news is Hernandez pitches well against Boston historically. He is 7-2 with a 3.00 ERA over 99 innings.
Here is the lineup for the M’s Monday against RHP John Lackey (8-4, 2.96 ERA). One minor uncommonality is Willie Bloomquist DH’ing and batting ninth. McClendon said Bloomquist hits Lackey well and that is the reason for his inclusion.
1. Endy Chavez (L) rf
2. James Jones (L) cf
3. Robinson Cano (L) 2b
4. Kyle Seager (L) 3b
5. Logan Morrison (L) 1b
6. Mike Zunino c
7. Dustin Ackley (L) lf
8. Brad Miller (L) ss
9. Willie Bloomquist dh
RHP Felix Hernandez (8-2, 2.22 ERA)
James Paxton played catch Monday and finished his session with some pitches from 60 feet on flat ground. He said he is up to 120 feet now and will have a full flat ground session from 60 feet Wednesday before a 20-25 pitch bullpen on Friday. But most importantly, everything feels great.
Regarding the trio of rehabbing players in Tacoma, McClendon said that there will be no rush to bring anyone back and that when he and Jack talk about moves over the next couple of days when Justin Smoak (June 25) and Michael Saunders (June 26) become eligible to be taken off the 15-day disabled list, they will look at how they are swinging with the Rainiers. Saunders has played in three games so far, batting .417 (5-for-12) with a triple and a homer. Smoak, meanwhile, has played in five games and is hitting .222 (4-for-18) with two walks and a double. My guess is Saunders will be called up as soon as he is eligible and in time for Friday’s game with the Indians. If Smoak has a couple of good games the next two days, it is likely he will be up for Wednesday’s game with the Red Sox. If he struggles, it’s possible he could spend additional time with Tacoma. Corey Hart, just two games into his rehab, will spend about two more weeks in Triple-A.