Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik hinted Thursday that he may sign another veteran pitcher to bolster his starting rotation but added that he doesn’t plan to go after another major free agent this offseason.
Staff ace Felix Hernandez and 2013 Cy Young contender Hisashi Iwakuma will begin spring training at the top of the rotation. The other three spots remain open.
“There’s certainly potential there. Some things have to come together,” Zduriencik said at the team’s pre-spring training luncheon. “When you’re basing a lot of faith and trust in young kids that have (had) very short windows of success, that’s risky. I will say that they’re talented. But how quickly they become legitimate major league players is yet to be seen.”
Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi are expected to compete for the final three rotation spots, Zduriencik said. All have pitched in the major leagues, but only Beavan has come close to spending a full season as a starter.
“There may be an opportunity in the next few days or so,” he said, “where maybe we’ll be able to add something to it. We do have a little bit of depth, which is good.”
When pressed regarding how comfortable he was with Seattle’s current staff, Zduriencik was blunt.
“Not tremendously,” he said.
Zduriencik and McClendon were more optimistic about Walker, the 21-year-old right-hander from Shreveport, LA. Walker made his major league debut in September, going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts while showcasing a fastball in the upper-90s. Thursday McClendon didn’t guarantee Walker a place in the rotation, though he was clear he expected him to start the year in Seattle.
“I’d be very disappointed if he is not,” McClendon said.
Numerous reports linked the Mariners to Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but Zduriencik said the organization didn’t pursue him when they saw the asking price skyrocket. Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in Japan’s Pacific League.
Last week, the Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $155 million contract, plus a $20 million posting fee.
“I think we as an organization decided that was something we weren’t going to get involved in,” Zduriencik said. “We had interest, but then as it began to unfold, it just wasn’t something we were going to be able to do. We weren’t big players in that.”
Mariners may have a new team president
According to The Seattle Times, the Mariners have settled on a new team president and chief operating officer. It isn’t Tony LaRussa, as many fans hoped.
Per sports business reporter Geoff Baker, the organization plans to promote Kevin Mather, executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations, was chosen by CEO Howard Lincoln as the next team president.
Hearing that #Mariners executive VP Kevin Mather will succeed Chuck Armstrong as team president. Beat out fellow exec VP Bob Aylward.
— Geoff Baker (@gbakermariners) January 23, 2014
Stephen Pryor, Danny Hultzen still recovering
Listening to Rob Nodine describe Stephen Pryor’s injury Thursday was enough to unsettle the lunch that was offered. Pryor, a reliever whose fastball can reach 100 mph, last appeared in a game April 14, 2013. Nodine said he could return to the field by the end of May. He added that Pryor sustained the same injury that nearly ended Jake Peavy’s career.
“It was first diagnosed as a lat tear. There’s only been three of them to that point that have been surgically repaired,” he said. “What it did was tear some of the tendon and it had to be tacked back down and repaired through stitching.
“There have been very few of these injuries that have been surgically repaired. It’s going depend a lot on when he ramps up his throwing progression. We’re not holding him to a timetable because we want to see how this progresses.”
Meanwhile, Danny Hultzen will begin an interval throwing program when pitchers and catchers report to Peoria Feb. 12, Nodine said. Hultzen missed most of last season after undergoing surgery to repair torn tendons in his rotator cuff. There is no timetable yet for his return.
Nick Franklin to shortstop?
The Mariners made the splashiest free agent acquisition of the offseason when they signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract. The only drawback was that it displaced second-year second baseman Nick Franklin.
Zduriencik said Franklin, who climbed through the Mariners organization as a shortstop, will have the chance to challenge fellow second-year player Brad Miller for the starting gig in spring training.
“I don’t have the answer for that right now,” Zduriencik said of the shortstop situation. “I could sit with Lloyd, myself and the whole coaching staff, and I don’t think any of us could tell you exactly what’s going to happen.”
Lou Piniella to HOF
Sweet Lou is coming back to Seattle. At least for one day. The team said Piniella will inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony Aug. 9.
Piniella managed the Mariners from 1993-2002 and went 840-711, becoming the only winning skipper in team history. He led Seattle to four playoff appearances (1995, ’97, 2000 and ’01) and three appearances to the American League Championship Series.
In 2001 the Mariners tied a major league record by winning 116 games.