McClendon's first lineup glimpse into future
Primary position players in place, leadoff spot still up in air for 2014
PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners opened Cactus League action on Thursday afternoon against the Padres, they trotted out what new skipper Lloyd McClendon acknowledges is a "pretty representative" lineup for what might be seen this season.
With the exception of right fielder Corey Hart, all of Seattle's primary position players were in place, including new second baseman Robinson Cano hitting third behind Kyle Seager.
Many things are still to be determined over the next four weeks of Cactus League play, of course, including who will hit leadoff. Abraham Almonte was in that slot on Thursday and McClendon likes what the youngster brings to the table.
"He's an interesting guy," McClendon said. "He's a switch hitter. He has tremendous speed, the ability to bunt, steal bases, first to home. Typical guy that you're looking for in a leadoff role. He fits the bill. He gets an opportunity today."
Asked who else might get a shot in the leadoff role this spring, McClendon mentioned Nick Franklin, Xavier Avery, Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley. He didn't list Brad Miller, who led off 67 games last as a rookie, but this was far from an official list.
"We've got four weeks to figure it out," McClendon said.
The Mariners are being careful with Hart, who is coming off a pair of microfracture knee surgeries and didn't play in 2013 for the Brewers. But McClendon said Hart will be in the lineup on Friday when Seattle again faces the Padres.
Clearly the skipper isn't going to wait long to see what he's working with as he sorts through his new team. He followed Cano with Logan Morrison in the designated hitter spot on Thursday, then had Justin Smoak at first, Saunders in right, Ackley in left, Miller at short and Mike Zunino behind the plate.
"It's a pretty representative lineup, yeah," he said. "I like it. I think it has a chance to be productive, but we'll see. I wouldn't read too much into it."
The Mariners have a franchise-record 68 players in camp and McClendon will be watching closely to see how things that have been worked on the past two weeks are transferred over to live situations as the games begin. Cactus League results don't count for anything in the end, but they are an opportunity to make an impression.
"It's real important, particularly where we are and where we're trying to get to," McClendon said. "Guys need to understand they need to show a lot of energy, show off their talent. For most guys, Spring Training is to get yourself ready for the season. But obviously, we've got some questions that need to be answered. And there's some competition."
Mariners wait for rotation arms to get healthy
PEORIA, Ariz. -- While the Mariners have considerable depth in their rotation competition this spring, three key arms have been sidelined much of the opening weeks thanks to a sprained finger for Hisashi Iwakuma, a sore shoulder for Taijuan Walker and a stiff back for Brandon Maurer.
Iwakuma will see a doctor on Friday to have his finger re-examined after injuring the tendon in the middle digit of his throwing hand when he caught it in a net while doing drills prior to the start of camp. The initial estimate was that the standout right-hander would be out 4-6 weeks and manager Lloyd McClendon is waiting to see where that stands.
"We'll keep our fingers crossed, no pun intended," the skipper said. "It would be great [if he is ahead of schedule], but we'll just wait and see."
Walker has been limited to only some initial bullpen work early in camp and then long toss on flat ground in recent days. He's yet to throw live batting practice and isn't listed on the first week of pitching probables for Cactus League play.
"He was fine," McClendon said after Walker played catch on Wednesday. "He felt pretty good. He'll throw again and hopefully get on the mound in the next couple days."
Maurer has also been limited the past six days after his back stiffened. He played long toss with Walker on Wednesday and also remains on a scaled-back program for now.
"He threw, he felt better," McClendon said. "Hopefully, he'll continue to progress and we can get him back out there on the mound. He's a little behind right now, but we'll get him back out there."
Cano pleased with Smoak 'netting' double
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Robinson Cano got off to a nice start in his Mariners debut in Thursday's 7-1 Cactus League victory over the Padres, but Seattle's new second baseman sounded just as excited about a run-scoring double by teammate Justin Smoak.
Cano went 1-for-1 with a walk and a run scored, crossing the plate on Smoak's two-bagger to right-center in the first inning.
Cano worked with Smoak on a "net drill" on Wednesday, a ploy Cano uses to remind himself to keep his hands in close and not over-extend his swing by placing the net just on the other side of a ball on a tee.
Some have questioned whether Cano has the leadership qualities the Mariners expect to work with their young players, but he's wasted no time adopting that role this spring.
"If you look back where I was, most of the guys had been in the league for eight, 10, 15 years. Guys who had been successful," said Cano, who was formerly with the Yankees. "So, I learned from those guys and I would say it's time for me to pass that along now to the kids, especially a guy like Smoak. He's a guy we know can hit.
"Like I told him, you don't want to go through this year hitting .230 like last year," Cano said. "You've got to set your mind that starting now, you want to have a good season. So, you have to start from now. I did the net drill yesterday and he's been working with [hitting coach] Howard Johnson, too. You can see it today. That was a beautiful swing, especially from the right side. He kept his hands inside. If he does that during the season, you will see a difference this year."
Manager Lloyd McClendon was also pleased with Smoak's initial at-bat in his 1-for-2 day. The Mariners need the youngster to step up and provide more offense from his first-base position and McClendon sees the potential, particularly if Smoak doesn't worry just about hitting home runs.
"That was very pleasant," McClendon said. "That was a great at-bat. He really stayed inside the ball nice and really drove the ball to the gap. One thing we want to impress upon him is that I think he has the ability to lead the league in doubles. And that's what I want his goal to be is to lead the league in doubles. If you hit doubles, you're doing everything right."
• With third-base coach John Stearns sidelined 4-6 weeks following hernia surgery this week, Triple-A Tacoma manager Rich Donnelly moved into that role for Thursday's Cactus League opener. But McClendon said no final decision has been made on how that will play out.
"[General manager] Jack [Zduriencik] and I are still talking about options and things we can do," McClendon said.
• The Mariners' first four Cactus League games will be carried live on 710 ESPN Seattle radio. The first televised game on ROOT Sports won't be until March 12 when the Mariners host the Cubs in a night game in Peoria. There will be seven televised games on ROOT this spring.
• James Paxton gets the start in Friday's game against the Padres, with Scott Baker starting on Saturday against the Angels and Randy Wolf scheduled to open Sunday's game against the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.
• The final 11 Mariners players who needed to finalize contracts came to terms on Thursday -- pitchers Bobby LaFromboise, Lucas Luetge, Brandon Maurer, Hector Noesi, Stephen Pryor, Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker; catcher Jesus Sucre; and infielders Brad Miller, Jesus Montero and Carlos Triunfel.
• Joe Myhra, who served as director of maintenance for Safeco Field since 2008, has been named vice president of ballpark operations by Mariners. Myhra succeeds Scott Jenkins, who left the club this month to become general manager of the new Atlanta Stadium being built by the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.