Mariners won’t count on Hart early

Staff writerMarch 31, 2014 

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Right fielder Corey Hart, signed by the Seattle Mariners to provide a big right-handed bat to a lefty-heavy lineup, will be on the bench Monday for the season opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I doubt if Corey is going to be (in the lineup) every day right off the start,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “There’s still some building we need to do with him. You have to look ahead. He won’t play (Monday).

“We’ve got two lefties the next two days. So he’ll be in the lineup the next two days.”

The Angels list left-handers C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago as their starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Mariners then head to Oakland, which projects two lefties (Tommy Milone and Scott Kazmir) in the four-game weekend series.

“I’ve got to be careful in how much I push (Hart) early,” McClendon said. “He’s OK with that. ... If I can get 145 to 150 games out of him this year, I’d be very happy.”

UPDATES ON PITCHERS WALKER, IWAKUMA

It’s beginning to look as if Taijuan Walker will be ready to rejoin the rotation before Hisashi Iwakuma.

Walker worked four innings in a minor league game Sunday in Arizona and is slotted to open the season Friday on a rehab assignment at Single-A High Desert against Inland Empire (Angels).

Iwakuma is one week into his throwing program with a baseball — remember, he began with three days of throwing a tennis ball — but McClendon said he likely wouldn’t throw from a mound for another 10 days.

The projected program of bullpen workouts and minor league games figures to push Iwakuma’s return, in a best-case scenario, into late April. He is recovering from a strained ligament in his middle finger.

Walker threw 55 pitches Sunday in his third minor league outing since returning from a one-week shutdown in early March because of bursitis in his shoulder. He threw 17 additional pitches in a bullpen session.

That suggests Walker, with no setbacks, could be conditioned for 90-plus pitches by the middle of the month.

MCCLENDON’S SELF-APPRAISAL

McClendon admitted he is “happy” to be “back in the saddle” as a big league manager for the first time since Sept. 4, 2005, with Pittsburgh. He also sounds at peace with what he views as the limitations of his role.

“I’m no smarter than anybody else,” he said, “but I’m no dumber, either. I know when to bunt, when to hit and run. I know when to bring in the right pitcher for the right situation.

“Once they’re in there, it’s up to them to get the job done. My job is to make sure I put my personnel in the best possible position to be successful. The rest is up to them.”

ON TAP

The Mariners open the season with a three-game set at the Angels.

Projected pitching matchups: Right-hander Felix Hernandez vs. Angels RHP Jered Weaver on Monday, RHP Erasmo Ramirez vs. Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson on Tuesday, and LHP James Paxton vs. Angels LHP Hector Santiago on Wednesday.

The season opener will be shown on Root Sports and ESPN2.

bob.dutton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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