Leone a scoreless success in big league debut

Staff writerApril 7, 2014 

OAKLAND — Seattle Mariners reliever Dominic Leone saw the third pitch of his major league career stroked for a double Sunday. He believes it might have been the best thing that could have happened.

“I know that sounds weird,” he said. “You’d think you give up a double, you’d get all hyped up. But I think it settled me down. I realized this is still just baseball. I’ve just got to execute my pitches.”

Leone worked around that leadoff double by Oakland’s Eric Sogard by working a scoreless seventh inning in a 6-3 loss to the Athletics at O.co Coliseum.

“It was crazy,” Leone said, “but it was fun. I used a lot of emotion going into it. But at the end of the day, I put up a zero on the board and kept the team in the game. Tried to be effective.”

The Mariners summoned Leone, 22, from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday after designating Hector Noesi for assignment. It capped a swift rise through the system following Leone’s selection in the 16th round of the 2012 draft.

“He’s got a power arm with power secondary stuff,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s got a real good presence about him. He’s not overwhelmed by any situation.

“He earned his spot (with a strong spring performance in big league camp). I think he’s going to be very important to this ballclub.”

YOUNG AGAIN

Veteran right-hander Chris Young made his first big-league appearance since Sept. 28, 2012, when he replaced starter Erasmo Ramirez with no outs and runners at first and third in the fifth inning.

It also marked the first relief appearance of his professional career, which includes 159 big league and 102 minor league starts since the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him out of Princeton in the third round of the 2001 draft.

“The game is still the same,” Young said. “You’ve got to make quality pitches. There are no excuses. Once you get the ball, you’ve got to get the job done. That’s been my mentality. Take the ball and try to get outs.”

The Mariners signed Young, 34, on March 27 to fill the fifth spot in their rotation after failing to reach an agreement with Randy Wolf on a major league deal.

Young spent most of the spring in Washington’s camp but became a free agent after his March 25 release. He missed most of last season while recovering from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve issue affecting his shoulder.

Plans called for Young to start Friday’s game against the A’s before unplayable grounds at O.co Coliseum prompted a switch to the bullpen as a long reliever. He worked two scoreless innings in Sunday’s loss.

“I was prepared for Friday night,” Young said. “Obviously, that (game plan) is still with me. ... I felt strong. I felt two innings went by pretty quickly. But I’ll be ready to go Tuesday and give the club whatever it needs.”

LEARNING CURVE

Abraham Almonte ran the Mariners out of a promising inning by trying to go from first to third on Brad Miller’s sharp two-out single in the second inning.

The Mariners had already scored twice (on RBI singles by Almonte and Miller) and had Robinson Cano coming to the plate. A strong throw by Oakland right fielder Sam Fuld cut down Almonte at third.

“In that situation,” McClendon said, “you’ve got to know we’ve got our best hitter coming to the plate. You’ve got to (be able to) go to third standing up. The only way you learn is to make mistakes.”

Almonte realized it was a mistake.

“It was kind of a bad play,” he said. “There were two outs. It was a little bit risky. I think if the ball was hit a little bit softer, I like my chances. But he hit it so hard.

“Next time, I’ll make a better decision and let Cano hit with a runner on second.”

BREAK FOR HART

After starting the previous four games, Corey Hart got a break Sunday in hopes of aiding his recovery from a sore right forearm.

“It’s a great opportunity to get him two days off,” McClendon said. “Let him freshen up and be ready for the home opener (Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels).”

Logan Morrison shifted from right field to Hart’s role as designated hitter for the series finale. That opened a starting spot in right for Michael Saunders.

Hart got Friday off, too, because of the postponement. He has two homers and a single in 18 at-bats in four games.

“I think the light is starting to flick a little bit,” McClendon said. “You can see the hands starting to quicken up. He’s starting to recognize breaking balls a little better.

“He’s still not quite over the hump with the tissue issue with his bicep. I just want to be careful with him and keep him moving forward. An opportunity to give him two days off, it just makes sense.”

MINOR DETAILS

Baseball America picked third baseman DJ Peterson as the prospect Hitter of the Day for Saturday, when he went 4-for-4 with three RBIs in high Single-A High Desert’s 9-3 victory over Inland Empire (Angels).

Peterson entered Sunday at 6-for-8 over the previous two games with five RBIs. He was the Mariners’ first-round pick in the 2013 draft.

LOOKING BACK

It was 32 years ago Monday — April 7, 1982 — that right-hander Edwin Nunez became (and remains) the youngest player in Mariners history at 18 years, 10 months and 11 days.

Nunez worked 3 innings in relief in a 7-5 loss at Minnesota. He allowed one run, on a homer by Kent Hrbek, and four hits while walking two and striking out one.

Signed in 1979 as a 16-year-old in Puerto Rico, Nunez spent the first six-plus years of his career with the Mariners before going to the Mets in a July 11, 1988, trade for left-hander Gene Walter.

Nunez, now 50, was 28-36 with a 4.19 earned-run average in 427 games over a 13-year career with the Mariners, Mets, Tigers, Brewers, Rangers and A’s.

ON TAP

The Mariners have an open date Monday before playing their home opener at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday against the Angels at Safeco Field.

Rookie left-hander James Paxton (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will try to stifle the Angels for the second time in a week. He worked seven scoreless innings Wednesday in an 8-2 win in Anaheim, Calif.

The Mariners also will get a second look at left-hander Hector Santiago (0-1, 7.20), who yielded four runs and seven hits over five-plus innings in a loss to Paxton.

Pregame ceremonies, which will feature the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, start at 6:30 p.m. The game will be shown on Root Sports.

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

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