ARLINGTON, Texas — So what changed?
Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said earlier this week that Corey Hart “wasn’t anywhere close” to being ready to play right field because of concerns regarding the start/stop stress on his surgically repaired knees.
And then … Hart started Thursday in right field — the first time since July 21, 2012 — as the Mariners closed out a four-game series with an 8-6 loss to the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.
“He told me he’s feeling good,” McClendon said. “That his knees are fine. Hey, listen, I’ve got to go with my player. He says he’s feeling pretty good. But we’ll watch him. We’ll keep an eye on him.”
Hart had no problems. He ran down J.P. Arencibia’s drive into the right-center gap in the second inning and added a sliding catch on his knees later in the game.
“I was nervous,” Hart admitted, “but once I got out there, I’ve been out there plenty of times. It kind of came back pretty quick.”
Hart missed all of last season while recovering from surgery on both knees, but he contends nagging soreness in his forearm and lower back has been more of a concern.
“I was a little apprehensive in spring when I was out there because I didn’t know what would happen if I slid,” he said. “As time’s gone on, the knees haven’t been a problem. They’ve gotten stronger.
“I’ve actually been able to run a little faster than I thought I would. The instincts have been there, and I haven’t even worried about that part of the game.”
McClendon said Hart is unlikely to play right field this weekend in Miami, where games won’t include the designated hitter. But he said Hart could see time at first base.
“He was (moving well),” McClendon said, “but we’ll take it slow. We’ll make sure we continue to build with him. Not get too far ahead of ourselves. I’m sure he might be a little sore (Friday).”
WHO’LL START SUNDAY?
There’s nothing official yet, but right-hander Brandon Maurer looms as an increasingly likely promotion candidate to start Sunday’s series finale in Miami.
Left-hander Anthony Fernandez, the other top possibility, threw 83 pitches Wednesday in Triple-A Tacoma’s 10-8 victory against Salt Lake.
General manager Jack Zduriencik said the Mariners likely would look internally for a starter to replace injured right-hander Blake Beavan, who was placed on the disabled list Wednesday because of shoulder tendinitis.
Fernandez and Maurer are the only starters in the minors currently on the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Maurer, 23, loomed as a rotation candidate in the spring before an ailing back derailed his chances.
Maurer made three relief appearances for Tacoma before throwing 54 pitches in a start Monday in which he threw just two innings. He has allowed two earned runs and five hits in 8 innings overall with 17 strikeouts.
McClendon said the Mariners likely would option a nonpitcher to the minors to clear space for Sunday’s starter.
JONES ON BOARD
Outfielder James Jones did what just about every player does when he gets the call to report for the first time to the big leagues.
He called his mom.
“She didn’t understand at first what ‘being called up’ is,” he said. “But she finally realized it, and she was real excited for me.”
That explanation was easier for Jones than getting from Tacoma to Texas. Jones didn’t arrive in time Wednesday to be in uniform. His gear didn’t arrive until late Thursday morning.
“I tried to sleep (on the plane),” he said, “but I couldn’t do it. I just sat there the whole time and listened to a bunch of music. I just couldn’t wait to get here.”
Jones, 25, was the Mariners’ fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft. He was batting .310 with a .370 on-base percentage in 11 games for the Rainiers before his promotion.
PRYOR OFF DL, OPTIONED
Right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
The move came a little more than a year after Pryor went to the disabled list with a back injury that later was diagnosed as a torn back muscle. He underwent surgery Aug. 9.
Pryor, 24, allowed seven runs and seven hits in 52/3 innings in six rehab outings this year at Double-A Jackson and Tacoma.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to test his recovery from a strained ligament in his middle finger by throwing 45 pitches in three simulated innings before Friday’s game in Miami. If all goes well, Iwakuma could depart next week on a rehab assignment … Robinson Cano’s first homer as a Mariner, a three-run shot in the third, came in his 63rd plate appearance … Erasmo Ramirez had the Mariners’ shortest outing of the season by a starting pitcher, at two-plus innings. He has allowed 13 earned runs in 11 innings over his past three starts (10.64 ERA) … Texas reliever Hector Noesi did not allow a run in 4 innings over two outings against his former club. He did permit two inherited runners to score in the third inning.
The Mariners open interleague play at 4:10 p.m. (PDT) Friday, when they make their first trip to Marlins Park in Miami for a three-game series.
Seattle right-hander Chris Young (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his second start of the season. He worked six scoreless innings in Sunday’s loss to Oakland.
Miami will start righty Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 4.19).firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners