SEATTLE — Former Mariners right-hander Rafael Carmona has been out of Major League Baseball for 15 years.
It’s remote, but the possibility exists of Carmona sitting at home, perhaps in his native Puerto Rico, telling a story while watching Tuesday night’s Seattle Mariners game against the New York Yankees.
It could start with how Carmona pinned Derek Jeter into an 0-2 count May 29, 1995, before forcing him to fly out to right field. The next at-bat, Jeter grounded out to shortstop.
Carmona started the future Hall of Fame shortstop and baseball icon on an 0-for-5 big league debut.
“Oh-for-5,” Jeter instantly said Tuesday when asked what he remembers about his 1995 debut which came in the Kingdome.
A mere 2,654 games after his first appearance, Jeter scratched at the batter’s box dirt with his right heel, extended his right arm as a signal for time, tugged down the front of his helmet and looked out at the mound to start his final series in Seattle on Tuesday night.
At 39 years old, the Yankees captain is playing his final and 20th year in the big leagues. He’s spent the entire time under microscopic scrutiny, tending to outsized demands and expectations with grace. The 3,370 hits coming into this series and 13 All-Star appearances helped, too.
“For me, for the last 20 years, Derek Jeter is everything that’s been right with the game of baseball,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s a class act. It’s been a pleasure competing against him.”
A day after his opening failure against Carmona and Co., Jeter came up with two hits. Again batting ninth, he struck out against Tim Belcher before hitting a ground ball single to left and a bouncer into center.
Jeter wouldn’t play, but watched the epic 1995 American League Division Series between the clubs. He had a front-row seat for The Slide by Ken Griffey Jr. in the bottom of the 11th inning following Edgar Martinez’s double that sent the Mariners into the American League Championship Series.
“It was an exciting series,” Jeter said. “They were fun games to watch with the exception of that last inning. The fans were energetic. That team — I don’t know if you want to say saved baseball in Seattle — but, I’m pretty sure it had a lot to do with this new stadium being built.
“I just remember how loud it was in (the Kingdome).”
On his first visit to Seattle, he found out it’s a city that sleeps, counter to the environs of his home club. He and his father, Sanderson, went to find something to eat following his debut and everything was closed.
“We ended up walking to a McDonald’s,” Jeter said.
Lurking behind his five championships, thousands of hits with an inside-out swing and signature plays (The flip against the Oakland A’s, diving headlong into the stands against the Boston Red Sox, postseason home runs, etc.) was an ability to manage his world that was equally impressive.
Jeter will leave New York scandal-free despite two decades in the spotlight. That in itself is a feat.
“Derek was and still is unique because he dictates the pace,” McClendon said. “He dictates what’s going on, and I think that’s pretty special to be able to do that, particularly in that market. Nothing ever overwhelmed him. He never let anything speed up what he was trying to accomplish.”
The Mariners added to his gift haul from each final road appearance by presenting him with a base from Safeco Field and a $5,000 check for his Turn 2 Foundation. He was presented the gifts by Martinez, Jay Buhner, Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano as part of an on-field pregame ceremony.
MARINERS DRAFT PICK MORGAN CASHES IN BIG
The Mariners must really like outfielder Gareth Morgan, whom they selected last week with the 74th overall pick in the draft. The Toronto Sun is reporting Morgan, an 18-year old from Toronto, received a $2 million signing bonus.
The assigned slot value for that pick was $760,300.
The Mariners confirmed the signing prior to the game Tuesday against the New York Yankees at Safeco Field but, as per club policy, did not announce financial terms.
Morgan is 6-feet-4 and 220 pounds, bats and throws right-handed and has played center and right field. He will report to the Mariners’ club in the Arizona Rookie League. Morgan took batting practice Tuesday at Safeco Field.
“Starting with the draft, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Morgan said. “I’m glad Seattle picked me, and I flew down on Sunday. Toured the city. Went on a couple of Duck (boat) tours. It’s a great place to be. An exciting time.”
The Mariners have also signed their picks from the fourth through 10 rounds. According to Jim Callis of MLB.com, they signed those seven players at a sufficiently below-slot aggregate to offset Morgan’s above-slot bonus.
WALKER BACK IN TACOMA, PAXTON FEELING BETTER
Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker was activated then optioned back to Tacoma on Tuesday. Walker must stay in Tacoma a minimum of 10 days, unless he is replacing an injured player, before he can be recalled to the Mariners.
McClendon said Walker will stay in Tacoma until he can consistently pitch well and deeper into games. Walker threw five innings Monday night, allowing four hits, two home runs and striking out three.
Left-hander James Paxton was shut down May 27 because of stiffness in his triceps and upper arm. He played catch for five minutes from 60 feet Monday. He said he felt no pain after the throwing session and again Tuesday.
Paxton hasn’t pitched in a major league game since April 8.
Outfielder Logan Morrison’s minor league rehab assignment will officially end Wednesday. At that time, the Mariners will decide if he will be activated and brought to Seattle or possibly sent back to Tacoma. … Outfielder Michael Saunders was back in the lineup for the first time since experiencing shoulder pain June 6. … First baseman Justin Smoak missed his fourth consecutive game because of quad pain. McClendon said Smoak is day to day.
The Mariners continue an eight-game homestand at 7:10 p.m. against the Yankees at Safeco Field. Right-hander Chris Young (5-3,3.42 ERA) will face Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (9-1, 2.02).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @Todd_Dybas