Ask right-hander Brandon Maurer about finding a comfort zone in the Mariners’ bullpen, and it prompts a wide smile as he offers a quick explanation.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “Earlier in the season, I wasn’t having fun.”
For “fun,” read “dominant.”
Maurer, 24, has pitched 15 scoreless innings over 10 appearances since his June 25 recall from Triple-A Tacoma. He has allowed just six hits and two walks in that span while striking out 17.
Contrast that with seven starts earlier in the year: 1-4 with a 7.52 ERA while allowing 43 hits and 14 walks in 321/3 innings. Five of those 23 hits were homers.
“He has less to think about as a reliever,” manager Lloyd McClendon suggested. “He just goes after guys. His stuff is plenty good enough. His stuff has never been an issue.”
Pitchers often trim back their repertoire when they shift to the bullpen, but Maurer said he’s continuing to use all four of his pitches. The results are just better.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m having fun.”
Willie Bloomquist still isn’t sure how he suffered a bruised right knee Wednesday while running out an RBI grounder in a 3-2 loss to the New York Mets.
All he knows is it hurts.
“I hit the bag,” the South Kitsap High grad said, “but it wasn’t the foot that hit the bag. It was the other one. I came down after the base to start slowing down, and I just jammed it.”
Bloomquist continues to limp noticeably when he walks, although he said he feels better after getting an injection Friday that included platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to help lubricate the knee joint.
The Mariners placed Bloomquist on the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday’s series opener against the Orioles. Right now, there’s no certainty 15 days will be sufficient.
“It’s a bone bruise,” Bloomquist said, “and it’s painful. I got an injection, and they’re hoping by next week it will feel better.”
Plans for Paxton
Rehabbing left-hander James Paxton is scheduled to throw 75-80 pitches in a rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma against Sacramento, an affiliate of the A’s, at Cheney Stadium.
Plans then call for Paxton to join the Mariners on their road trip. If all goes well, he could return to the big-league rotation Aug. 2 against the Orioles in Baltimore.
Paxton opened the season by winning his first two starts, both against the Angels, before he was diagnosed with a strained back muscle (left latissimus dorsi) after exiting his second start — April 8 at Safeco Field.
He began a rehab assignment May 24 at Tacoma, but it ended after one start because he experienced shoulder soreness. He started a second rehab assignment July 17 by pitching 22/3 innings for Short-A Everett.
Paxton shifted to Tacoma for a three-inning start Tuesday. So far, he reports no problems with his back or shoulder.
Outfielder Endy Chavez was a late scratch because of a jammed finger. That resulted in Corey Hart playing right field for the first time since April 20. Chavez suffered the injury on a head-first slide at second base in the fifth inning of Friday’s game. Chavez is unlikely to play Sunday but is expected to be available for Tuesday’s series opener in Cleveland. ... Fernando Rodney is now one of six active pitchers with 200 career saves. The others are Joe Nathan (362), Francisco Rodriguez (333), Jonathan Papelbon (310), Jose Valverde (288) and Huston Street (260). ... Dustin Ackley was 2-for-4 with two doubles and is now batting .358 (24-for-67) in July. He has raised his average from .214 to .245. ... Friday marked the 29th time in Felix Hernandez’s career that he got a no-decision when pitching at least seven innings while allowing one or no runs. No other pitcher has more than 18 such no-decisions over the span of Hernandez’s career. ... Hernandez also leads the American League in WHIP (walks and hits per inning) at 0.89. The only other AL pitchers under 1.00, entering Saturday, were teammate Hisashi Iwakuma and Oakland’s Scott Kazmir at 0.99.
It was six years ago Sunday — July 27, 2008 — that Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus was honored as the Ford Frick Award recipient at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The award is given annually to one broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.” Niehaus served as the Mariners’ lead play-by-play broadcaster from their first season in 1977 until his death after the 2010 season.
My, oh, my!
The Mariners and Orioles complete their four-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Roenis Elias (8-8, 4.41 ERA) will face Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-5, 3.91).
Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The Mariners have an open date Monday before departing for a six-game road trip, which consists of three games in Cleveland and three in Baltimore.