It's a very important day ... yes, it's Chuck Norris' Birthday. He's 71 years old, but his beard is infinity. Just kidding. The old Chuck Norris facts got me through the 2007 season of covering the Rainiers. Many a rain delay, we sat and perused that site to keep us occupied.
On to the Mariners ...
Franklin Gutierrez has left camp and flown to Florida with his wife, Vivian, to be with her father, Luis Salazar.
For those of you unfamiliar, Salazar is a minor league manager for the Braves and earlier this week he was struck in the face in the dugout during the game on a line drive off the bat of Brian McCann. He suffered extensive facial injuries and is in the hospital.
Closer candidate Chris Ray has been bothered by a sore left calf in recent days. He threw a simulated game yesterday, and will be out of Cactus League action for a little more time. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session and then one more simulated game before getting back into regular games.
Ray was surprised to feel the calf get sore during some running workouts.
"I’ve never done anything to my calf before. I didn’t realize there was any muscle in there," he joked.
But Ray wasn't about to take any chances with the calf. He can pitch and it doesn't affect his mechanics. But he was a little concerned about having to sprint off the mount to cover first base on a ground ball to the right side.
It was one of those things where it got really sore and they didn’t want to push it.
This is the time of the season if you want to miss games. It’s not like my arm is falling behind. I’m just being a little cautious.
"It was one of those things where it got really sore and they didn’t want to push it," he said. "You know if I go cover and I tear it I'm out four to six weeks."
Instead, he's missing just a handful of games and two likely appearances.
"This is the time of the season if you want to miss games," he said. "Even if I come back in six days, there’s still 15 days of spring, that’s enough to get in six more games."
Ray would be more concerned if the injury didn't allow him to throw.
"It's not like my arm is falling behind," he said.
A younger player might have tried to push through the injury fearing any time away would hinder them from making the team.
But Ray knows how spring training works. And the experience and confidence in himself and his stuff is keeping him from worrying.
"You get to the point where you trust yourself and trust the fact you are there for a reason," he said. "You have to go out there and perform that’s what it comes down to. Worrying about what other guys are doing and how many slots there to how mahy guys there is only a waste of time and can be detrimental to you."
Realistically, the competition for interim closer is down to Ray, Brandon League and Josh Lueke. League seems to be in the lead, but he wasn't particularly good yesterday. Lueke has no big league experience. Ray had 33 saves for the Orioles in 2006 and 16 in 2007 before arm problems shut him down.
Third base prospect Alex Liddi has gotten several calls in the last 24 hours after crushing a grand slam off of former Mariner Jon Huber during yesterday's 9-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"He left a fastball over the plate and I was just thinking to hit the ball hard not hit a home run," Liddi said.
Did he know it was gone?
"Yeah, I think I did," he said. "I knew I hit it good."
With the game being replayed on MLB Network last night, Liddi got to watch the homer again.
"Yeah, I saw it with some friends," he said smiling.
Liddi hit .281 with 15 homers and 92 RBI with a .353 OBP and .476 slugging percentage last year in Double A West Tenn.
It seems likely he should start the season with the Rainiers. He's certainly impressed manager Eric Wedge.
"The physical tools are all there," Wedge said. "He's impressed me the entire camp. I loved the way he played third base in the B game the other day. The at-bats have been more consistent."
Liddi is just trying to slow things down and not press. Though it isn't easy stepping up the plate with bases loaded.
"It's for every at-bat, no matter if I have people on base or not, you have a chance to show them what you can do," he said. "You have to relax and calm down, even though it's not easy. You want to show them what you've done your whole career. Every day I'm getting more comfortable."
It's obviously a split squad game for the Angels today, so only CF Peter Bourjos is the only ever-day player playing in Peoria against the Mariners. But I'm pretty interested to see top Angels prospect Mike Trout, who is rated by Baseball America as the second best prospect in all of baseball.
- Ichiro - DH
- Chone Figgins - 3B
- Milton Bradley - LF
- Justin Smoak - 1B
- Ryan Langerhans - CF
- Gabe Gross - RF
- Jack Wilson- 2B
- Brendan Ryan- SS
- Adam Moore - C
Also scheduled to pitch -- RHP Josh Lueke, LHP Aaron Laffey, RHP Jose Flores, RHP Justin Miller, RHP Denny Bautista, LHP Fabio Castro, RHP Chris Smith
- Reggie Willits RF
- Peter Bourjos CF
- Mike Trout DH
- Brandon Wood 3B
- Chris Pettit LF
- Hank Conger C
- Gabe Jacobo 1B
- Andrew Romine SS
- Gil Velazquez 2B
RHP Matt Palmer