SEATTLE — Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez walked back onto the Safeco Field grass Monday.
After making four starts at Triple-A Tacoma, Ramirez was brought back to the big club to start Tuesday. Ramirez was sent to the Rainiers on June 25, when the Mariners recalled reliever Brandon Maurer. Seattle sent first baseman Justin Smoak to Tacoma to make room for Ramirez.
Smoak was 4-for-20 since being recalled from the Rainiers on July 11. Manager Lloyd McClendon cited a logjam at first base – Logan Morrison, Corey Hart and Willie Bloomquist can all play there – and a desire to keep an eight-man bullpen after the Mariners played 37 innings in a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim last weekend.
That plugs one hole, as Seattle was unsure who would start Tuesday. It also opens another.
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Wednesday’s starter for the finale against the New York Mets is still not determined. Manager Lloyd McClendon said reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is an option to start.
McClendon said Wilhelmsen, who has been used in long relief, is at a point where he could throw five innings and 65-70 pitches. Wilhelmsen has not pitched since Friday, when he went four innings during the Mariners’ 3-2, 16-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California.
One other option for Wednesday is Taijuan Walker, who is slated to start for the Rainiers that night.
All the shuffling also bumps Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez back a day. They will start Thursday and Friday, respectively.
“I’ve said the same thing all year,” McClendon said. “When I have the opportunity to give them extra days, I’ll do it.”
Iwakuma only lasted 77 pitches during his first start after the All-Star break. That caught McClendon’s eye.
“He was a little fatigued,” McClendon said. “When I can do it, I’ll do it.”
Check is not in the mail
McClendon recommends reviewing check swings as part of instant replay.
On Sunday, the Mariners thought Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick had struck out to end the seventh inning with Seattle leading by two. Instead, it was ruled a check swing. The Mariners lost, 6-5, in the bottom of the ninth.
“Everybody talks about a lot of different things; we were one checked swing that wasn’t called from winning that game,” McClendon said.
Kendrick went on to single off Yoervis Medina, scoring Mike Trout and cutting the Mariners’ lead to 5-4.
“You really want to talk about replays and what should be replayed?” McClendon said. “We had two checked swings earlier in that series — one on (Kyle) Seager, he barely took his bat off his shoulder, strike three. Just need to be consistent with it. I think it cost us a ballgame (Sunday).”
Meet the Mets, again
Mariners hitting coach Howard Johnson was a popular figure Monday afternoon.
Johnson was a two-time All-Star and 1986 World Series winner with the New York Mets, who are in Seattle for a three-game interleague series. He also coached in the Mets’ system, rising from batting coach of the Single-A short-season Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League in 2001 and becoming New York’s hitting coach in 2007.
Johnson worked with several Mets, including star third baseman David Wright.
“Loving the orange and the blue,” Johnson said. “It’s part of my upbringing as a professional baseball player. Lots of great memories. They don’t go away.”
Johnson still has memorabilia from the Mets’ 1986 World Series win — pennants, scorebooks, a ring. The series is known for the moment in Game 6 when the ball rolled through Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs. The Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the 10th, tying the series, and went on to win Game 7.
“Those are things that you treasure the older you get, the further removed from that year you get,” Johnson said.
As for Buckner?
“The whole drama with that, to think if that would happen today ... ” Johnson said. “There’s been some playoff games decided by crazy stuff. We were on the brink of elimination. It was amazing we were able to come back and win like that.”
It was 20 years ago Tuesday — July 22, 1994 — that the Mariners began what turned out to be a 20-game, 21-day, seven-city, 10,425-mile trip while the Kingdome’s roof was being repaired. They went 11-9 during that stretch.
Six years later, the Mariners endured the first home rain delay in team history. Seattle’s 13-5 win over the Texas Rangers was interrupted for 54 minutes when rain drenched fans at Safeco Field and the $517.6 million stadium’s roof wouldn’t close because of a computer problem. The roof finally began closing about 20 minutes later.
The Mariners continue a seven-game homestand at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday with the second of three games against the Mets.
Ramirez (1-4, 4.58 ERA) will face right-hander Jacob deGrom (3-5, 3.18).
The series continues Wednesday afternoon. The Baltimore Orioles arrive Thursday for a four-game series.