PEORIA, Ariz. — When All-Star closer Fernando Rodney looks around the Mariners’ clubhouse, and contemplates the coming season, he says he can’t help dancing.
“I’m pretty happy with the (off-season) moves that we made,” he said. “Signing (Nelson) Cruz and bringing in a couple of more guys to help to win the division. That’s motivated me. That’s why I’m dancing.”
(Point to note: While smooth on his feet, Rodney admits he’s only the second-best dancer on the club — only second-best in the bullpen, in fact. The best, he insisted, is fellow reliever Tom Wilhelmsen.)
Rodney threw his first spring bullpen workout Tuesday — and came away pleased. A year ago, he battled tightness in his arm and back after signing with the Mariners just as camp was getting under way.
Never miss a local story.
“Last year,” he said, “I tried to do too much. This year, I took the first two days to get loose. I said, `I’m ready for Tuesday.’ Lot of strikes…I just tried to hit the location to get ready for the season.”
And, yes, Rodney is pumped for the season.
“The key for me?” he said. “The leadoff guy (Austin Jackson). I think if this guy gets on base, we can go a long way. That’s important when you have a team like us. We have a good offense, but we need this guy on base.
“The offense, I think, is going to be there. It’s not going to be every day. But one day it can be Cruz or (Kyle) Seager or (Robinson) Cano. They can share that.“The starting pitching? Not bad. We’ve got Felix (Hernandez) and Kuma (Hisashi Iwakuma). The other three guys, I don’t know who it’s going to be, but they showed last year they can pitch and compete…
“The bullpen is still the same. We’re missing one guy (lefty Joe Beimel), but I think they brought back the pieces to cover the hole.”
And the closer is back after leading the majors with a club-record 48 saves.
Time to dance.
Mariners lefty James Paxton rolled through PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice) again Tuesday amid expectations that he should be ready to resume full throwing sessions by early next week.
“That’s the plan,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Ideally, we want to make sure that all of the soreness is gone (from Paxton’s forearm) before we get him back out there.
“The doctors feel he should be fine by the first of next week.”
Paxton injured both forearms last week, prior to the start of official workouts, when he reached to catch himself as he stumbled to the ground while taking part in an optional agility drill.
Wryly terming the mishap an “un-athletic moment,” Paxton said he feels ready now to resume throwing even as he understands the club’s go-slow approach.
“I feel fine now,” he said, “but they’re just being careful. They don’t want to push me too hard or anything.”
Paxton, 26, missed four months last season because of a strained back muscle. This latest setback isn’t expected to affect his preparation because he had already thrown several bullpen sessions before camp opened.
“It won’t take much for him,” McClendon said, “to get back into the swing of things.”
OLMOS TO TEXAS
Left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos is heading to Texas on a waiver claim. He was designated for assignment Feb. 13 by the Mariners to clear roster space after they signed free-agent second baseman Rickie Weeks.
The Mariners acquired Olmos, 24, in a Nov. 20 waiver claim from Miami, and he once projected as a candidate to replace departed free-agent Joe Beimel in the bullpen.
Olmos was a combined 3-3 with a 4.06 ERA last season in 51 games for Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans in the Marlins’ system.