SEATTLE — While rookie Carson Smith remains the Seattle Mariners’ first choice to close out games, veteran Fernando Rodney is moving closer to reclaiming his former role after three straight scoreless outings.
“Obviously, Carson has done a nice job,” manager Lloyd McClendon said prior to Wednesday’s game against San Francisco at Safeco Field.
“I’ve said all along the biggest question with Carson is the ability to go back-to-back and, sometimes, back-to-back-to-back (or) three out of five.
“I will say this: Probably on days when Smith can not go, you might see Rodney or a combination of Rodney and somebody else.”
McClendon pulled Rodney from closing duties in early June after a series of poor outings spiked his ERA to 6.75. Smith stepped in and has saves in all three opportunities, including the final out in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory.
Rodney pitched the seventh inning Tuesday in San Francisco, with the Mariners trailing by one run, and recorded three routine ground-outs while throwing just nine pitches.
“A lot of ground balls,” McClendon said. “A lot of strikes. Adding and subtracting from the fastball. Slowing down and letting the arm catch up. He’s close…
“Listen, we need Fernando Rodney if we’re going to be successful this year. I think he’s well on his way back to being that pitcher that we all want him to be…When he’s hitting his spots, he can get easy outs.”
PAXTON ON HOLD
Left-hander James Paxton is recovering slower than expected from a strained middle finger and, McClendon said, is no longer expected to begin his throwing program later this week.
“I think he’s scheduled to see the doctor maybe some time next week,” McClendon said. “He’s just doing his conditioning and core stuff. It’s a little frustrating for him right now.”
Paxton suffered the injury in the fifth inning of a May 28 game against Cleveland at Safeco Field. He is 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts.
The Mariners confirmed two more signings from their 40-player draft class, which means 29 players have reached agreements.
Right-handed pitcher Dylan Thompson, a fourth-round pick from Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C., received a $585,000 bonus that is $137,000 above the slot price of $448,000 for the 125th overall pick.
Thompson previously signed a collegiate letter of intent to play at Coastal Carolina. He will open his pro career at Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League.
The Mariners also signed left-hander pitcher Dylan Silva, an 11th-round pick from Florida State. He will report to Short-A Everett.
The Mariners remain $15,500 under their bonus pool with only one player unsigned through the 10th round: first baseman/third baseman Conner Hale, a ninth-round pick from Louisiana State.
Hale’s pro career is on hold until LSU finishes its season in the College World Series. He is expected to sign shortly thereafter.
All players with collegiate eligibility remaining must sign by 2 p.m. on July 17. Players without collegiate eligibility have until next year’s draft.
Third-base coach Rich Donnelly is expected to miss a few games while he recovers from an operation Wednesday to address a urinary infection that first surfaced Monday in San Francisco.
“He’s probably going to stay in the hospital for a couple of days,” McClendon said, “just to make sure it’s all cleared up.”
First-base coach Chris Woodward shifted to third base.
TRUMBO IN LINEUP
Designated hitter Mark Trumbo started Wednesday for the first time since last Saturday’s game at Houston. He was scratched a day later from the lineup after experiencing back spasms in batting practice.
“Ready to play,” he declared.
Trumbo went 1-for-3 in the 2-0 victory over the Giants but has just seven hits in 41 at-bats in 11 games since arriving from Arizona in a June 3. He doesn’t have an extra-base hit and has only one RBI.
“I thought he was swinging well (last week) in Cleveland,” McClendon said. “He hit a line drive off the wall, then he came back and had (a hit) the next day. Then the back flared up on him. We need his production.”
NO LONGER ON TOP
Right fielder Nelson Cruz surrendered the American League lead in homers Tuesday when Los Angeles first baseman Albert Pujols hit No. 19 in a 4-1 victory over Arizona.
Cruz has 18 homers but hasn’t hit one, through Tuesday, in 71 plate appearances over 17 games dating to his three-run bomb in the ninth inning of a 3-0 victory over the Rays on May 27 in St. Petersburg.
Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout and New York first baseman Mark Teixeira also entered Wednesday with 18 homers.
Cruz led the majors last season with a career-high 40 homers while playing for Baltimore.
Lo-A Clinton snapped its 15-game losing streak Tuesday with a walk-off victory over Quad Cities (Astros) when Joe DeCarlo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 11th inning.
The LumberKings’ 15-game skid was a franchise record that matched the Midwest League record held previously by three other clubs: the 1958 Clinton Pirates, the 1975 Cedar Rapids Giants and the 1986 Kenosha Twins.
Clinton held leads of 4-0 and 5-4 before gaining its walk-off victory.
***Short-A Everett opens its season at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against Eugene (Cubs) at Everett Memorial Stadium.
***The Mariners’ other short-season affiliate, Peoria, opens its season Saturday in the Arizona Rookie League against complex co-tenant San Diego.
TEE IT UP
Got your attention focused this week at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay?
Fans at Safeco Field can now test their skills on a high-tech golf simulator operated by Gregg Rogers’ Golf Performance Centers of Bellevue. Initially, the swings are free. They’ll cost $5 for three in the near future.
The simulator is an “interactive training tool uses high-speed 3D cameras to capture images and data at 2,300 frames per second.” It projects images on an 800-square structure behind the center-field bleachers.
Golfers can choose to simulate playing at some of the world’s most famous courses, including St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale, Spyglass, Pebble Beach.
It was 13 years ago Thursday — June 18, 2002 — that the Mariners faced their long-time star, outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., for the first time as an opponent in an 8-1 victory at Cincinnati.
The Mariners traded Griffey to the Reds on Feb. 10, 2000 for outfielder Mike Cameron, infielder Antonio Perez, pitcher Brett Tomko and minor-league pitcher Jake Meyer.
Griffey, then 32, had two singles and a walk in four plate appearances against his former club. He returned to the Mariners on Feb. 18, 2009 as a free agent. He retired on June 2, 2010.
Seth Smith (17), Robinson Cano (16) and Kyle Seager (14) all rank in the top 10 in the American League in doubles…Brad Miller’s six homers are tied for the AL lead among players whose primary position is shortstop. Oakland’s Marcus Semien also has six. One difference: All six of Semien’s homers came in games when he was playing shortstop. Three of Miller’s six homers came in games when he served as the designated hitter…Nelson Cruz leads the majors with 17 go-ahead RBIs and is tied with Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte for the major-league lead with 10 game-winning RBIs.
The Mariners and Giants complete their two-and-two series at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (1-1, 1.89) will face San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (4-5, 4.81).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
SLOTTED VALUES AND BONUSES FOR MARINERS’ DRAFT PICKS
Major League Baseball assigns slotted dollar values to all players selected through the first 10 rounds. A club’s bonus pool is the sum of those values.
Clubs are not bound to the slotted amount on any specific player, but there are fines and penalties if a club exceeds its total bonus pool.
Players selected after the 10th round don’t count against the pool for bonuses up to $100,000.
The Mariners have a bonus pool of $4,186,900.
They are currently $15,500 under their pool with only one player unsigned through the 10th round. That money can also be applied to to any player(s) selected after the 10th round whose bonus exceeds $100,000.
Here are the assigned values and what bonus they received:
Round Player Slot Bonus Over/Under
2 RHP Nick Neidert $1,025,900 $1,200,000 $174,100 over
2b RHP Andrew Moore $852,800 $800,000 $52,800 under
3 OF Braden Bishop $607,700 $607,700 At slot
4 RHP Dylan Thompson 448,000 $585,000 $137,000 over
5 SS Drew Jackson $335,400 $335,400 At slot
6 RHP Kyle Wilcox $251,100 $225,000 $26,100 under
7 1B Ryan Uhl $188,400 $50,000 $138,400 under
8 RHP Cody Mobley $169,600 $300,000 $130,400 over
9 1B/3B Conner Hale $158,300 not signed N/A
10 RHP Darin Gillies $149,700 $10,000 $139,700 under