It’s all but official. The Mariners will be under new ownership perhaps as soon as Friday.
Major League Baseball’s club owners, meeting Thursday in Houston, approved the transfer and sale of controlling interest in the Mariners from Nintendo of America to a group of 16 other minority owners led by John Stanton.
The pending sale was announced by the Mariners in April, and Thursday’s approval should permit the deal to become final Friday or early next week. It reduces Nintendo’s stake in the franchise from 55 percent to 10 percent.
The sale also includes the club’s controlling interest in Root Sports. The last major hurdle to the sale was the approval by MLB’s other owners.
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Under terms of the agreement, Stanton will replace Howard Lincoln as the club’s chairman, chief operating officer and designated control person to Major League Baseball.
Stanton said in April, when the deal was announced, that no changes were planned in the club’s management structure. Specifically, he said club president Kevin Mather will "continue to run the organization."
Lincoln previously characterized the transaction as a "transition" within the ownership group and said the sale price was determined after placing a $1.4 billion price on the franchise and its 71 percent ownership stake in Root Sports.
That places the value of the shares transferred from Nintendo to the other 16 members of the ownership group, known as First Avenue Entertainment LLLP, at $630 million.
Stanton is a Seattle native who made his fortune as a pioneer in the wireless industry. He joined the Mariners’ ownership group in December 2000 and became a member of the club’s board of directors in December 2016.
Nintendo bought the club in 1992 from Jeff Smulyan for $100 million. Lincoln will remain on the club’s board of directors as the representative for Nintendo’s 10-percent interest.
Injured lefty James Paxton threw a bullpen workout prior to Thursday’s game and, barring any new setbacks, is scheduled to pitch three innings Saturday for Triple-A Tacoma in a rehab start against Las Vegas (Mets) at Cheney Stadium.
"No swelling," he said. "All of the swelling is down. Even the tender spot on the outside of the elbow has gone away. It’s all good news."
Paxton was hit in the elbow by a line drive in the ninth inning of a 3-1 victory over the Angels on Aug. 7 at Safeco Field. He appeared on track last weekend for a start Tuesday at Angel Stadium before swelling surfaced in his forearm after a bullpen workout.
"I didn’t get that tightness that I had last time," Paxton said, "which was great news. The ball felt normal coming out of my hand.
"I felt a little rusty, but that’s what this game on Saturday is going to be for — getting back to that 100 percent intensity. I think that’s going to help my stuff and sharpness."
A start Saturday at Tacoma would put Paxton on track for an Aug. 25 return to the rotation in the series opener against the White Sox in Chicago.
Paxton was 4-5 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts prior to the injury and had allowed only one earned run over 16 1/3 innings in his last two starts.
"I was feeling really good," he said. "I had an approach down that felt good. I just want to go out on Saturday and repeat that approach and get ready to face the next team here."
CISHEK POISED TO RETURN
Former closer Steve Cishek could rejoin the active roster as soon as Friday after making two one-inning rehab starts at Short-A Everett in his recovery from a torn labrum in his left hip.
Cishek’s rehab numbers weren’t great — three runs and five hits in two innings — but manager Scott Servais said club officials saw no reason for concern.
"The report was good, actually," Servais said. "He wanted to focus on throwing more fastballs, and trying to get a feel for that.
"What you do that at the low levels, against kids, they swing. Versus throwing your breaking ball and, pretty much, getting them out. He felt fine coming out of it. We’ll see how he feels (Friday) and where we go from there."
Cishek was diagnosed with the labrum tear after an Aug. 1 appearance against Boston, when he surrendered a ninth-inning home run in a 2-1 loss at Safeco Field. He was 2-6 with a. 3.40 ERA and 25 saves when placed on the disabled list.
The Mariners, after a 12-3 surge, entered Thursday’s series finale against the Angels with a 41 percent probability of breaking their 14-year postseason drought, according the latest computer projections by www.fivethirtyeight.com.
The website says its "forecast is based on 50,000 simulations of the season and accounts for starting pitchers, travel distance and rest. It updates after each game."
For example, the Mariners rated at 38 percent chance of reaching postseason before winning Wednesday’s game against the Angels.
FiveThirtyEight calculates the Mariners have an 11-percent chance of winning the American League West Division. (They currently trail first-place Texas by 6 1/2 games). It gives the Mariners a 2 percent chance at winning the World Series.
Other postseason probabilities for AL West clubs prior to Thursday’s games: Texas at 95 percent; Houston at 11 percent; and Oakland and Los Angeles each at less than 1 percent.
The Gold Glove awards for defensive excellence include a sabermetric component that accounts for roughly 25 percent of the vote. The remainder is determined through a vote by the managers and coaches in each league.
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) provides that metric — the SABR Defensive Index (SDI) — and it recently released its rankings for games through Aug. 7.
Some notable Mariners in the American League rankings:
***Robinson Cano is tied for third among American League second basemen with a 4.8 SDI. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia leads at 6.2.
***Kyle Seager is third among third baseman at 4.6. Texas’ Adrian Beltre leads at 10.8.
***Leonys Martin is third among center fielders at 1.4. Toronto’s Kevin Pillar leads at 11.0.
Worth noting: Cano, Seager and Martin each executed web gems in Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over the Angels that are not yet included in the rankings.
JUNIOR ON THE CALL
Newly-minted Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. will join ESPN as a guest analyst for its telecast of Tuesday’s game between the Mariners and New York Yankees at Safeco Field.
Griffey will join play-by-play announcer Jon Sciambi plus analysts Rick Sutcliffe and Doug Glanville in what figures to be a packed booth.
It will be ESPN’s first telecast from Safeco Field since 2011.
Griffey was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 24, and his No. 24 was retired by the Mariners in an Aug. 6 pre-game ceremony.
The game will also be shown by Root Sports Northwest with its regular broadcast team of Dave Sims and Mike Blowers.
Right-hander Zack Littell improved to 7-1 in nine games at Hi-A Bakersfield by pitching seven shutout innings Wednesday and lowering his ERA to 1.77 in an 8-3 victory over San Jose (Giants).
Littell, 20, has five scoreless starts for the Blaze since his July 4 promotion from Lo-A Clinton, where he was 5-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 16 starts.
The Mariners selected Littell in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB Draft,
It was 28 years ago Friday — Aug. 19, 1988 — that Jay Buhner became to the first right-handed hitter to hit a ball into the center-field seats since the original Yankee Stadium underwent a 1975 renovation.
Buhner’s two-run shot traveled an estimated 450 feet in the first game of a double-header. It came in the sixth inning against John Candelaria and gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead.
But the Yankees tied the game with two runs in the eighth before winning it on two-run homer in the 10th inning by ex-Mariner Ken Phelps against Mike Schooler.
Irony: Buhner’s homer came less than a month the Mariners acquired him from the Yankees on July 21 in a two-for-two trade that sent Phelps to New York.
The Mariners’ bullpen on Wednesday recorded its 21st game of pitching at least four innings while allowing one or no runs…Robinson Cano needs two more doubles to reach 30 for a 12th consecutive year…if Edwin Diaz is successful in his next save situation, he will match a franchise record by going 9-for-9 to start his career. Byron McLaughlin had nine in a row in 1979…
The Mariners return home for a six-game run at Safeco Field when they open a three-game weekend series at 7:10 p.m. against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (2-0 with a 4.68 ERA) will face Milwaukee lefty Brent Suter, who will be promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs to make his major-league debut. He was 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA at Colorado Springs.
Suter, 26, is a graduate of Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, which also produced Ken Griffey Jr. and former Mariners third baseman David Bell.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.
There will be a post-game fireworks show set to Star Wars music.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners