Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Smith still first choice as closer, but Rodney making push

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 consecutive 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 cannot 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 groundouts 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 the May 28 game against Cleveland at Safeco Field. He is 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts.

MORE SIGNINGS

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 Single-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. July 17. Players without collegiate eligibility have until next year’s draft to sign.

DONNELLY SIDELINED

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 has been shifted to third base.

TRUMBO IN LINEUP

Designated hitter Mark Trumbo started Wednesday for the first time since Saturday’s game at Houston. He was scratched from the lineup a day later after experiencing back spasms in batting practice.

“Ready to play,” he declared.

Trumbo went 1 for 3 in the 2-0 victory but has just seven hits in 41 at-bats in 11 games since being acquired from Arizona in a June 3 trade. 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 the 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.

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 Center 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 and Pebble Beach.

LOOKING BACK

It was 13 years ago Thursday — June 18, 2002 — that the Mariners faced their longtime 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.

SHORT HOPS

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.

ON TAP

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 ERA) will face San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (4-5, 4.81).

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