Increasing signs point to the Mariners hiring a new general manager in the near future.
One source close to the process said an announcement could come as soon as Monday. Others suggest it is more likely to come later in the week while warning that snags over contract details could cause a further delay.
Officially, club president Kevin Mather and the Mariners remain mum on the subject. Mather has not commented on the process since an initial statement that he preferred an experienced GM and hoped to hire one quickly.
The Mariners fired general manager Jack Zduriencik on Aug. 28 after nearly seven years on the job. Assistant general manager Jeff Kingston is filling the role on an interim basis.
Multiple sources say the Mariners are concentrating on two finalists: former Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and New York Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler.
Dipoto, 47, spent 3 1/2 years as the Angels’ GM before resigning July 1 after a messy in-house spat with manager Mike Scioscia over the use of analytics and other matters.
The Boston Red Sox hired Dipoto to an advisory role in mid-August. New Red Sox club president Dave Dombrowski said recently he hopes to elevate Dipoto to a full-time position if he isn’t hired by another club.
Eppler, 39, has never been a general manager but, in his fourth season as a Yankees assistant, has assisted longtime GM Brian Cashman in all areas of the club’s major league operations.
One twist emerged over the weekend: Eppler had been viewed as the favorite to become Dipoto’s full-time replacement with the Angels, but reports indicate Josh Byrnes has emerged as a candidate for that post.
Byrnes is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ vice president of baseball operations but served previously as the general manager at Arizona and San Diego.
BEIMEL ON PICKOFF MOVE
Veteran Mariners reliever Joe Beimel should be used to this by now — complaints that his pickoff move is a balk.
But it still irks Beimel when the subject arises, as it did Wednesday night when he nailed Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer by making his now-familiar sidearm snap throw to first.
Hosmer stayed on the ground for an extended moment waiting, expecting and hoping for a balk call from umpire Pat Hoberg that never came.
“People just don’t want to believe,” Beimel said, “that I’ve worked hard to perfect a move that’s within the rules.”
In some ways, the complaints are understandable. Beimel has a devastating pickoff move. Hosmer was his sixth pickoff on the season in just 43 1/3 innings.
The only pitcher in either league with more pickoff outs is Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw with 10 in 220 innings. No other reliever has more than four.
Even so, the criticism baffles Beimel because he steps straight at the base.
“I don’t even use the 45-(degree angle),” Beimel said. “(Andy) Pettitte had that good move. He’d ride it down the 45 and then go over, but I’m going straight over.”
Beimel’s delivery has always served to aid his pickoff move, but he said he honed his technique during his 2006-08 tour with the Dodgers after a discussion with Maury Wills, one of the game’s all-time great base stealers who managed the Mariners from 1980-81.
“He said a lot of times, a lefty gives it away, right away, when his shoulders turn,” Beimel recalled. “He said you can’t step over there and keep your shoulders straight.
“I said, ‘Well, I think I can try to do that.’ So I just throw my glove toward the plate and pull my chest forward. And I don’t throw (overhand). I throw from way down here. So I think that’s how I’ve been able to get guys.”
Beimel, at 38 years old and a 13-year veteran, has 40 pickoff outs in his 13-year career. No other pitcher in that span, who served primarily as a reliever, has more than 22.
The complaints are likely to continue.
The chance of James Paxton recovering from a torn fingernail in time to start Wednesday against Houston appears pretty close to zero.
Paxton isn’t sure when the training staff will attempt to attach a new nail. Even if that occurs Monday, he is unlikely to be able to throw the requisite bullpen workout in time for a Wednesday start.
“I haven’t even played catch yet,” Paxton said. “We just want to let (the finger) calm down a little more.”
That means the Mariners are likely to use a relay of relievers to replace Paxton in the rotation.
Manager Lloyd McClendon continues to hedge on his choice for a starting pitcher, but two leading possibilities are right-hander Mayckol Guaipe and lefty David Rollins.
Neither would likely pitch more than three innings before the Mariners loop through their bullpen for the remainder of the game.
Paxton left his previous start, at Kansas City on Thursday, after just 1 1/3 innings because of a torn nail on his middle finger.
While the Mariners plan to monitor Paxton’s recovery throughout the week, it seems increasingly likely that he won’t pitch again until the Arizona Fall League.
Nelson Cruz’s 27 road homers lead the majors and, with the Mariners’ road schedule complete, leave him tied for the third most in franchise history.
Ken Griffey Jr. hit 29 road homers in 1997, while Alex Rodriguez hit 28 in 2000 and Jay Buhner hit 27 in 1997.
Boston outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ranks second this year in the majors with 25 road homers. Nobody else entered Sunday with more than 21. Kyle Seager had 19.
HOUSE OF HORRORS
Angel Stadium remains a house of horrors for the Mariners.
Saturday marked their fourth walk-off loss of the season at the Tragic Kingdom in suburban Disneyland. It was their 14th walk-off loss here since 2010.
That doesn’t count Sunday. While the Angels scored the winning run in their last at-bat, it wasn’t a walk-off victory.
It was 12 years ago Monday — Sept. 28, 2003 — that Jamie Moyer set a franchise record by getting his 21st victory when the Mariners closed out the season by beating Oakland, 9-3, at Safeco Field.
Moyer pitched the first six innings and improved to 21-7.
The 21 victories remain a franchise record. The only other 20-game winners in franchise history were Randy Johnson (20 in 1997) and Moyer (20 in 2001).
Losing the past five games prevented the Mariners from having a winning road record. They finished 40-41 away from Safeco Field. ... Carson Smith recorded his 90th strikeout and needs two more to match Enrique Romo’s club rookie record for relievers. Romo had 92 in 1977. ... Robinson Cano needs one more homer to become the eighth second baseman in history to have six 20-homer seasons. ... Ketel Marte became the 292nd member of the Mariners’ all-time homer club Saturday when he hit the first of his career.
The Mariners open their final homestand at 7:10 p.m. Monday when the Houston Astros arrive for the first of three games at Safeco Field.
Left-hander Roenis Elias (5-8, 3.94 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Lance McCullers (5-7, 3.22). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM.
After an open date Thursday, the Mariners conclude their season this weekend with three games against Oakland.
PICKOFF THROWS RESULTING IN OUTS
10 — Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, 220 innings
6 — Joe Beimel, Seattle Mariners, 43 1/3 innings
6 — Brett Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers, 172 2/3 innings
6 — Jordan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals, 195 2/3 innings
5 — Chris Rusin, Colorado Rockies, 120 1/3 innings
5 — Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City Royals, 148 2/3 innings
5 — Alex Wood, Atlanta Braves / L.A. Dodgers, 177 1/3 innings
5 — Wade Miley, Boston Red Sox, 188 2/3 innings
5 — Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, 194 2/3 innings
4 — Ross Detwiler, Texas Rangers / Atlanta Braves, 58 1/3 innings
4 — Drew Smyly, Tampa Bay Rays, 60 2/3 innings
4 — Kevin Siegrist, St. Louis Cardinals, 70 2/3 innings
4 — Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels, 148 innings
4 — A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates, 151 1/3 innings
4 — Nathan Eovaldi, New York Yankees, 154 1/3 innings
4 — Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs, 168 innings
4 — Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh Pirates, 168 1/3 innings
4 — Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners 169 2/3 innings
4 — Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox, 197 1/3 innings