LOS ANGELES — First things first: Fernando Rodney remains the Mariners’ closer. Two straight rocky outings haven’t changed that.
“You got somebody else you want me to put out there?” manager Lloyd McClendon challenged prior to Wednesday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Here’s the deal. People fly off the handle and say, `Rodney stinks. We need to change. Get another closer.’ OK, when that doesn’t work out, then what? You want me to go back? Or do you want me to try somebody else?
“That’s how all hell breaks loose.”
So McClendon will stick with the devil he knows.
Rodney points to location issues as the cause for his problems in squandering leads while yielding six runs and seven hits over 1 1/3 innings in his last two outings.
“My mechanics are not the problem," he insisted. “I feel like I'm delivering the ball there. But a couple pitches I missed in the strike zone and, here, you can't miss.”
Rodney blew a save Tuesday for the first time in 24 chances dating to July 20 when the Dodgers sent the Mariners to a 6-5 loss by scoring two runs in the ninth inning.
That followed a big meltdown by Rodney on Sunday in Oakland when he failed to hold a four-run lead in the ninth inning in a non-save situation. The Mariners rallied to win that game in 10 innings.
“I just think he’s falling behind a few guys,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “When you fall behind big-league hitters, and have to throw fastballs for strikes, you get hit or, sometimes, you walk guys.
“His stuff is there. Everything looks sharp. I just think he needs to get into the zone earlier in the count. That’d be the key.”
Rodney’s two rocky outings came after he delivered two scoreless one-inning appearances while closing out victories.
“It’s only eight games,” he said. “I’m going to prepare myself for (Wednesday) and try to be ready — because I know I’ve got my stuff.”
KING IS GOOD TO GO
Felix Hernandez, as it turns out, didn’t need to throw a bullpen workout to convince McClendon that he’s sufficiently recovered from a sore right quadriceps muscle to make his scheduled start Saturday against Texas.
“Felix is fine,” McClendon said. “Felix will go Saturday. He didn’t throw (Wednesday), but I had a conversation with Felix, and he’s fine. He’s ready to go.”
McClendon said Tuesday that he wanted to see Hernandez throw a bullpen workout before clearing him for Saturday’s start.
Hernandez’s sore quad surfaced last Sunday at Oakland on a play in the first inning and aggravated on another play in the third inning. Hernandez left the game after the fifth inning.
ZUNINO PLAYS ON
Slumping catcher Mike Zunino shook off a sore left wrist and started for the eighth time in nine games. He jammed his wrist while applying a late tag to Carl Crawford on the play that ended Tuesday’s game.
“It’s fine,” Zunino said. “It was one of those freak things. I went to go tag him and not knowing where he was at. I had to get there quickly. I threw it into him, and jammed it a little bit. But it feels good.”
Zunino also appeared in line for a day off because he was 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts in the two previous games against the Dodgers. He is also 3-for-26 overall in eight games.
“He’s pressing a little bit right now,” McClendon said. “We’ve got to get him to relax a little bit. Get back into the strike zone.”
But sitting Zunino, McClendon said, isn’t the answer.
“It’s like when I was in Detroit,” McClendon said. “(Miguel) Cabrera is struggling against left-handers, hitting .179 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. What do you want me to do? Pinch-hit?
“Zunino will be fine.”
Shortstop Chris Taylor was 3-for-11 through Tuesday with one double and two RBIs through three games of his rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma.
Taylor suffered a broken bone in his right wrist March 13 when struck by a foul ball against Milwaukee.
The Mariners placed Taylor on the 15-day disabled list on April 5 retroactive to March 27 — the maximum allowable backdating. That means he is already eligible for reinstatement.
***Right-hander Edwin Diaz, who ranks sixth on the TNT Top 10, delivered another strong start Tuesday by pitching six innings in Hi-A Bakersfield’s 1-0 victory over Modesto. He pitched five shutout innings in his first start.
It was 23 years ago Thursday — April 16, 1992 — that a lineup mistake by manager Bill Plummer forced the Mariners to play without a designated hitter after the top of the first inning against the White Sox in Chicago.
Plummer submitted a lineup card that had Tino Martinez and Pete O’Brien each listed as first basemen. That forced the Mariners to enter starting pitcher Rich DeLucia as a substitute.
DeLucia replaced O’Brien but exited for pinch-hitter Dave Cochrane when scheduled to hit. Cochrane remained in the game at shortstop, and the Mariners replaced starting shortstop Rich Amaral with a series of relievers.
And the Mariners lost 5-4.
The Dodgers designated lefty David Huff for assignment after claiming another lefty, Ryan Dennick, on waivers from Cincinnati. Huff started and pitched four innings in Tuesday’s game…Nelson Cruz hit three homers in the first two games against the Dodgers and leads the majors with 14 homers in interleague play since the start of the 2014 season…Cruz entered Wednesday as one of 14 players in franchise history to hit homers in four straight games. Three players have five-game streaks. (Jay Buhner has two.) The franchise record is eight straight games by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993…Rickie Weeks needs one more homer to reach 150 for his 12-year career.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before opening a nine-game homestand Friday with the first of three weekend games against Texas at Safeco Field.
Lefty J.A. Happ (0-0, 2.84) is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. Friday against Rangers right-hander Yvonne Gallardo (1-1, 5.59). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.