Is it really this simple? That the ongoing struggles for former All-Star closer Fernando Rodney can be traced to him tipping pitches?
The Mariners became convinced Saturday after watching Toronto pinch-hitter Ezequiel Carrera, who had one homer in 131 previous at-bats, tee off on a 95-mph Rodney fastball after spitting on a borderline change-up.
“I’d say (I’ve been tipping) the fastball,” Rodney said, “because that’s the only pitch they’ve hit. That’s the only pitch they’ve been jumping. Normally, that’s a good pitch for me.”
Carrera’s homer came less than a week after Rodney served up a game-winning homer to New York’s Mark Teixeira on a 98-mph fastball.
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Rodney said he missed location on the pitch to Teixeira but even so, Teixeira appeared fully geared for a fastball, on a 1-2 pitch, and crushed it.
“I really don’t think it’s fastball command,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I think Fernando was tipping some pitches. We’ve got to get that straightened out.”
Since Rodney is a primarily a fastball/change-up pitcher, McClendon said any movement by Rodney that tips his fastball effectively means he is also tipping off his change-up.
“We’ve got to get him to the point where he’s not tipping anymore,” McClendon said. “Then I think you’ll see him getting back to being productive. When hitters know what’s coming, it’s a lot easier.”
McClendon said the tipping was “dramatic.”
Rodney, 38, led the majors last season with 48 saves (in 51 opportunities) while compiling a 2.85 ERA in 69 appearances. This season, he has a 5.90 ERA in 42 outings — and has lost his job as closer.
“I worked a little on that (Sunday) to make sure (I don’t do something different) when I throw the fastball,” Rodney said. “Just keep trying. Working. And we’ll see. We’re going to figure it out.”
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush should be ready, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, to test his recovery from biceps tendinitis by throwing from a mound for the first time since his July 7 outing against Detroit.
Furbush threw 20 pitches Monday from flat ground. Once he throws from a mound, barring setbacks, he could be ready to return to active duty within a week or so.
McClendon also reiterated that lefty starter James Paxton isn’t expected to return any time soon from a strained tendon in his middle finger. The injury forced Paxton to leave a May 28 start against Cleveland.
“Doctors reiterated that it’s going to take time,” McClendon said. “They were talking six to 12 weeks (from when the injury occurred). We’ve just got to be patient. It’s an area that doesn’t get a lot of blood flow.”
Paxton remains limited to playing catch from flat ground while wearing tape on his finger to protect the injury.
“Until he feels good without the tape,” McClendon said, “he can’t progress any further.”
BIG THREE ROLLING
This is what the Mariners have been waiting for all season: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager all on a hot streak at the same time.
Entering Monday, all three were batting at least .333 in the 10 games since the All-Star break. Combined, they were batting .339.
The trio had also combined for 28 runs and 22 RBIs with an accumulative six doubles, one triple and 11 home runs.
And the Mariners still have gone just 5-5.
Some updated numbers, prior to Monday’s game, on Nelson Cruz’s belief that he’s more productive when playing in the outfield in contrast to serving as the designated hitter.
▪ In 55 games as a right fielder, Cruz is batting .354 in 55 games with 20 homers and 42 RBIs in 209 at-bats. He also had a .416 on-base percentage and a .679 slugging percentage.
▪ In 42 games as a designated hitter, Cruz is batting .255 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 161 at-bats. He has a .330 on-base percentage and a .404.
McClendon contends some of Cruz’s effectiveness as a right fielder is due to the rest he gets while serving as the DH.
But … if Cruz’s numbers while playing in the outfield were projected for his entire season, he’d have 35 homers and 74 RBIs. Both projected totals would lead the majors.
The Mariners reacquired right-handed pitcher J.C. Ramirez from Arizona in a cash transaction and assigned him to Triple-A Tacoma.
Ramirez, 26, was 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA earlier this season in 12 appearances for the Diamondbacks. He is 0-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 23 outings at Triple-A Reno.
The Mariners signed Ramirez, a native Nicaraguan, in 2005. He spent four years in the organization before the Mariners included him in a Dec. 16, 2009 trade to Philadelphia that netted pitcher Cliff Lee.
Ramirez spent last season in the Cleveland organization before signing with Arizona on Dec. 1, 2014 as a minor-league free agent
A BIRTHDAY EFFORT
Short-A Everett shortstop Drew Jackson got an early birthday present when he was picked as the Northwest League player of the week after going 15 for 26 with five multihit efforts in six games.
Jackson, who turns 22 on Tuesday, was the Mariners’ fifth-round pick in the June draft and is batting .360 overall with a .403 on-base percentage in 29 games. He also has 21 steals in 23 attempts.
It was 22 years ago Tuesday — July 28, 1993 — that Ken Griffey Jr. tied a major league record by hitting a homer in his eighth straight game.
It was a memorable blast, too.
Griffey sent a drive off the third-deck facade at the Kingdome in the seventh inning against Minnesota right-hander Willie Blanks in a 5-1 loss to the Twins.
That game was also notable in that just-inducted Hall of Famer Randy Johnson recorded his 1,000th career strikeout when he got Chuck Knoblauch in the first inning.
Johnson finished his 22-year career with 4,875 strikeouts, which ranks second in major league history.
Mike Zunino, entering Monday, was 9 for 20 over his previous six games and had raised his average from .158 to .179. … Kyle Seager entered the week with a .414 average (24 for 58) over his last 14 games. … On Sunday, Nelson Cruz reached 25 homers for the fifth time in his career. It also marked the 43rd time (by 24 different players) that a Mariner has hit 25 in a season.
The Mariners and Diamondbacks continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-1, 4.50 ERA) will face Arizona right-hander Zack Godley (1-0, 0.00). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.