SEATTLE — It’s been a week (and counting) of waiting for Mariners reliever Vidal Nuno since his last game action.
Once Nathan Karns delivered the first pitch Saturday against Oakland, Nuno became the only player on the Mariners’ roster who had yet to log time in the regular season. His last game action was April 1 in spring training.
"He’s been up plenty (in the bullpen)," manager Scott Servais said. "It just hasn’t quite worked out yet (for Nuno to get in a game). There are pockets in every lineup where he can get in there and make a difference for us.
"For whatever reason, our starters have gotten through the rough spots when we’ve had him up…Nuno will pitch plenty. No doubt."
While many pitchers, maybe most, begin to fret at extended periods of inactivity, Nuno is an exception. He contends his regular routine, and those get-ready sessions in the bullpen, are sufficient to keep him sharp.
"I don’t miss my spots," he said. "I know my arm slot. I know what I can do, and what I can’t do. Just be prepared every day. It’s just day five. Just take it day by day and make the best out of it."
Nuno, 28, became the bullpen’s lefty specialist when shoulder problems continued to plague Charlie Furbush, who is still awaiting medical clearance to begin throwing after undergoing a series of Regenokine Therapy injections.
Even in a best-case scenario, Furbush isn’t expected back until late May.
So Nuno sits and waits for what Servais judged as the right opportunity.
"A lefty specialist," Nuno said, "my role is to get that lefty out. The games have been tight. Every one of the starters have been going five or six (innings). That means short work for the bullpen."
And through five games, no work for Nuno.
After facing left-handed starters in four of their first games, the Mariners will to see some right-handers beginning Sunday, when they face Chris Bassitt in the series finale against the Athletics.
Texas is planning to start right-handers in two of the three games in a series that begins Monday at Safeco Field: Colby Lewis on Monday and A.J. Griffin on Wednesday. In-between, the Mariners will see lefty Derek Holland.
"Teams are going to throw left-handers at us when they can based on our lineup," Servais said. "Now, we’ve got to get the right-handed guys going a little bit. Guti is off to a slow start, and he’s a big key for us."
Franklin Gutierrez entered Saturday at 0-for-6 with four strikeouts. He also ended spring training with just two hits in 18 at-bats after missing a week because of the flu.
Outfielder Guillermo Heredia hit a grand slam Friday night that propelled Double-A Jackson to a 9-2 victory over visiting Montgomery (Rays).
Heredia, 25, is a Cuban defector who agreed Feb. 22 to a major-league deal for the minimum $507,500 salary. He defected last year, he hasn’t played regularly in nearly two years.
His slam broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning.
Despite Friday’s loss, when closer Steve Cishek surrendered a tie-breaking homer, the Mariners entered Saturday with a 0.75 bullpen ERA, which led all American League clubs…Dae-Ho Lee’s homer in Friday’s game was the 324th of his career: 225 in Korea, 98 in Japan and one in the big leagues…Lee’s homer Friday meant the Mariners have hit at least one homer in their first four games. The last time they did that was 1999, which is the last year they opened the season with the Kingdome as their home park. They have not homered in their first five games since 1998, when they opened the season with an eight-game run.
It was 27 years ago Sunday — April 10, 1989 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit a home run in his first career at-bat at the Kingdome and started the Mariners toward a 6-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Griffey’s homer came against right-hander Eric King and went to left field, the opposite field, in the first inning. A crowd of 33,866 saw it at the Kingdome.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners