SEATTLE — Mariners outfielder Nori Aoki has been here before.
Playing his first season for a new team saddled with an extended postseason drought and trying to reverse a losing culture that infected the entire organization.
He played for the 2014 Kansas City Royals.
"I think it’s very similar," Aoki said. "The atmosphere and the environment. We’re all trying to play as a whole and not be selfish. We want to keep the lineup long.
"I feel that like I felt that in Kansas City. In team meetings or hitters meetings, we all share each other’s opinion. We stay together as a group and try to become a better group."
The 2014 Royals advanced to the World Series. Aoki then signed with San Francisco as a free agent — the team that beat the Royals in the Series. So he wasn’t around last season when Kansas City won the crown.
Aoki was a free agent again last winter and signed a one-year deal with the Mariners that includes a vesting option for next season that triggers at 480 plate appearances.
"When you break down a lot of our games," he said, "we win a lot of games by one run. That’s very similar (to Kansas City in 2014).
"That tells you we’re very patient and sticking together as a team and believing in ourselves. That tells you, as a whole, we’re not giving up."
Both reported no day-after problems following bullpen workouts prior to Monday’s game. Right-hander Tony Zych, another injured reliever, hopes to begin flat-ground throwing by the weekend.
Benoit, 38, hasn’t pitched since April 21 because of shoulder inflammation. He is slotted for another bullpen workout prior to Wednesday’s series finale against Tampa Bay.
"If that goes well," manager Scott Servais said, "then later in the week or the weekend, we’ll set up a sim(ulated) game or something like that with some hitters in there and see where go from there."
Furbush, 30, underwent blood-injection therapy last month after opening the season on the disabled list because of lingering day-after tightness in his recovery from biceps tendinitis and a slight tear in his rotator cuff.
Plans call for Furbush to throw at least one more bullpen workout, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, before heading to the club’s year-round complex in Peoria, Ariz.
"He needs to go through an entire spring training," Servais said. "He’ll probably go down to Arizona and get it cranked up down there."
Zych, 25, hasn’t pitched since May 1 because of tendinitis in his rotator cuff. He said he no longer experiences soreness with any movement involving his shoulder.
"Before, I felt something every time I moved my shoulder," he said. "The inflammation was just built up in there. Now I can move it with no problem."
A DIFFERENT LOOK
A desire to find some playing time for utilityman Luis Sardinas had a snowball effect when Servais put together his lineup for Tuesday’s game.
Sardinas started at third base, which shifted Kyle Seager into rare duty as the designated hitter.
That meant Nelson Cruz started in right field and, with Tampa Bay starting a lefty in Drew Smyly, prompted time for Franklin Gutierrez, who bats right handed, in left field. Aoki got the night off.
“Luis Sardinas has not played much at all lately,” Servais explained, “and I thought this was an opportunity to get him in there. Slide some guys around. I want to keep Seager in the lineup.”
Before Tuesday, Sardinas had just four plate appearances since April 20.
BLOOMQUIST JOINS D-BACKS
Former Mariners utilityman Willie Bloomquist took the next step in his career by joining the Arizona Diamondbacks as a special assistant to president and chief executive officer Derrick Hall.
Bloomquist, now 38, began and ended his 14-year career with the Mariners prior to his release on July 6, 2015. He played for three other clubs, including Arizona from 2011-13.
“My family and I are thrilled to once again be a part of the D-backs organization and the community associated with it,” said the Bremerton native, who also attended South Kitsap High and currently lives in the Phoenix area.
"In my 14 seasons in MLB, this is where I feel I played my best baseball and made some of my fondest memories as a player."
What’s the the most-extreme venue for home runs in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League? Albuquerque? Reno? Colorado Springs? Maybe Las Vegas?
It’s Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
Baseball America crunched the numbers from last year and found: "Tacoma home games last season featured more home runs (167) than any Triple-A park—more than Charlotte (156), Albuquerque (146) or Las Vegas (136).
"Rainiers players and pitchers accounted for about 30 percent more homers at home than on the road, though Cheney Stadium played fairly neutrally for long balls in both 2013 (104 factor) and 2014 (98).
"The low outfield walls apparently helped more fly balls find the seats in 2015."
NEED MOORE LUCK
Hi-A Bakersfield squandered another dominating performance from right-hander Andrew Moore in Monday’s 5-0 loss to Inland Empire (Angels).
Moore, 21, gave up just one hit, a single, in six scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.48 but settled for a no-decision when (a) the Blaze turtled offensively and (b) the bullpen gave up five runs in three innings.
This is nothing new.
It marked the fourth time in seven starts that Moore didn’t allow an earned run. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any start. And yet Bakersfield is just 1-6 in his starts.
The Mariners selected Moore with the 72nd overall pick in last year’s draft.
It was 20 years ago Wednesday — May 11, 1996 — that the Bone had a day to remember.
Right fielder Jay Buhner went 4-for-4 with two homers and a career-high six RBIs in an 11-1 romp over Kansas City at the Kingdome. He also had a single and a double.
Both of Buhner’s homers followed leadoff doubles by Edgar Martinez. The first came against Tim Belcher in the second inning and opened the scoring. The other came against Tim Pugh in the seventh inning.
Ketel Marte’s three-run homer Monday in the sixth inning was the sixth game-winning homer hit this year by the Mariners in the sixth inning or later. Coincidentally, that matched Tampa Bay for the most in the majors…some of the Mariners’ pitchers took early batting practice in anticipation of next week’s three-game series at Cincinnati, where the DH won’t be used. Manager Scott Servais noted, "(Nathan) Karns is pretty impressive."…the Mariners entered Tuesday with a 17-7 record since April 13, which was the best winning percentage (.708) among American League teams in that span. (Chicago was 18-8 for a .692 winning percentage.) The Mariners’ surge started when Dae-Ho Lee hit a walk-off homer in the 10th inning against Texas. (One of those six game-winning homers after the sixth inning).
The Mariners and Rays complete their three-game series at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field.
The pitching match-up is a beaut: right-hander Taijuan Walker (2-2 with a 1.97 ERA) will face Tampa Bay’s ace, right-hander Chris Archer (2-4, 4.23). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
An FYI: It’s Weather Education Day at Safeco. Roughly 5,000 school kids are expected to attend for a one-hour program about weather from 10-11 a.m. KOMO 4’s Steve Poole is leading the presentation.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before concluding their homestand with three weekend games against the Los Angeles Angels.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners