SEATTLE — The decision last August to fire general manager Jack Zduriencik stemmed more from the Mariners’ failures in the draft and player development over his seven years than from the club’s disappointing play at the time.
That makes the upcoming draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday, a telling moment for Jerry Dipoto’s new administration. Amateur scouting director Tom McNamara, who survived the front-office purge, outlined the new approach.
"Definitely more resources," he said. "More balancing information, more common sense, more experienced evaluators…We have ex-players that have come from the pro side that are out seeing players.
"We have some of our player-development instructors (out scouting prospects). A lot more emphasis on risk, statistics. It’s been an education, but it feels good. We feel like we are doing everything humanly possible to make the best decision for this organization."
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Wait…more common sense?
"If there's a college player that we've seen since high school," McNamara explained, "that's been a consistent, good player you don’t look past those guys.
"Then, if you see a high school player that’s got big upside and a lot of talent those guys are tough to walk by. There’s a place for each type of player or pitcher."
The Mariners have the 11th overall pick in the draft, which begins at 4 p.m. Pacific time Thursday and can be seen live on MLB Network. The first day consists of the first two rounds and both supplemental rounds: 77 picks in all.
Friday will cover rounds three through 10. The final 30 rounds take place on Saturday. All drafted players except college seniors have until 2 p.m. on July 15 to sign contracts or be ineligible to do so for another year.
McNamara said the Mariners, picking 11th, will select the best player available in their rankings because "it’s the smart play." Projecting who might still be available is difficult.
But minorleagueball.com predicts Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel, while The Sporting News says it will be left-hander Braxton Garrett of Florence (Ala.) High School.
"We’re not too sure who’s going ahead of us this year," McNamara cautioned. "That starts at No. 1. It depends on what the team wants or what they’re looking for. I don’t think there are guys etched in stone in front of us. It’ll be interesting."
MARTIN PASSES TEST
Center fielder Leonys Martin is heading Thursday to Triple-A Tacoma for what projects — if all goes well — as a one-day final step in his recovery from a strained left hamstring.
Martin had no problems Wednesday in a simulated game in the afternoon at Safeco Field.
"Great," manager Scott Servais said. "Really, really good. We had a live pitcher out there, and it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He was smoking balls all over the park. Hit one out."
Plans call for Martin to play seven innings Thursday for the Rainiers against Reno (Diamondbacks) at Cheney Stadium. Barring any setbacks, he will be activated prior to Friday’s series opener against first-place Texas.
"It feels pretty good, man," said Martin, who suffered the injury May 25 while stealing second base against Oakland. "It’s been the longest 15 days of my life. But it’s a process, man. It is what it is."
***Shortstop Ketel Marte returned Wednesday to the lineup after being scratched from Tuesday’s game because of neck spasms.
***Right-hander Felix Hernandez is scheduled for another examination Thursday on his strained left calf muscle. He is eligible to return Sunday from the disabled list but appears unlikely to return before the end of the month.
LIKELY ROTATION CHANGE
Look for Servais to use Monday’s open date in the schedule to realign his rotation by separating left-handers James Paxton and Wade Miley after their scheduled starts Saturday and Sunday against Texas.
The most-likely scenario is Paxton will shift places next week with right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, which positions Paxton to start June 16 at Tampa Bay on regular rest.
That means two extra days of rest for Iwakuma before a June 17 start at Boston.
Hi-A Bakersfield placed three players on the California League All-Star team for its annual game against the Carolina League all-stars on June 21 in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
First baseman Kyle Petty, who leads the Cal League with a .346 average, will be joined by right-handed pitchers Tyler Herb and Kyle Schepel. Herb is 6-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 11 starts, while Schepel is 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 21 relief outings.
Switch-hitting center fielder Brayan Hernandez went 5-for-6 for the Mariners’ club in the Dominican Summer League in Tuesday’s 15-1 romp over the DSL Rojos (Reds).
Hernandez, 18, batted leadoff and scored three runs in the victory. He is 7-for-13 through the first three games of the DSL season.
The Mariners signed Hernandez, a Venezuelan native, for $1.85 million in July 2014. He entered the season cited on the TNT Watch List and ranked as the organization’s No. 16 prospect by Baseball America.
It was 17 years ago Thursday — June 9, 1999 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit one of his signature home runs by sending a 478-foot drive off the facade of the third deck at Coors Field in Denver.
Griffey’s homer came while leading off the fourth inning against Colorado starter Brian Bohanon. It was part of a slugfest that ended with the Rockies winning 16-11.
A Colorado right-hander named Jerry Dipoto recorded the game’s final three outs.
The Mariners and Indians conclude their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Nathan Karns (5-2 with a 4.23 ERA) will face Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.54).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The homestand concludes this weekend with three games against first-place Texas.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
Baseball America’s Top 25 prospects
1. LHP A.J. Puk, Florida
2. RHP Riley Pint, St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) HS
3. LHP Jason Groome, Barnegat (N.J.) HS
4. OF Kyle Lewis, Mercer
5. 3B Nick Senzel, Tennessee
6. OF Corey Ray, Louisville
7. SS Delvin Perez, International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico
8. OF Mickey Moniak, La Costa Canyon (Calif.) HS
9. LHP Braxton Garrett, Florence (Ala.) HS
10. OF Blake Rutherford, Chaminade College (Calif.) Prep
11. RHP Ian Anderson, Shenendehowa (NY.) HS
12. RHP Matt Manning, Sheldon (Calif.) HS
13. RHP Dakota Hudson, Mississippi State
14. OF Alex Kirilloff, Plum (Pa.) HS
15. C Zack Collins, Miami
16. 3B Josh Lowe, Pope (Ga.) HS
17. SS Nolan Jones, Holy Ghost (Pa.) Prep
18. RHP Connor Jones, Virginia
19. LHP Joey Wentz, Shawnee Mission East (Kan.) HS
20. RHP Forrest Whitley, Alamo Heights (Texas) HS
21. OF Buddy Reed, Florida
22. OF Bryan Reynolds, Vanderbilt
23. RHP Jordan Sheffield, Vanderbilt
24. RHP Justin Dunn, Boston College
25. LHP Eric Lauer, Kent State