Mariners send rookie pitcher Maurer to Tacoma
On Wednesday, the team was forced to make yet another move, optioning pitcher Brandon Maurer to Class AAA Tacoma, and recalling infielder Alex Liddi from Tacoma.
With first baseman Justin Smoak recovering from a strained oblique and outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse still in Seattle after suffering a strained quadriceps, the Mariners needed another position player for depth. With Maurer not scheduled to start until Sunday, the Mariners decided to make the infielder for pitcher swap.
"With Morse and Smoak working through some things, we're probably going to need another position player, especially with a National League game," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "So we won't need another starter until Sunday. Obviously we'll have to make another move at that point or do something. So we got Liddi up here who can play first or third or the outfield, too."
So who will make that start on the mound on Sunday?
Really there are three likely candidates. Hector Noesi, who is pitching in the bullpen for the Mariners, could make the spot start. Blake Beavan, who started the season in the bullpen, could be called up from Tacoma. He's on the 40-man roster, so it would be a simple swap. And then there is veteran Jeremy Bonderman. The right-hander out of Pasco has an opt-out clause in his minor league contract that can be activated on June 1. Basically if Bonderman isn't on the Mariners' 25-man roster on June 1, he can opt to become a free agent.
Wedge knows but isn't telling.
"Yeah, but nothing we're going to release just yet," he said. "But yeah, we do."
Liddi was eating dinner in Colorado Springs with his Rainiers teammates on Tuesday night when he got a call from Mariners director of minor league operation Chris Gwynn telling him he was going to San Diego in the morning.
Liddi was hitting .267 (55-for-206) with eight doubles, two triples, nine homers and 50 RBI in 50 games with the Rainiers. He's struck out a whopping 74 times this season. He said they are a product of some swing changes he's undergone with Rainiers hitting coach Howard Johnson.
Liddi is trying to get his lower half more involved in the swing and hit the ball all over the park. It's one of the reasons why his strikeouts are even higher than usual.
"It was something new for me," he said. "I'm working on it. Of course, it takes a while. I went through a little slump and then I found it again. It makes me stay through the ball better and drive it the other way which is my strength."
So why the change?
"It's something that I kind new I had to do," he said. "But I didn't know the way to do it. HoJo introduced me to it. It's been big the work HoJo did with me. I really appreciate the work he did for me."
As for Maurer, he will go down to Tacoma to restore his command and confidence. He gave up six run on nine hits in 52/3 innings on Tuesday. For the season, he's 2-7 with a 6.93 ERA.
"It's never just one game, we looked at the collective work and the way I feel is it's somewhat similar to (second baseman Dustin) Ackley in regard to what they're going through," Wedge said. "But it's different because it's his first time up here, he's a starting pitcher and he's going to go to Triple-A, which he's never been to. So it's still an elevated level from last year with so much more experience and how much more he's learned about himself and the big leagues."
What Maurer needs to work on is pretty simple.
"The biggest thing is just staying consistent with his tempo and mindset and approach over the course of the game," Wedge said. "(Tuesday) was a good example. He starts out good, then things start to happen and he tries to do a little bit more. That's when you lose release point and command and that's where he gets into trouble. It's not that his pitches weren't doing what they need to do. His stuff is legit. He's going to be a big-league pitcher for a long time. But he just has to get himself in the right position to execute pitches consistently throughout the course of a game."
As for Smoak, he took batting practice before Wednesday's game along with ground balls and played catch. He hopes to be able to return to the lineup today or in the weekend series in Minnesota.
Smoak credits the chance to return so quickly because of his willingness to admit there was pain.
"I've had it before on the left side," he said. "Thank God I was smarter than I normally am. I'm normally going to play through it, but when I felt what I felt, I knew what I had done before and didn't want to feel that again. I tried to get out of there and take care of it."
Smoak suffered the same injury in Class AA with the Rangers, and was out six weeks.
Morse is still in Seattle. He met with team doctors Wednesday. The initial diagnosis of a mild quadriceps strain has not changed.
"Morse got checked out and they're still hoping it's going to be something minimal, hopefully in that 3-to-5 day range," Wedge said. "We're trying to give him a little time away from flying, just the pressure part of it. That's why we've waited and will wait one more day."
Morse will likely join the team in Minnesota, if not today in San Diego.
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