By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
The Seattle Mariners ramped up their bullpen depth in the offseason with the acquisition of hard-throwing Brandon League. It gives them three hard throwers to finish games —_ League, Mark Lowe and closer David Aardsma — in addition to sinker specialist Sean White, who so far hasn’t experienced the shoulder problems that plagued him late last season.
The added depth allows the Mariners to consider ways they might use right-hander Shawn Kelley, who pitched 46 innings in relief last year. Kelley pitched two innings on Friday against the Royals, and he’s among a small group of pitchers who are getting extended outings. They’re doing the same with right-handers Yusmeiro Petit, who pitched two innings Saturday, and David Pauley, who pitched three innings Friday against the Royals.
“Were taking a look at these options of giving us length there, and Kelley’s definitely one of them,” Wakamatsu said.
Among Kelley’s 41 relief appearances last season, he pitched more than one inning 10 times and two innings or more eight times. Seven of those came in the final two months of the season.
Despite reports indicating the Mariners could be grooming Kelley as a starter, Wakamatsu downplayed that.
“We did kick around the idea, but I haven’t talked to him about it,” Wakamatsu said. “He hasn’t started since college, so that’s another thing.”
AquaSox on the premises
Among those in Peoria for the first day of minor league workouts were three from the Everett AquaSox front office — executive vice president Tom Backemeyer, community relations director Katie Crawford and video coordinator Stephen Myslik.
They were introduced during the players meeting Saturday morning before the first official minor league workout, then captured video that will be shown this year on the new Aquavision video board at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Among those who’ll appear on video in Everett will be Mariners pitcher and former AquaSox player Ryan Rowland-Smith and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. They also taped a segment with Steve Hecht, the Mariners’ performance coach who began his pro career with the Everett Giants in 1988.
Hecht played only 13 games with the Giants before being promoted to Class A Fresno, but he said Everett left a lasting impression … off the field. He and a couple of teammates rented an apartment in a new building near the ballpark, but woke up in the middle of their first night to find their unit infested with fleas.
Today in camp
The Mariners begin their two-day trip to Tucson, playing the Colorado Rockies at 1:05 p.m. (PDT). The game will air on ESPN 170 AM radio. Felix Hernandez will make his first exhibition start for the Mariners, who also have left-hander Jason Vargas and right-handers Brandon League, Kanekoa Texeira and Jesus Colome on their pitching list. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will start for the Rockies.
Jose Lopez made his best play so far at third base, diving to his right to glove Juan Uribe’s hard grounder behind the bag. Lopez quickly got to his feet and made a strong throw to first base for the out. … Ichiro Suzuki, playing in his fourth straight game, got five at-bats and played all nine innings. He, along with several regulars, won’t make the Tucson trip for games today and Monday. With Tuesday being an off day, he’ll have plenty of time to rest up before Wednesday’s night game against the Rangers. … Hernandez, who’ll be on a 50-pitch limit in today’s start against the Rockies, seemed more excited about the fact he’ll get to bat in the game (without the DH). Before he left the field Saturday, he showed off his batting stance and swing mechanics to anyone interested. “We’re hoping to get three (innings) out of him,” Wakamatsu said. “All he’s excited about is hitting.” … Relievers Aardsma and Lowe, along with nonroster pitcher Dan Cortes, will pitch a simulated game Monday morning in Peoria. … Michael Saunders, who has worked with hitting coach Alan Cockrell since last summer on generating more power, hit his first spring home run in the ninth inning Saturday. “It was nice to see Michael Saunders hit that home run,” Wakamatsu said. “These are guys competing to try and make this club and feeling it a little bit.” … The Mariners announced four cuts from their big-league camp, optioning outfielder Greg Halman to Class AAA Tacoma and re-assigning first basemen Tommy Everidge and Brad Nelson, along with outfielder Mike Wilson, to the minor league camp. It left the Mariners with 51 players in their big-league camp, including 38 on the 40-man roster.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog