By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Right fielder Corey Hart, signed by the Mariners to provide a big right-handed bat to a lefty-heavy lineup, will be on the bench tonight for the season opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
“I doubt if Corey is going to be (in the lineup) every day right off the start,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “There’s still some building we need
to do with him. You have to look ahead. He won’t play (Monday).
“We’ve got two lefties the next two days. So he’ll be in the lineup the next two days.”
The Angels list left-handers C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago as their starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Mariners then head to Oakland, which projects two lefties (Tommy Milone and Scott Kazmir) in the four-game weekend series.
“I’ve got to be careful in how much I push (Hart) early,” McClendon said.
“He’s OK with that … If I can get 145 to 150 games out of him this year, I’d be very happy.”
Walker, Iwakuma updates
It’s beginning to look as if Taijuan Walker will be ready to rejoin the rotation before Hisashi Iwakuma.
Walker worked four innings in a minor-league game Sunday in Arizona and is slotted to open the season Friday on a rehab assignment at Class A High Desert against Inland Empire (Angels).
Iwakuma is now one week into his throwing program with a baseball — he began with three days of throwing a tennis ball, remember — but isn’t likely, McClendon said, to throw from a mound for another 10 days.
The projected program of bullpen workouts and minor-league games figures to push Iwakuma’s return, in a best-case scenario, into late April. He is recovering from a strained ligament in his middle finger.
Walker threw 55 pitches on Sunday in his third minor-league outing since returning from a one-week shutdown in early March because of bursitis in his shoulder. He threw 17 additional pitches in a bullpen session.
That suggests Walker, with no setbacks, could be conditioned for 90-plus pitches by the middle of the month.
McClendon admitted he is “happy” to be “back in the saddle” as a big-league manager for the first time since Sept. 4, 2005 with Pittsburgh. He also sounds at peace with what he views as the limitations of his role.
“I’m no smarter than anybody else,” he said, “but I’m no dumber either. I know when to bunt, when to hit-and-run. I know when to bring in the right pitcher for the right situation.
“Once they’re in there, it’s up to them to get the job done. My job is to make sure I put my personnel in the best possible position to be successful. The rest is up to them.”
Upcoming opponent: Los Angeles Angels, three games (today through Wednesday) at Angel Stadium.
Projected pitching matchups: RHP Felix Hernandez vs. Angels RHP Jered Weaver; RHP Erasmo Ramirez vs. Angels LHP C.J. Wilson; and LHP James Paxton vs. Angels LHP Hector Santiago.
Season series: The Angels finished last year with an 11-8 advantage, including 7-2 at Angel Stadium.
Worth knowing: The opener today is Robinson Cano’s first game with the Mariners since signing his 10-year, $240 million deal. It is also Mike Trout’s first game with the Angels since agreeing to a six-year extension for $144.5 million through 2020. He’s only making $1 million this year, though.
TV: Root Sports has all three games. Tonight’s game is also on ESPN2.