Mariners Notes: Saunders gets a night off, Gillespie starts

Mariners outfielder Cole Gillespie drew his first start since May 8 when manager Lloyd McClendon opted to rest Michael Saunders on Friday against Houston left-hander Rudy Owens.

“He probably didn’t (need a day off),” McClendon said of Saunders, who has been on the Mariners’ hottest hitters. “It’s probably more me. He still has a banged-up knee, and he’s been going at it pretty hard. We’re facing two lefties in a row. I thought I’d give him a day.”

Or viewed the other way: If Gillespie doesn’t rate a start against a lefty making his big-league debut, when does he start?

Lock-down bullpen

The Mariners’ bullpen entered Friday’s game on a run of 14? scoreless innings over the past seven games — or since Tampa Bay nicked Fernando Rodney for two runs in the ninth in a 2-1 victory on May 13.

Overall, the relief corps ranked fourth in the American League with a 3.14 earned-run average and underscored its power by registering 137 strikeouts in 132 innings.

Five of the seven relievers entered Friday with ERAs below 3.00.

Streaking

Mariners center fielder James Jones entered Friday with a 12-game hitting streak, which was the longest active streak among AL players. The club record for a rookie is 21 by Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Second baseman Robinson Cano started the night with a career-best streak of reaching base at least once in 29 consecutive games. The club record is 47 by Alvin Davis in 1984.

Kingly numbers

Felix Hernandez needed eight innings Friday to reach 1,900 for his career.

Since Hernandez made his debut on Aug. 4, 2005, only Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia has worked more innings at 1,925. But Sabathia is battling a degenerative right knee and isn’t expected to pitch before July.

Hernandez’s 1,768 strikeouts are the most by any pitcher in the time frame dating to his debut.

Mock drafts

Two of the top online outlets on the upcoming draft — Baseball America and MLB.com — offered their latest projections:

Baseball America has the Mariners selecting Nick Gordon, a high school shortstop from Florida, with the sixth overall pick. Jim Callis of MLB.com predicts Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb.

“Mariners officials, including GM Jack Zduriencik,” Baseball America’s John Manuel observed, “have been in hard of late to evaluate Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb and N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner.

“If the Mariners are under pressure to take a college player, either would make sense, but so would Florida high school shortstop Nick Gordon, generally considered a better prospect and a Seattle target for much of the spring.”

Callis wrote: “If none of the top five prospects fall, most of Seattle’s options will be college products: Newcomb, (LSU right-hander Aaron) Nola, Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto and North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner.”

Short hops

A quip from manager Lloyd McClendon when asked what it said about the Mariners that they had 12 comeback victories: “It says we’ve been down in a lot of games. I’d rather not have those comeback wins. I’d rather just lead wire-to-wire.” … The Astros recalled lefty Rudy Owens from Triple-A Oklahoma City just prior to the game to start Friday after right-hander Brad Peacock was scratched because of soreness in his right forearm. … Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (yes, Kyle Seager’s brother) was cited by Baseball America as the No. 1 player on its weekly Prospect Hot Sheet after going 18-for-30 at Class A Rancho Cucamonga with three homers and 11 RBI.

Looking back

It was 19 years ago today that Mike Blowers tied a club record by getting eight RBI in a game. He went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and a homer in a 15-6 victory over Boston.

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