By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz.— The search for pitching help in a thinning market has the Mariners looking at veteran left-hander Chris Capuano, according to various media outlets.
The report surfaced one day after right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez agreed to a four-year deal with Baltimore for $50 million and with right-hander Ervin Santana showing no signs of lowering his price from a similar range.
The Mariners’ interest in Capuano first appeared Tuesday morning in a tweet by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com but soon drew confirmation from other sources.
General manager Jack Zduriencik previously acknowledged interest in adding a pitcher.
Capuano, 35, was 4-7 with a 4.26 earned run average last season for the Dodgers after going 23-24 with a 4.12 ERA in 66 games over the two previous seasons with the Dodgers and Mets.
The Mariners escalated the search for a pitcher after All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma was diagnosed with a finger injury that is likely to force him to open the season on the disabled list.
Miami and the Chicago White Sox have also shown interest.
Capuano made $6 million last season and believed to be seeking a two-year deal. He is 73-83 with a 4.27 ERA in 238 games over a nine-year career with Milwaukee, Arizona, the Dodgers and Mets.
There would be two benefits to signing Capuano. He would not require the Mariners to surrender a draft pick in compensation, and he would likely cost far less than Santana.
That cost savings could position the Mariners to continue their pursuit of a right-handed power bat to help balance their lineup.
Setting the tone
Manager Lloyd McClendon is leaving little doubt regarding the tone he wants to set in camp.
“Part of the message is, ‘I love you, but if you can’t get it done, I’ll get somebody who can,’” he said.
McClendon also chooses not to meet with the roster as a whole but rather smaller units grouped by positions: pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders. That comes from his own experience.
“I’m not that far removed from being a player,” he said. “You’ve got other things on your mind other than what the manager is saying to you. There are (68) guys. Most of the time the 25 guys who need to hear it are not listening.
“I just want to look them in the eye and make sure they understand the message.
“When I played, guys always met as a whole on the field. I was one of those guys in the back, trying to recover from the night before. So I didn’t really hear what the manager had to say.”
Lobbying for Cruz?
Second baseman Robinson Cano seems to be lobbying for the Mariners to sign free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz.
“I wish we had Nelson here,” Cano said. “We’ve got a front office. They know what they have to do, and what they can sign. That’s out of my hands. I know Nelson. Great guy.
“We all know what he can do with his bat and in the outfield.”
The Mariners have been linked to Cruz throughout the off-season, but indications suggest talks have cooled at their inability to narrow the gap in negotiations.
The alignment of hitting groups for batting practice often offers an early look at how clubs view certain players. (At least players tend to view it that way.) The Mariners, on Tuesday, grouped players generally by position.
Even so, it’s worth noting that first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart, for example, is grouped with the outfielders even as he recovers from surgeries on both knees.
Logan Morrison, another first baseman/outfielder, is grouped, in contrast, with the infielders even though he, too, has a history of knee problems.
The four hitting groups (order listed as posted in clubhouse):
Dustin Ackley, Corey Hart, Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte, Burt Reynolds, Stefen Romero, Humberto Quintero and Manny Pina.
Julio Morban, James Jones, Cole Gillespie, Ty Kelly, Xavier Avery, Endy Chavez, Mike Dowd, Jesus Sucre and Marcus Littlewood.
Ji-Man Choi, Chris Taylor, Gabriel Noriega, Nate Tenbrink, Jesus Montero, Carlos Triunfel, John Hicks and John Buck.
Justin Smoak, Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Willie Bloomquist, Nick Franklin, Logan Morrison and Mike Zunino.