By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — Seattle Mariners reliever Dominic Leone saw the third pitch of his major-league career stroked for a double Sunday and believes it might have been the best thing that could have happened.
“I know that sounds weird,” he said. “You’d think you give up a double, you’d get all hyped up. But I think it settled me down. I realized this is still just baseball. I’ve just got to execute my pitches.”
Leone worked around that leadoff double by Oakland’s Eric Sogard by working a scoreless seventh inning in a 6-3 loss to the A’s at the O.co Coliseum.
“It was crazy,” Leone said, “but it was fun. I used a lot of emotion going into it. But at the end of the day, I put up a zero on the board and kept the team in the game. Tried to be effective.”
The Mariners summoned Leone, 22, from Class AAA Tacoma on Friday after designating Hector Noesi for assignment. It capped a swift rise through the system following Leone’s selection in the 16th round of the 2012 draft.
“He’s got a power arm with power secondary stuff,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s got a real good presence about him. He’s not overwhelmed by any situation.
“He earned his spot (with a strong spring performance in big-league camp). I think he’s going to be very important to this ballclub.”
Veteran right-hander Chris Young made his first big-league appearance since Sept. 28, 2012, when he replaced starter Erasmo Ramirez with no outs and runners at first and third in the sixth inning.
It also marked the first relief appearance of his professional career, which includes 159 big-league and 102 minor-league starts since his selection by Pittsburgh from Princeton in the third round of the 2001 draft.
“The game is still the same,” Young said. “You’ve got to make quality pitches. There are no excuses. Once you get the ball, you’ve got to get the job done. That’s been my mentality. Take the ball and try to get outs.”
The Mariners signed Young, 34, on March 27 to fill the fifth spot in their rotation after failing to reach an agreement with Randy Wolf on a major-league deal.
Young spent most of the spring in Washington’s camp but became a free agent following his March 25 release. He missed most of last season while recovering from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome.
Plans called for Young to start Friday’s game against the A’s before unplayable grounds at O.co Coliseum prompted a switch to the bullpen as a long reliever. He worked two scoreless innings in Sunday’s loss.
“I was prepared for Friday night,” Young said. “Obviously, that (game plan) is still with me. … I felt strong. I felt two innings went by pretty quickly. But I’ll be ready to go Tuesday and give the club whatever it needs.”
Abraham Almonte ran the Mariners out of a promising inning by trying to go from first to third on a sharp two-out single in the second inning by Brad Miller.
The Mariners had already scored twice (on RBI singles by Almonte and Miller) and had Robinson Cano coming to the plate. A strong throw by Oakland right fielder Sam Fuld cut down Almonte at third.
“In that situation,” McClendon said, “you’ve got to know we’ve got our best hitter coming to the plate. You’ve got to (be able to) go to third standing up. The only way you learn is to make mistakes.” Almonte realized it was a mistake.
“It was kind of a bad play,” he said. “There were two outs. It was a little bit risky. I think if the ball was hit a little bit softer, I like my chances. But he hit it so hard.
“Next time, I’ll make a better decision and let Cano hit with a runner on second.”
Break for Hart
Corey Hart got a break Sunday after starting the previous four games in hopes of aiding his recovery from a sore right forearm.
“It’s a great opportunity to get him two days off,” McClendon said. “Let him freshen up and be ready for the home opener (Tuesday against the Angels).”
Logan Morrison shifted from right field to Hart’s role as designated hitter for the series finale. That opened a starting spot in right for Michael Saunders.
Hart actually got Friday off, too, due to the postponement. He has two homers and a single in 18 at-bats in four games.
“I think the light is starting to flick a little bit,” McClendon said. “You can see the hands starting to quicken up. He’s starting to recognize breaking balls a little better.
“He’s still not quite over the hump with the tissue issue with his bicep. I just want to be careful with him and keep him moving forward. An opportunity to give him two days off, it just makes sense.”
Third baseman D.J. Peterson was picked by Baseball America as the prospect Hitter of the Day for Saturday after going 4-for-4 with three RBI in Class Hi-A High Desert’s 9-3 victory over Inland Empire (Angels).
Peterson entered Sunday’s game 6-for-8 over the last two games with five RBI. He was the Mariners’ first-round pick in the 2013 draft.
It was 22 years ago Monday — April 7, 1982 — that right-handed pitcher Edwin Nunez became (and remains) the youngest player in Mariners history at 18 years, 10 months and 11 days.
Nunez worked 31/3 innings in relief in a 7-5 loss at Minnesota. He allowed one run, on a homer by Kent Hrbek, and four hits while walking two and striking out one.
Signed in 1979 as a 16-year-old in Puerto Rico, Nunez spent the first six-plus years of his career with the Mariners before going to the Mets in a July 11, 1988 trade for lefty pitcher Gene Walter. Nunez, now 50, was 28-36 with a 4.19 ERA in 427 games over a 13-year career with the Mariners, Mets, Tigers, Brewers, Rangers and A’s.
The Mariners have an open date today before playing their home opener at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
Rookie lefty James Paxton (1-0 with a 0.00 ERA) will try to stifle the Angels for the second time in a week. He worked seven scoreless innings last Wednesday in an 8-2 victory in Anaheim.
The Mariners will also get a second look at lefty Hector Santiago (0-1, 7.20), who yielded four runs and seven hits over five-plus innings in a loss to Paxton.
Pre-game ceremonies, which feature the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks, start at 6:30 p.m. The game will be shown on Root Sports.