By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Mariners will be one of the teams on hand today to scout and evaluate outfielder Rusney Castillo, a Cuban defector, at a showcase event in the Miami area.
“Anytime there’s someone out there showcasing (their skills),” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “we’re going to have somebody there. This would be no different, but most other clubs will have somebody there as well.”
Some rival scouts suggest the Mariners, who are seeking to add a right-handed bat, are among the leading contenders to sign Castillo. Baseball America characterizes Castillo as a line-drive hitter with “plus-plus speed.”
The Orioles, Dodgers and Twins are among the other clubs believed to be interested. The U.S. government recently cleared Castillo, making him eligible to sign immediately.
Castillo, 27, is 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. He is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which also represents Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano.
Rehabbing left-hander James Paxton was expected to join the Mariners in Anaheim in order to allow the major-league staff to evaluate his bullpen workout prior to today’s game.
Paxton threw 42 pitches Thursday over 2⅔ innings for the Everett AquaSox in his first game action since a May 24 rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It came out good. He had good finish.”
The Mariners plan to transfer Paxton’s rehab assignment to Tacoma, where he is tentatively scheduled to start Tuesday against Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium.
A strained back muscle forced Paxton to the disabled list in April, and he suffered a setback when shoulder soreness surfaced after his May 24 rehab start.
McClendon said he is “75 percent sure” Paxton will make at least two rehab starts for the Rainiers.
“He’ll probably throw 50-55 (pitches) next time,” McClendon said. “Then he’ll build it to 75. We’ll see where he is after that. If he’s feeling real good, he could go 90 with the big club. I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”
McClendon wasn’t ready to announce his starting pitcher for Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets — i.e., the pitcher who will fill the rotation’s final slot coming out of the All-Star break.
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez looms as a likely candidate. He pitched Thursday for Tacoma and could pitch Tuesday on his normal rest.
Plus, the Mariners have already indicated Paxton is likely to pitch Tuesday for the Rainiers. The club effectively took right-hander Taijuan Walker out of the mix by having him flip days with Ramirez at Tacoma. Walker started Friday for the Rainiers.
“Who knows?” McClendon said. “Maybe it will be a bullpen day again.”
Mike Zunino leads all American League catchers at getting called strikes on pitches that are tracked as strikes by ESPN. His success rate is 88 percent. The only catcher better in either league is San Diego’s Yasmani Grandal at 88.3 percent. … Robinson Cano, who is batting .334, has a history of heating up after the All-Star break. Throughout his career, he has a .302 average before the break and a .321 average after the break. … Fernando Rodney entered the weekend needing one save to reach 200 for his career.
Clinton outfielder Austin Wilson, the Mariners’ second-round pick in 2013, is out of a boot cast and running again and should return to the lineup within a week to 10 days. Wilson, 22, hasn’t played since June 24. The former Everett AquaSox was batting .298 in 65 games prior to the injury with a .385 on-base percentage and a .523 slugging percentage. He had 11 homers and 52 RBI.
Double-A Jackson right-hander Victor Sanchez was cited by Baseball America in its weekly Prospect Hot Sheet after a dominating performance last Saturday in a 7-1 victory over Birmingham.
Sanchez, 19, another former Everett AquaSox, allowed one run and three hits in eight innings. He struck out nine and walked one. He is 5-4 overall with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts.