Mariners’ Young wants to improve on first half start

SEATTLE — Even though Mariners pitcher Chris Young lost to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, the first half of the season was a success for the tall right-hander.

At 35, Young entered his 10th big league season having last pitched in the majors in 2012 for the New York Mets. He’s settled nicely into the third starting spot in the Mariners’ rotation, going 8-6 with a 3.15 ERA.

He’s having his best season since being elected to the All-Star game as a San Diego Padre in 2007. But Young said he thinks he needs to get even better to help his team make the post-season.

“I’ve got room for improvement,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll continue to get stronger and help the team win games.”

Young gave up five hits and three runs over six innings on Sunday in his 18th start. It was his second loss in a row. He said he thought he pitched well, and was doomed by just a few mistakes.

“It felt like the only really bad pitch (Sunday) was the one to Moss that he hit out in the sixth,” he said. “Lowrie hit a pretty good pitch the other way, and it’s just good hitting. They’re a good club.”

Waiting on Walker

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t happy with pitching prospect Taijuan Walker’s performance in Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday.

“Five innings, 83 pitches and one strikeout,” he said. “That’s not a good outing to me.”

Walker is currently ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Mariners organization, and is the No. 5 overall prospect in all of baseball, according to mlb.com.

The right-hander won his major-league debut last August against the Houston Astros, but has battled shoulder problems that arose in February which have prevented him from joining the Mariners full-time.

He’s only started 11 games since then — nine for three different teams in the minors and two for the Mariners.

“I’m not trying to bash the kid,” he said. “But how we go about our business, and our level of expectations from the minor leagues all the way up to the big leagues, it’s got to change.”

After the All-Star Game

McClendon announced the post-break rotation — or at least most of it.

Hisashi Iwakuma will pitch the first game back, when the M’s travel to Anaheim, Calif. to take on the Angels. Felix Hernandez will start the next game, and Chris Young will pitch the third game back. He’s also decided on a day-four starter for July 21 against the Mets — rookie Roenis Elias — but has yet to choose a starter for day five.

Rodney misses chance at 200

Mariners newly-minted All-Star reliever Fernando Rodney had 199 career saves coming into Sunday’s first-half finale with the Athletics, and he’ll still have 199 after the All-Star break, after being denied the chance at a save in the M’s loss. His 27 saves are the most in the American League this season. The 37-year old has a 1.98 ERA in 37 appearances this season with Seattle.

Paxton coming back

RHP James Paxton said his arm felt fine the day after his simulated bullpen session yesterday, and is still on track to make a rehab start for the Single-A Everett AquaSox Thursday. The plan then calls for Paxton to be sent to Tacoma, where he will continue his rehab assignment.

Minor details

Double-A Jackson right-hander Victor Sanchez was picked by Baseball America as its Prospect Pitcher of the Day after a dominant performance in Saturday’s 7-1 victory over the Birmingham (White Sox).

Sanchez, 19, allowed one run and three hits in eight innings while striking out nine and walking one. He is 5-4 overall with a 3.74 ERA over 14 starts.

The Mariners signed Sanchez, a naïve of Venezuela, as a non-drafted free agent on July 12, 2011. He entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the organizations No. 7 prospect.

Short Hops

Seattle has a 25-14 record against teams with a .500 or better win percentage at the time they played, and a 26-30 record against teams that are below .500 … Seattle’s .600 win percentage (20-12) in day games is the best in the American League, in large part thanks to Robinson Cano, who is hitting .347 with four homers in the daylight.

Looking Back

It was 16 years ago Monday — July 14, 1998 — that Ken Griffey Jr. collected his 1,500th career hit in a 6-3 victory over Texas at the Kingdome. Griffey reached the milestone with a homer against John Burkett in the third inning.

Griffey got his 1,501st hit in the seventh inning against Scott Bales. It was also a homer.

On Tap:

The Mariners have a four-day break for the All-Star game, before resuming their season Friday against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4, 2.98 ERA) is slated to start.

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