By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — John Buck fetched his first baseman’s glove before manager Lloyd McClendon had a chance to change his mind.
A self-inflicted gash over the left eye of Sunday’s starting first baseman, Logan Morrison, took him out of the game in the fifth. In went Buck to make his big-league debut at first base.
Buck had played first in the minor leagues and takes pre-game grounders at first, shortstop and third base.
“I don’t know if I’m going to take over (Justin) Smoak’s spot,” Buck said with a smile. “He should be nervous.”
Buck was serviceable during his three innings in the field. The Mariners made a defensive shift in the ninth, pushing Willie Bloomquist from second to first and plucking Robinson Cano from his designated hitter role to play second.
Why Buck in the sixth?
“We didn’t have anybody else,” McClendon said.
Morrison had five stitches, dried blood and a clear stretched Band-Aid over his left eyebrow after the game. He smashed his bat off the dugout wall after popping out with two runners on in the fifth. A broken piece kicked back and hit him just above his eye.
Morrison was not happy with his own actions.
“Obviously, acted like a 3-year-old,” Morrison said. “Apologized to my teammates. Have to go apologize to (McClendon). Can’t do that. Didn’t want to come out of the game, but he saw me gushing blood from my eyebrow. So, he took me out.
“Embarrassed. No matter how bad I’m playing, can’t do that. Move on and hopefully start helping the team win here soon.”
Morrison, hitting .135, said he usually doesn’t snap.
“I usually don’t play this bad, either,” Morrison said. “I’m going to have to take some lessons from Kyle (Seager) or somebody on how to do it.”
Morrison is a career .246 hitter.
No rush with Walker
Right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker had his best outing since being activated from the disabled list on Saturday. Walker threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and one run.
Based on McClendon’s explanation Sunday, Walker should continue to embrace Tacoma.
McClendon said he was pleased to see Walker build his pitch count and wanted that to continue. He also pointed out that when Walker returns was not up to him.
“I don’t have a timetable for when Taijuan Walker’s coming here,” McClendon said. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t make that decision. I’ve said this time and time again, my job is to take the players the general manager gives me and help them perform to the best of their ability. I don’t pick the roster. Do I have a say? Yes. Do I dictate when Taijuan Walker is coming here? No. That’s a question for the general manager.”
Injured trio getting closer
Outfielders Michael Saunders (shoulder) and Corey Hart (hamstring) and first baseman Justin Smoak (quad) are all getting closer to returning. Hart and Smoak ran Sunday.
McClendon said they could be sent on rehabilitation assignments by the end of the week, though each has to pass physical tests before returning to the field.
“Saunders and Smoak will come quicker because they have been playing,” McClendon said. “We have to be careful with Corey and make sure we build his at-bats up, and he’s swinging well and running well.
McClendon will let any claims of readiness from that trio fall on deaf ears.
“Players want to come back,” McClendon said. “They don’t want to be on rehab and they think five at-bats they’re ready to go. That’s not the case.”
Ramirez not wowing
Despite five scoreless innings Saturday, Erasmo Ramirez still has significant progress to make.
Ramirez walked four batters in five scoreless innings. He has not allowed a run over his last 10 2/3 innings despite putting 19 baserunners (nine hits, 10 walks) on base.
After hearing all spring that Ramirez is known as a strike-thrower, McClendon has yet to see that version of the pitcher. Ramirez has 37 strikeouts and 22 walks in 42 2/3 innings this season. Over the last three seasons, his walks per nine innings have gone from 1.8 to 3.2 to 4.6.
“He’s got to get better than that,” McClendon said.