By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
HOUSTON — Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager was named the American League player of the week for the second time this season and, this time, he doesn’t have to share the award.
Seager shared the honor with White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu for the week of April 21-27.
This time, it’s his alone.
“It’s an honor,” Seager said, “and I’m really happy to get it. It’s nice.”
The award comes after Seager went 14-for-24 in six games with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He raised his average to a season-high .277 and boosted his club-leading totals to 12 homers and 55 RBI.
Abreu made a push to share the award again by batting .357 with four homers and seven RBI. Seager’s teammate, pitcher Felix Hernandez, also garnered support by winning two starts and allowing two runs in 15 innings.
Seager will also receive another watch from Game Time in recognition of his award. He’s yet to wear the first one.
“Really nice,” he said. “Way too nice. It’s too fancy for me to wear. That’s man-cave material.”
Cano widening lead
Second baseman Robinson Cano is closing in on a fifth straight All-Star start for the American League in the final balloting update released Monday by Major League Baseball.
Cano has 2,474,924 votes and a lead of 871,772 votes over Detroit’s Ian Kinsler in the fan balloting to determine the starters. A week ago, Cano led Kinsler by 738,783 votes.
No other Mariners are listed among the leaders for the July 15 game at Minnesota. MLB releases the top five vote-getters for catcher, designated hitter and each of the four infield positions. It releases the top 15 outfielders.
In-stadium balloting to determine the starters has concluded, but online ballots are accepted at www.mlb.com and www.mariners.com through 8:59 p.m. on Thursday.
The final balloting results will be announced at 4 p.m. Sunday by ESPN. All but one player comprising the remainder of the 34-player squads for both leagues will also be announced at that time.
The 34th player in each league will be determined by fan balloting from a list of five candidates in each league. Those five candidates will also be announced Sunday on ESPN.
The Mariners, as expected recalled right-hander Taijuan Walker from Class AAA Tacoma prior to Monday’s game. Walker then stepped into the rotation to pitch the series opener against the Astros.
Walker returned with honors. He was picked as the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week for June 23-29 after pitching a complete-game shutout in his only start. He limited Oklahoma City to four hits in a 2-0 victory.
Point to note: Oklahoma City is the Astros’ Class AAA affiliate. Walker’s award was the first of the season for a Rainiers player.
The Mariners cleared roster space for Walker after Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Cleveland by optioning outfielder Stefen Romero to Tacoma.
Left-hander James Paxton encountered no problems in a 35-pitch bullpen workout that marks the latest step in his recovery from a strained back muscle.
“The ball was coming out pretty well,” he said. “It just felt smooth. I threw fastballs, changeups and I threw some curveballs … It was feeling good.”
Tentative plans call for Paxton to throw 45-50 pitches Friday in a bullpen work and, barring setbacks, pitch a simulated game next week when the Mariners return to Safeco Field.
That puts Paxton on track to return to the rotation after the All-Star break.
The Mariners are expected to sign Venezuelan outfielder Brayan Hernandez, 16, on or shortly after the international signing period opens Wednesday.
Hernandez is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 player on international market and figures to command a bonus in the $2 million range.
Baseball America notes: “Hernandez stands out as one of the most well-rounded players and best athletes on the international market, with four tools that could be average or better.”
Hernandez is 6 feet 1 inches and 170 pounds. He bats and throws right-handed.
Baseball America also links the Mariners to Dominican shortstop Christopher Torres, whom it ranks as the No. 20 international prospect.
Decisions on activating either Justin Smoak or Corey Hart from the disabled list don’t appear imminent. Manager Lloyd McClendon characterized it as “probably be a few more days for sure.” Both players are on rehab assignments at Tacoma. Smoak is recovering from a strained left quadriceps muscle; Hart from a strained left hamstring. … The Mariners announced three more signings from the June draft. All are right-handed pitchers: Lukas Schiraldi (15th round), Hawtin Buchanan (20th round) and Sam Lindquist (37th round). The club has signed 35 of its 40 picks, including all of its top 30. … The Mariners rank sixth among all clubs in hard-hit balls, according to an ESPN metric — right behind Houston. Detroit and Oakland rank one-two. Kansas City and San Diego are 29th and 30th. … Former Mariners’ fan favorite Raul Ibanez has signed with the Royals after being released by the Angels.
Scout of the year
Wayne Norton was picked as the scout of the year by the Canadian Baseball Network in part for his work in helping the Mariners select and sign outfielder Gareth Morgan of Ontario, Canada.
Norton serves as the club’s scouting coordinator for Canada and Europe.
Morgan, 18, was the Mariners’ second pick in the June draft and is currently playing at Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League. He is 1-for-7 with six walks through three games.
Norton also signed two highly regarded Canadian prospects in 2013: outfielder Tyler O’Neill in the third round, and infielder Lachlan Fontaine in the 13th round. Both are from British Columbia.
O’Neill, 19, is batting .261 in 31 games at Lo-A Clinton with six homers and 18 RBI. Fontaine, 18, is batting .258 (8-for-31) in eight games at Peoria.
Norton previously signed outfielder Michael Saunders in 2004. Norton is also one of just two scouts to win the award on multiple occasions. He was the 1998 recipient while working for the Baltimore Orioles.
Walker wasn’t the only Mariners’ award recipient for his work last week in the minors.
Pulaski right-hander Daniel Missaki was picked as the pitcher of the week for June 23-29 in the Rookie Appalachian League after working 15 scoreless innings while winning two starts.
The Mariners signed Missaki, 18, in May 2013 as a non-drafted free agent after he pitched for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic. He was born in Japan but resides in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Missaki permitted just five hits in his two starts for Pulaski while striking out 17 and walking two.
It was five years ago Tuesday — July 1, 2009 — that Ken Griffey Jr. and ex-Mariner Alex Rodriguez combined on a feat that previously occurred just once in major-league history.
Both players homered in the Mariners 4-2 loss to New York at Yankee Stadium. It was Griffey’s 621st career homer, and No. 566 for A-Rod.
Only once previously had two players with at least 550 career homers hit homers in the same game.
The other occasion was May 8, 1971 when the Braves beat San Francisco 5-2 in Atlanta. Hank Aaron got No. 603 for the Braves, while Willie Mays hit No. 633 for the Giants.
Aaron finished his career with 755 homers, Mays with 660 and Griffey with 630. Rodriguez has 654 as he sits out a one-year suspension for his involvement with performance-enhancing substances.
The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game series at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (5-4 with a 3.48 ERA) will face Houston righty Jarred Cosart (8-5, 3.60).
The series concludes at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday. After an open date Thursday, the Mariners open a three-game weekend series against the White Sox in Chicago.