By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
CLEVELAND — After completing two deadline deals, Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik fired back Thursday at unidentified peers in a recent FoxSports.com report who said his dithering slowed the trade market.
“There were people out there who really thought the Mariners are a prime target,” Zduriencik said. “‘Hey, they’re in a pennant race for the first time in 10 years. They’re going to give up the farm.’
“There was a little bit written about that. We were not going to do it, and it probably didn’t make a lot of people happy. But I don’t care. If a few guys get ruffled feathers, that’s their fault.”
FoxSports.com reported: “To hear rival executives tell it … Zduriencik mostly has exasperated trade partners … (who) say the Mariners frequently inquire on a number of players, only to shift direction when a deal appears within reach.”
If so, Zduriencik makes no apologies.
“These are our players,” he said. “This is our organization. That’s our focus. If we can help each other, I’m all in. But we’re not sitting here donating players to make somebody else better. Forget about it.”
The Mariners traded four minor-league players over the last week, but Zduriencik contends he kept the core of the organization’s youth movement in place.
“You go back six years ago,” he said, “there were a lot of people saying we should trade Felix Hernandez. That we were nuts for holding onto Hernandez. ‘You could get a bundle for Felix Hernandez.’
“We didn’t do it. We re-signed him and then re-signed him again. It’s the best move we’ve ever made. In this case with a (James) Paxton, a (Taijuan) Walker, (Roenis) Elias … you take any of the young kids, D.J. Peterson…
“Look, we spent a lot of time to get a young team on the field that is producing pretty well. They’re not there yet. But to give up pieces that are going to be part of this thing going forward didn’t make sense.
“I wasn’t willing to do it. That’s just the way it is. We’ve put too much into this. Our fans have suffered too much for 10 years (for us) to try to get to a point where we’re competitive. We are now, and we’re going to get better.
“This group of kids will get better. We’re not finished. We’ve got Paxton coming back. We’ve got Taijuan eventually. We have a lot of nice pieces. It isn’t just a couple. I think that’s very important.”
Paxton to start Saturday
Left-hander James Paxton will return Saturday to the Mariners’ rotation after missing nearly four months because of a strained back muscle.
Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed, shortly after Thursday’s 6-5 victory in Cleveland, that Paxton will start against the Orioles in Baltimore.
Earlier, McClendon acknowledged their was no medical reason to prevent Paxton from returning to the rotation.
The Mariners must make a corresponding move to clear space on their roster to accommodate Paxton, who has been out since April 8 because of a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle.
Felix Hernandez carved a niche in the record book Wednesday when he pitched at least seven innings for a 14th straight start while allowing two or fewer runs.
Hernandez also got pinned with a 2-0 loss. The Mariners are 10-4 in Hernandez’s 14-game run, while he is 7-2 with five no-decisions.
So how does that compare?
Tom Seaver held the previous major-league record at 13 such starts for the 1971 New York Mets. Seaver was 8-3 in those games, while the Mets were 9-4.
Outfielder Alex Jackson, the organization’s top pick in the June draft, should return to active duty by mid-August after suffering a broken bone in his left cheek.
“About 10 days,” Zduriencik said. “He wants to go now.”
Jackson, 18, suffered the injury on July 21 when he lost a fly ball in the lights while playing for Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League. He was batting .289 with two homers and 15 RBI in 20 games.
It was 18 years ago Friday — Aug. 1, 1996 — that Jamie Moyer, obtained two days earlier in a trade with Boston, won his first game as a Mariner by yielding one earned run in seven innings in an 9-2 victory at Milwaukee.
Moyer remained with the Mariners until an Aug. 19, 2006 trade sent him to Philadelphia. He was 145-87 in 324 games with the Mariners and remains the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, starts (323) and innings (2,093).
Moyer concluded his 25-year career in 2012 with Colorado. He was 49 when he retired and had a 269-209 and 4.25 ERA in 696 career games with eight teams.
The Mariners open a three-game weekend series against the Orioles at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (8-8 with a 4.31 ERA) will oppose Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen (11-3 and 3.92).
Chen pitched eight innings in a 4-0 victory over the Mariners on July 24 at Safeco Field. Elias allowed one run in five innings on July 27 when the Mariners lost 3-2 to the Orioles in 10 innings.
The Orioles won three of four last weekend at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have an open date Monday before starting a nine-game homestand on Tuesday with the first of two games against Atlanta.