By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin tweeted Wednesday night that he’s been optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma and will join the Rainiers for today’s series opener at Las Vegas (Phillies).
Franklin tweeted: “Las Vegas here I come.”
There was no immediate confirmation from the Mariners on any transactions, but Franklin isn’t likely to be the only roster move prior to Friday’s series opener against Texas at Safeco Field.
Right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez is also facing a likely demotion to Tacoma after a series of poor starts left him at 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA.
Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed earlier that Ramirez’s job was in jeopardy: “That’s a fair assessment. I’m not sure what we’re going to do right now.”
Ramirez opened the season by holding the Angels to two runs in seven innings in an 8-3 victory at Anaheim. Since then: 0-3 in four starts while allowing 16 runs and 21 hits in 17 innings.
Outfielder Cole Gillespie is expected to be selected from the Rainiers and added to the roster. He created a stir by batting .433 in spring training and is currently batting .362 at Tacoma with five homers and 14 RBI in 16 games.
The Mariners seem likely to replace Ramirez with a reliever because they won’t need a fifth starter, because of open dates, until May 2. Their hope is All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma might be ready at that point.
Iwakuma is slotted for a rehab start Sunday for Tacoma at Las Vegas in what could be the final test in his recovery from a strained ligament in his middle finger.
The only two relievers currently on the club’s 40-man roster are lefty Lucas Luetge and right-hander Stephen Pryor. Both are currently pitching at Tacoma.
Luetge, 27, made two appearances earlier this season after a previous recall. Pryor, 24, is battling to regain his form after missing most of last season following surgery to repair a torn back muscle.
Ackley back to 8th in order
Dustin Ackley returned to the No. 8 spot in the order after going hitless in eight at-bats, with six strikeouts, in two days as the No. 2 hitter.
“It didn’t work; I was wrong with that,” McClendon said. “I tried. I liked him in the eighth spot. It’s probably my mistake. I should have left him in the eighth spot because he was doing very well down there.
“He’s going back to the eighth spot. Right now, I’m going to leave him there and let him flourish there. Just like I’m going to leave (Mike) Zunino at the bottom of the order. Let him flourish there.
“We’ll see how it goes in the second half of the season. But for right now, I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Cleared to throw
Two of the Mariners’ prized young arms, left-hander James Paxton and right-hander Taijuan Walker, received clearance Wednesday to begin playing catch as the next step in their recovery from injuries.
Paxton, 25, should begin light throwing Friday after being diagnosed with a strained back muscle (left latissimus dorsi) after a 5-3 victory over the Angels on April 8.
Even so, club officials indicated earlier this week that Paxton isn’t likely to be ready for active duty before mid-to-late May. He was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his two starts prior to the injury.
“They haven’t shown me a throwing program yet,” he said. “So we’ll have to see how that develops. I think they want to see how I feel after the first day of playing catch. So far, it’s all been going really well.”
Walker, 21, battled a sore shoulder in spring training but appeared close to reclaiming his spot in the rotation before the problem returned prior to a planned April 15 rehab start for Tacoma.
Plans call for him to start playing catch Monday. Club officials believe, barring further setbacks, Walker could make a rapid recovery because his endurance was nearly back to desired levels prior to this latest incident.
Kyle Seager has two previous two-homer games, but this was his first one at Safeco. The others were May 2, 2012 at Tampa Bay, and June 5, 2013 at Chicago. … Seager’s five RBI were a career best. He had four RBI on six previous occasions. The Mariners’ last walk-off victory was June 28, 2013 when Zunino had an RBI single in the 10th inning of a 5-4 victory over the White Sox. Mariners starters have not allowed more than three earned runs in any of the club’s eight home games. Zunino threw out Dexter Fowler on an attempted steal of second base in the first inning. Zunino has thrown out four of the last seven opponents attempting to steal. Corey Hart has reached base at least once in the last eight games and is batting .355 (11-for-31) in that span.
The Mariners have an open date today before concluding their homestand with a three-game weekend series against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
Lefty Roenis Elias (1-2 with a 3.22 ERA) will start the opener Friday against Texas right-hander Robbie Ross Jr. (1-1 and 2.31). Root Sports will televise the game.