Welcome to the month of March, when the undefeated Mariners hope to keep stormin’ like lions today (OK, they’re 1-0-1) against the American League champion Texas Rangers.
Speaking of a new month, Mariners reliever Shawn Kelley says it just doesn’t feel like March. He Tweeted (@shawnkelley23) this morning that “I feel like it’s feb 29th more so than march 1st, call me crazy.”
We caught up with Kelley in the clubhouse and he explained: “Twenty-eight days isn’t enough. I haven’t gotten all my bills paid.”
March 1 or Feb. 29, this is a big day in Kelley’s comeback from elbow surgery. After throwing from 105 feet yesterday, he will throw again this morning. It won’t be as intense as yesterday’s session, but it’ll be his first back-to-back days to throw since he was injured.
“Today’s an important day,” he said. “It will be the first day to throw back-to-back without a day’s rest. It feels good, but you want to make sure it’s not stiff and you continue to progress.”
A few other early notes:
• Felix Hernandez will pitch his simulated game on Thursday and Jason Vargas will pitch his on Friday. Both starters are being eased into spring training after having reached career highs in innings last year.
• While it’s too early to make anything of pitching performances good and bad, it’ll be interesting to watch the emotion level of Mariners’ youngsters on the mound today. After starter Nate Robertson, the Mariners are scheduled to pitch four guys trying to make an opening-day roster for the first time — Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes and Tom Wilhelmsen.
• As Wedge looks for lineup combinations, he’ll have Milton Bradley and Jack Cust together for the first time today, with Bradley batting third (and playing left field) and Cust batting fourth (at DH). Also, center fielder Franklin Gutierrez will play his first exhibition after having tests last week in Seattle on his troublesome stomach.
• It’ll be nice to see a guy today who barely got a chance to show what he could do for the Mariners two years ago – Endy Chavez, who’ll start in left field for the Rangers. Chavez was the Mariners’ opening-day left fielder in 2009 and was having a nice season (.273 average, two homers, .328 on-base percentage and nine steals in 54 games) before he suffered a massive knee injury in an outfield collision with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Chavez missed the rest of the 2009 season and played only eight minor league games last year in the Rangers’ system.
• Today’s game won’t air on radio, although we’ll drop 140-character updates and thoughts during the afternoon via Twitter (@kirbyarnold).
Here are today’s lineups:
Julio Borbon, center field
Esteban German, second base
David Murphy, right field
Brian Barden, third base
Mitch Moreland, first base
Yorvit Torrealba, catcher
Chris Davis, DH
Andres Blanco, shortstop
Endy Chavez, left field
Starting pitcher: Left-hander Matt Harrison
Ichiro Suzuki, right field
Chone Figgins, third base
Milton Bradley, left field
Jack Cust, DH
Miguel Olivo, catcher
Adam Kennedy, first base
Franklin Gutierrez, center field
Dustin Ackley, second base
Jack Wilson, shortstop
Starting pitcher: Left-hander Nate Robertson