On their day off before a final series that will determine whether they make the Northwest League playoffs, the Everett AquaSox spent much of Monday at Safeco Field.
The Frogs, who trail Eugene by one game in the West Division second-half standings, begin a five-game series tonight at Spokane
Before they boarded the bus, manager Scott Steinmann brought Jose Campos, Marcus Littlewood, Jabari Blash and their AquaSox buddies to Safeco, where they rubbed shoulders with Ichiro Suzuki and other big-leaguers.
With Ichiro, it literally was a shoulder rub as he walked briskly past the AquaSox, who were lined up on the warning track in front of the Mariners’ dugout. With other Mariners, the interaction on the field was more personal.
Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo shared a smile, a handshake and a few words with every player. So did a couple of other Mariners, as did general manager Jack Zduriencik.
“I just told them good luck,” Zduriencik said. “You’ve got five games left, go get ’em.”
Not many callups expected
Teams can expand rosters on Thursday, and the Mariners are expected to bring up only a few players from the minors in September. Zduriencik would say only that the organization is making final decisions on who’ll be called up.
For those who want to speculate, here are some strong possibilities:
Tacoma third baseman Alex Liddi is having a great season — 28 homers and 99 RBI entering Monday night’s game with Class AAA Tacoma — and probably will be up.
The Mariners surely will bring up a catcher, so look for Chris Gimenez.
Outfielders Greg Halman, Mike Wilson and Michael Saunders are possibilities after they spent time with the big club early this season. However, finding playing time for them will be difficult on a team that’s challenged to get time for all the outfielders already on the roster. It wouldn’t be a surprise if only one of the three comes back because it doesn’t do any of them much good to be up and sit the bench.
Outfielder Carlos Peguero, who played 46 games with the Mariners, is on the disabled list because of an injured calf.
Pitching-wise, the only sure thing seems to be reliever Shawn Kelley, who has been throwing well in his comeback from elbow surgery (0-0, 1.98 ERA in 132/3 innings entering Monday) and likely will be up in September.
Also, don’t forget that Justin Smoak, while not technically a minor league callup, began a rehab assignment Monday with the Tacoma Rainiers and, barring a problem, will return to play first base with the Mariners.
Reminder to play hard
Manager Eric Wedge held a team meeting before batting practice Monday to remind the Mariners that, with a month left to play, he expects as much intensity as they’ve given the first five months. It was a timely talk given the Mariners have 12 rookies and many will play deeper into the year than they ever have.
“Even though we’re not in it, every game still does mean something,” Wedge said. “It’s about respecting major-league baseball, respecting the Seattle Mariners and respecting the teams we’re playing that are in it. The first step is playing those teams that are in a race, because one day we’re going to be in it.”