Mariners Insider

Archives: Jan. 2010


Cliff Lee looks forward to pitching in Safeco Field with Mariners defense behind him

AP photo

Cliff Lee donned the Seattle Mariners hat and slipped on the No. 36 white Mariners home jersey over his dark blue button-up shirt. With each arm through the sleeves, he buttoned a few buttons and looked out at the assembled media and Mariners front office employees on-hand at Safeco Field.

“It’s a nice fit,” he said.

Not missing a beat, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik replied, “That’s what we hope.”

After being acquired in a trade for three minor league prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies on Dec. 16, 2009, Lee was officially introduced to the local media on Friday afternoon, a day after his soon-to-be teammate Felix Hernandez was in Seattle to sign his 5-year, $78 million extension.

The two would-be aces never crossed paths in the 48-hour span, but Mariners fans will soon get to see them pitch on back-to-back days, forming perhaps the best 1-2 combination in all of major league baseball.

“Any time you are building a competitive team and you want to take the next step, to acquire some of this magnitude and match him up with someone like Felix Hernandez, as well the rest of our rotation, it’s very special,” Zduriencik said.

Having the better part of a month to allow the idea of being traded to sink in and also to do a little checking into his new team, Lee seemed at ease and optimistic about the prospect of playing for the Mariners and in Safeco Field.

AP photo

“I’m excited to be here,” he said. “I’m back in the American League with one of the best defenses in the game. It’s going to be fun watching Ichiro and (Franklin) Gutierrez and Ichiro run around the outfield. (Chone) Figgins, Jack Wilson, (Casey) Kotchman, those guys are defensive-oriented players, to be a starting pitcher you have to like that. I like that a lot.”

Lee didn’t sound quite that upbeat on a conference call the day after the trade was made. At that point, he was still reeling from the punched-in-the-gut feeling of being traded by a team he planned on signing an extension with.

“It definitely caught me off guard,” he said. “Through the media it may have looked like I didn’t want to be traded to the Mariners. That wasn’t the case at all. It was just shock. It caught me off guard. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

Lee wasn’t apologetic for that tone. He was just being honest.

“People are going to perceive things how they want,” he said. “The stuff I said was real. I could have stood up there and made up something to sound good for whoever, but instead I said exactly what I felt. It’s not Seattle. I could have been traded to any other team. I would have said the same thing.”

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Reaction to the Felix signing

Good morning … this might be a shorter post than usual. We have our winter meeting for the Northwest chapter of the BBWAA at noon and the Cliff Lee presser to follow. I’m going to try and post something in between.

So let’s get to it.

Here’s my story from yesterday’s paper …

With Hernandez’s pending free agency two years away but still looming over the Mariners like Northwest storm clouds, Zduriencik did something that seemed unlikely at times and implausible at others: signing Hernandez to a multiyear contract extension that will keep him in Seattle for the next

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Felix Hernandez: “It was not a hard decision. It was easy.”

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has been around baseball long enough to know that pitchers like Felix Hernandez simply don’t come around to organizations every year. Sure each organization is filled with good pitchers, but Hernandez has proven to be somewhere well beyond good and even perhaps past great at the ripe old age of 23.

It’s why Zduriencik and the Mariners gave Hernandez a 5-year, $78-million contract extension.

“We realize that what this young man has accomplished at 23 years of age is pretty special,” Zduriencik said. ” We realize that AT LEAST for the next five years we’ll

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Listen or stream the Felix Hernandez press conference live at 4 p.m.

Got up to Safeco Field early to avoid any traffic delays. No sign of Felix, but a tour group poked their heads into the interview room. They seemed unimpressed by the one writer sitting alone in a room. If they waited about 50 minutes it would have been a real treat for them.

Anyway, if you want to listen to the press conference both KJR and 710 ESPN will be carrying it live.

You can also stream the tv feed here at


Some lunchtime links — Jack Zduriencik talks with KJR

General manager Jack Zduriencik was in attendance at the Seattle Sports Star banquet last night in Seattle and he sat down with Mike Gastineau of KJR for this interview

Obviously, JZ isn’t keen on speaking about on-going contract negotiations, but he did say this about the pending Felix deal.

“It’s difficult to comment on any of these things that are still on-going. The positive is that we had really good talks.”

and he also said this ….

Any time you go into negotiations with a player to keep them in your city or bring them to your city, they’ve got to want to be here.

In Felix’s case, we had a lot of discussions about what he really wanted to do, and we were excited about what he had to say.

Zduriencik talked about other things like Franklin Gutierrez, Milton Bradley and other offseason moves, including this about the future of the organization.

If you look at ball club on the field, every player on that club will be back a year from now.

We did some things last year and this year that we felt we had to do. We’ll continue to do those things. But as we move forward,  the strengths of our this organization, it is our goal to develop this minor league system so we have a feeder system  and you don’t always have to make trades and you don’t always have sign free agents, you’re always there to do it. But the strength and core of an organization should be the ones you raise yourself. If we can do that, which we will do that – then I think we’ll be headed in the right direction and we’ll be solid for a long, long time.

It’s one thing to say that, though I don’t know if Bill Bavasi ever said anything like that or even believed it, but I have little doubt if any that Zduriencik will follow through on that statement.

Also from KJR this morning, David Aardsma was on with Mitch and the Morning. I’m sure I’ve mentioned what a good guy Aardsma is, well this interview gives a glimpse of that.

And since I’m equal opportunity blogger. 710 ESPN had several guests on yesterday, including Keith Law, who broke the story, Karl Ravech of Baseball Tonight and Mariners’ catcher Rob Johnson.  You can listen to all of those interviews here.

From the newspaper realm

News Tribune columnist John McGrath has this column on Felix and the Mariners .

This begat a debate: Should Seattle trade Hernandez with two seasons remaining on his contract, maximizing the pitcher’s market value? Or should the team stay the course and ride the horse?

Amid the discourse, the prevailing emotion was angst. Here was a dilemma, it seemed, with no happy solution. Felix was gone, in either scenario.

And though I suspected Zduriencik could convince Hernandez of still another option – staying with the Mariners another four or five years, then cashing in on free-agency well before he’s 30 – I typically cringed as pundits insisted he’d be foolish to engage in contract-extension talks with the Mariners while he’s only a couple of seasons away from signing a stupid-money contract with, say, the Yankees.

All those fears, it turns out, were unwarranted. Felix Hernandez will pitch in a Seattle uniform for the next five years, and how wonderful is that?

And yet, I’m worried. I’m worried about an injury, and complacency, and the various temptations presented a 23-year-old pro athlete guaranteed $78 million.

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Would you take Ben Sheets as the Mariners’ third starter?

Former Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets worked out for a group of 15 scouts on Tuesday in Monroe, Louisiana as he looks to come back after taking the 2009 season off after surgery on  the flexor tendon in his right elbow.

Sheets, who had the surgery last February, went 86-83 with a 3.72 ERA in his first eight seasons in the Major Leagues, notching double-digit wins seven times and finishing with an ERA under 4.00 in each of his past five seasons. In ’08, he went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts for the Brewers.

According to

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David Aardsma: “I’m not going to let it change anything.”

David Aardsma was in a good mood on Tuesday. Then again you would be too if you’re salary jumped six and half times from one year to the next.

Aardsma went from $419,000 in 2009 to $2.75 million in 2010.

“It worked out well,” Aardsma said. “I think we’re all very happy. We are all happy that we got the deal done and now we can worry about the season.”

It also worked out fast. And arbitration didn’t seem like a possibility.

“I don’t think anybody really, truly wants go to arbitration,” he said. “If you have to you have

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Mariners arbitration eligible signing updates

Obviously the big news has been about Felix Hernandez and his contract extension. Felix was one of five players that were arbitration eligible for the Mariners, meaning the team and the players representatives could exchange contract numbers for a one-year deal this season.

The Mariners have inked two players thus far today.

Reliever Mark Lowe signed a 1-year, 1.15 million dollar contract. It’s just about double the $418,000 he made last season. Lowe appeared in career-high 75 games, also posting career highs in innings pitched (80) and strikeouts (69). He was 2-7 with a 3.26 ERA and 3 saves.


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