Mariners Insider

Mariners notebook: Cuban outfielder on club’s radar

Post by Bob Dutton / The News Tribune on July 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm with No Comments »
July 18, 2014 4:58 pm
Mariners lefty James Paxton, shown here in action earlier this season, will likely get at least two rehab starts at Triple-A Tacoma to gauge his recovery from a strained back muscle. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Mariners lefty James Paxton, shown here in action earlier this season, will likely get at least two rehab starts at Triple-A Tacoma to gauge his recovery from a strained back muscle. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Mariners will be on hand Saturday to scout and evaluate outfielder Rusney Castillo, a Cuban defector, at a showcase event in the Miami area.

“Anytime there’s someone out there showcasing (their skills),” general manager Jack Zduriencik confirmed, “we’re going to have somebody there.

“This would be no different, but most other clubs will have somebody there as well.”

Some rival scouts suggest the Mariners, who are seeking to add a right-handed bat, are among the leading contenders to sign Castillo, whom Baseball America characterizes as a line-drive hitter with “plus-plus speed.”

The Orioles, Dodgers and Twins are among other clubs believed to be interested. The U.S. government recently cleared Castillo, which makes him eligible to sign immediately with any club.

Castillo, 27, is 5 feet 9 and 185 pounds, He is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which also represents Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano.


Paxton’s progress

Rehabbing lefty James Paxton is expected to join the Mariners in Anaheim in order to enable the major-league staff to evaluate his bullpen workout prior to Saturday’s game.

Paxton threw 42 pitches Thursday over 2 2/3 innings for Short-A Everett in his first game action since a May 24 rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma. He allowed two runs and two hits while striking out two and walking one.

“He threw the ball extremely well,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It came out good. He had good finish.”

The Mariners plan to transfer Paxton’s rehab assignment to Triple-A Tacoma, where he is tentatively slotted to start Tuesday against Las Vegas (Mets) at Cheney Stadium.

A strained back muscle forced Paxton to the disabled list in April, and he suffered a setback when shoulder soreness surfaced after his May 24 rehab start.

“We’ll be very cautious with him,” McClendon said. “He’ll go through the process. He’ll be ready for his next rehab start, which will be in Tacoma on Tuesday. Then we’ll reevaluate after that.”

McClendon said he is “75 percent sure” that Paxton will make at least two rehab starts for the Rainiers.

“He’ll probably throw 50-55 (pitches) next time,” McClendon said. “Then he’ll build it to 75. We’ll see where he is after that. If he’s feeling real good, he could go 90 with the big club. I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”


Tuesday’s plans

McClendon isn’t yet ready to announce his starting pitcher for Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets — i.e., the pitcher who will fill the rotation’s final slot coming out of the All-Star break.

Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez looms as a likely candidate. He pitched Thursday for Tacoma and could pitch Tuesday against the Mets on normal rest.

Plus, the Mariners have already indicated Paxton is likely to pitch Tuesday for the Rainiers. The club effectively took right-hander Taijuan Walker out of the mix by having him flip days with with Ramirez at Tacoma.

Walker started Friday for the Rainiers.

“Who knows?” McClendon said. “Maybe it will be a bullpen day again.”


Short hops

Mike Zunino leads all American League catchers at getting called strikes on pitches that are tracked as strikes by ESPN. His success rate is 88 percent. The only catcher better in either league is San Diego’s Yasmani Grandal at 88.3 percent…Robinson Cano, who is batting .334, has a history of heating up after the All-Star break. Throughout his career, he has a .302 average before the break and a .321 average after the break…Fernando Rodney entered the weekend needing one more save to reach 200 for his career.


Minor updates

Lo-A Clinton outfielder Austin Wilson, the Mariners’ second-round pick in 2013, is out of the boot cast and running again and should return to the lineup within a week to 10 days.

Wilson, 22, hasn’t played since June 24. He was batting .298 in 65 games prior to the injury with a .385 on-base percentage and a .523 slugging percentage. He had 11 homers and 52 RBIs.


Minor citations

Double-A Jackson right-hander Victor Sanchez was cited by Baseball America in its weekly Prospect Hot Sheet after a dominating performance last Saturday in a 7-1 victory over Birmingham (White Sox).

Sanchez, 19, allowed one run and three hits in eight innings while striking out nine and walking one. He is 5-4 overall with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts.

“Sanchez has quietly zipped through the system,” Baseball America noted, “signing for $2.5 million out of Venezuela in 2011, skipping the high Class A California League this year and showing he’s far from overmatched as a 19-year-old at Double-A.”


Looking back

It was 20 years ago Saturday — July 19, 1994 — that a 32-inch-by-48-inch ceiling tile at the Kingdome fell to the field behind home plate roughly three hours prior to a game against Baltimore.

Some Mariners were working out on the field at the time. Three more tiles fell later in the day, and the game was postponed. The repair project forced the club onto a 20-game road trip.

Eventually, every ceiling tile was replaced — roughly 40,000 of them, each weighing 15 pounds. Two workers were killed in an Aug. 7 accident while removing the tiles.

The repair project cost $51 million, in part because it was performed on an accelerated schedule. And it didn’t matter. A labor strike in mid-August brought the season to an end.


On tap

The Mariners and Angels continue their three-game series at 6:05 p.m. Saturday with another marquee pitching matchup at Angel Stadium.

Right-hander Felix Hernandez (11-2 with a 2.12 ERA) will oppose Los Angeles right-hander Garrett Richards (11-2, 2.55). Root Sports will broadcast the game.

The series concludes at 12:35 p.m. Sunday.


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