BALTIMORE — Newcomers Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia each arrived in time Friday to join the Mariners for batting practice and — guess what? — they’re happy to be here.
“I’m going on a couple of hours sleep,” Denorfia said, “and I feel like I had a pot of coffee just walking in here. I’m really looking forward to getting off to a good start and a fresh start, too.
“I’ve had a little bit of struggles this year. None of that matters now. I get to look up at the scoreboard and see zeroes. Our record is above .500. It’s a different outlook just coming here to the ballpark.”
OK, that’s probably not surprising. Denorfia 34, left a struggling club in San Diego and now finds himself on a club attempting to make a postseason push.
But Jackson, 27, spent the last four-plus seasons in Detroit, a perennial power that again sits atop the American League Central Division. Why is this, as he termed it, “a good thing” for him?
“A new chapter,” he insisted. “You get to start fresh. You get to help a ballclub that is trying to advance, and I like that challenge. I’ve always been somebody is up for a good challenge. I see this as one of those challenges.”
That challenge started for both players in Friday’s series opener against the Orioles. Both were in the lineup; Jackson served a the leadoff hitter and played center field, while Denorfia batted sixth and played right.
The Mariners acquired both players, who are right-handed hitters, just prior to Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline in an effort to boost and balance a left-heavy attack that ranks next-to-last in the AL in runs per game.
Jackson arrived from the Tigers in a three-team deal that sent minor-league infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay. Denorfia came from the Padres for two minor-leaguers: outfielder Abraham Almonte and reliever Stephen Kohlscheen.
“Obviously,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “you can see it gives us a lot more balance against left-handed pitchers. It gives us more options, and it gives us more options off the bench.”
He, too, was happy they’re here.
Heading to Tacoma
The Mariners cleared space for Jackson and Denorfia by optioning rookie outfielders James Jones and Stefan Romero to Triple-A Tacoma.
“They’re two young players who are very talented,” McClendon said, “and it does them no good to sit on the bench. They’ve got to play, continue to develop. They’re certainly a big part of our future.
“They’ll go down and play, and they’ll be back (when the rosters expand) in September.”
Jones, 25, is batting .258 with a club-leading 20 steals in 79 games, but he is mired in an 15-for-88 slump that has dropped his on-base percentage to .287. He also rates at minus-10 in defensive runs saved above average.
Romero, 25, is 4-for-20 in nine games since his July 17 recall from the Rainiers. He is batting .196 overall with three homers and 11 RBIs in 60 games.
Paxton on Saturday
More roster moves are coming because the Mariners plan to activate left-hander James Paxton from the 60-day disabled list in order to start Saturday’s game against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
The Mariners must make corresponding space-clearing moves on their 25- and 40-man rosters. McClendon indicated the 25-man move was likely to involve a pitcher; the Mariners are currently carrying eight relievers.
“We’ve got interleague play coming,” McClendon said. “As we speak right now, it might be a tough thing to do (to carry 13 pitchers). Tomorrow, it could change.”
Paxton is returning after missing nearly four months. He exited an April 8 start against the Angels because a strained back muscle. He won two starts before suffering the injury and is 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six career starts.
“Listen, he won’t go out and throw 120 pitches,” McClendon said, “but hopefully he can take us deep into the ballgame…People forget this guy was throwing 99 miles an hour. It will be nice to have him back in the rotation.”
Kendrys Morales started at first base for the first time since returning July 25 in a trade with Minnesota. McClendon said Morales could see increased duty in the field. “He’s very adept over there,” McClendon said. “He’s more than capable of playing first base.”…Reliever Danny Farquhar reported no day-after problems after leaving Thursday’s game in Cleveland when hit by a line drive in the right biceps. He expected to be available for Saturday’s game…Plans now call for outfielder Michael Saunders, out since July 11 because of strained left oblique, to be reevaluated when the Mariners return home. Previously, Saunders had hoped to be able to start a minor-league rehab assignment prior to the end of the weekend.
August’s opening odds
The Mariners entered the first day after the non-waiver trade deadline as a 33-1 shot to win the World Series in updated odds by Bovada, the online gaming service.
That’s a drop from 25-1 on July 16.
Bovada also cites the Mariners as a 16-1 shot to win the pennant. That’s down from 12-1 on July 16. Bovada no longer has odds on the Mariners winning the American League West. They were 12-1 on July 16.
Also: The Mariners’ odds of reaching postseason range from 23 percent to 39 percent in three major computer projections.
In all three cases, the Mariners, at 56-52. rank sixth among the 15 American League clubs — behind Oakland, Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore and Toronto. (Five clubs qualify for postseason.)
ESPN puts the Mariners at 39 percent, while fangraphs.com has them at 27.7 percent. Baseball Prospectus has the dimmest view at 23 percent.
It was 23 years ago Saturday — Aug. 2, 1991 — that Mariners lefty Bill Krueger was picked as the American League pitcher of the month for July after going 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA in six games.
It was one year ago Saturday — Aug. 2, 2013 — that Kendrys Morales had a second straight four-hit game. Just saying…
The Mariners and Orioles continue their three-game weekend series at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time Saturday at Camden Yards.
Lefty James Paxton (2-0 with a 2.25 ERA) will return from the disabled list and make his first start since April 8 when he faces Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-5 and 3.77).
Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The series concludes at 10:35 a.m. Pacific time Sunday. The Mariners have an open date Monday before starting an eight-game homestand.