MARINERS NOTEBOOK

Mariners notebook: Rodney heading to All-Star Game as replacement for Tampa Bay’s Price

Staff writerJuly 12, 2014 

Athletics Mariners Baseball

With his "Kings Court" cheering section behind him, Seattle starting pitcher Felix Hernandez begins his windup in the eighth inning of the Mariners’ 3-2 win Friday over the Oakland A’s at Safecoo Field. Hernandez said Saturday it would be an honor to be named the American League starter for Tuesday’s Major League All-Star Game.

TED S. WARREN — AP

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    SUNDAY: Oakland (Sonny Gray: 9-3, 2.97 ERA) at Seattle (8-5, 3.08), 1:10 p.m., Root Sports, 1030-AM, 710-AM

— Mariners closer Fernando Rodney is heading to the All-Star Game and, yes, he’s planning to pack his quiver.

“You guys are going to see me (shoot) my arrow,” Rodney vowed through a smile shortly. “No matter what inning I pitch, I’m going to (shoot) my arrow.”

Rodney leads the American League with 27 saves, and his signature move after the final out is to pantomime shooting an arrow into the air.

American League manager John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, selected Rodney on Saturday to serve as a replacement for Tampa Bay lefty David Price.

“I was very excited when I heard it,” said Rodney, who learned of his selection after the Mariners completed batting practice prior to their game against Oakland at Safeco Field.

“We had a little meeting in the dugout, and they said I was going to the All-Star Game. I’m happy. That’s a special moment for me right now.”

Rodney, 37, has a 1.98 ERA in 37 appearances after signing a two-year deal with Mariners as a free agent in February.

“The two saves he didn’t get was because we let him down defensively,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I don’t know what else he can do. Listen, the ninth inning is a very difficult inning.

“Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just anybody who can go out there and get it done.”

Rodney’s selection means the Mariners will have four players on AL’s 34-member roster for Tuesday’s game at Target Field in Minneapolis. It is their largest contingent since sending five to the 2003 game.

Second baseman Robinson Cano was voted to a starting position, and right-hander Felix Hernandez won the players’ vote and is viewed as a likely candidate to start the game.

Third baseman Kyle Seager was added last Monday as a replacement for injured Toronto first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.

Rodney is an All-Star for the second time in his career. He made the AL team in 2012 while pitching for Tampa Bay.

“You work to get to that level in your career,” he said. “The first time I made the All-Star Game, I was surprised. And I was so happy when I made it, I think I cried that day.”

Oddly, he accompanied Price, then a teammate, to the 2012 game in Kansas City. This time, he’s replacing Price on the active roster.

Price will make the trip to Minneapolis, but he was replaced because he is pitching Sunday for the Rays.

Rodney said, “He gave me a break.”

Hernandez: Start would be ‘an honor’

Hernandez looms as a strong candidate to start the All-Star Game after closing out his pre-break work Friday with another strong performance in a 3-2 victory over Oakland.

He isn’t lobbying for the ball — he’s been choosing his words carefully — but Hernandez admits it would be “an honor” to start the game.

“I would love to do it,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Farrell isn’t expected to announce a decision before Monday, but ... well, you judge:

Hernandez is 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA after limiting the A’s to two runs and six hits in eight innings. It marked his 11th consecutive start in which he has pitched at least seven innings while allowing fewer than three runs.

It is, by the numbers, the best first half of Hernandez’s 10-year career.

Consider some of those numbers:

Hernandez leads AL pitchers in innings; is tied for the lead in starts and win-loss percentage; and ranks second in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

Prefer the sabermetric stats?

Hernandez leads all AL pitchers in WAR (wins above replacement) and (deep breath) ...

Fielding independent pitching, adjusted pitching runs, adjusted pitching wins, base-out runners saved, win probability added, situational wins saved, base-out wins saved and ... you get the idea even if you don’t understand.

This is Hernandez’s fifth All-Star Game, which matches Randy Johnson’s club record for a pitcher. Johnson started the 1995 and 1997 games and, for now, remains the only Mariners pitcher to start an All-Star Game.

Paxton slotted for Everett

Left-hander James Paxton is tentatively ticketed for a rehab start Thursday for Short-A Everett unless day-after complications surface following Saturday’s 53-pitch simulated game.

“Everything feels good,” said Paxton, who is a recovering from a strained back muscle that surfaced in his April 8 victory over the Angels in the Mariners’ home opener.

“It’s just one step at a time as far as getting my stuff back to where it needs to be to pitch here. After a couple of rehab starts, a little more refinement, a couple of more bullpen (workouts), I’ll be good to go.”

Paxton pitched three simulated innings against Dustin Ackley, Willie Bloomquist and Jesus Sucre.

Tentative plans call for Paxton to start Thursday for Everett against Salem-Keizer (Giants) before shifting to Triple-A Tacoma to continue his rehab assignment

Approach on Cespedes

File this for future reference:

Rodney offered a glimpse into the scouting report on A’s slugger Yeonis Cespedes in detailing his approach to their encounter in the ninth inning of Friday’s game with the tying run at second.

“I’m not trying to throw anything right in the strike zone,” Rodney said. “Just keep working this guy, and don’t throw anything off-speed because this guy has a long swing. He’s looking for something soft all of the time.”

Result: Cespedes was late on a full-count fastball, although he drove the ball to deep right field for the second out. That moved the tying tun to third base, but Rodney closed out a 3-2 victory by striking out Nick Punto.

No Heat wavering

It wasn’t all good news Friday for Hernandez. A devoted follower of the NBA’s Miami Heat, he learned (along with everyone else) that superstar LeBron James is leaving South Beach to return to Cleveland.

Question to Hernandez: So ... you still a LeBron fan?

“I’m still a Miami Heat fan.”

But LeBron?

“I still like LeBron, but I’m a big, big D-Wade (Dwayne Wade) fan.”

Wade is the Heat’s long-time star shooting guard.

Short hops

The Mariners entered Saturday at 24-13 against opponents who were .500 or better when the game was played ... Saturday was Hisashi Iwakuma Bobblehead Night. The Mariners had won eight of their previous 10 bobblehead night giveaways and entered the night at 18-21 overall ... The A’s placed recalled infielder Andy Parrino from Triple-A Sacramento prior to the game after placing infielder Alberto Callaspo on the disabled list. Callaspo suffered a strained right hamstring in Friday game while running out a ground ball.

Looking back

It was 11 years ago Sunday — July 13, 2003 — that Willie Bloomquist hit the first of his 18 career homers. It was a grand slam against Tampa Bay right-hander Rob Bell that capped a six-run first inning at Safeco Field.

Bloomquist later added a two-run single in the 13-2 victory. The six RBIs remain a personal best in his 13-year career. The slam is the only one in his career.

Also worth noting: The Mariners’ manager that day was Bob Melvin, who currently manages the A’s. The Devil Rays’ manager was Lou Piniella.

On tap

The Mariners conclude their three-game weekend series against the A’s at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Chris Young (8-5 with a 3.08 ERA) will face Oakland righty Sonny Gray (9-3, 2.97).

Root Sports will broadcast the game.

Sunday’s game also complete the Mariners’ pre-break schedule. They resume their season Friday against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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