Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Manager Lloyd McClendon says club must ‘stay the course’

Do you find your disappointment growing — along with an inclination to vent — as the Seattle Mariners continue to lurch their way through the season?

Manager Lloyd McClendon insists he hears you … even without checking Twitter.

“I understand people who root for us and are close to us feel bad about it,” McClendon said Wednesday before his club lugged a 17-21 record into their game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

“I feel bad about it. Nobody is losing more sleep than me. But the fact is we have to stay the course. We have to stay positive. We have to continue to do the things that we need to do to get ourselves out of this.

“I see signs of it. (On Tuesday) night, Robby (Cano) got a couple of hits. He swung the bat extremely well. (Nelson) Cruz swung the bat good. (On Tuesday) night, it was obviously the starting pitching (that caused problems).

“Before that, it was our hitting. We didn’t hit well. Before that, it was the defense. All of those things are starting to come together, and we’re going to get on a run, and it will be a good one.”

It will need to be a long and sustained good one. Houston’s 6-1 victory over Oakland on Wednesday afternoon pushed the Mariners to 8 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West Division.

“Listen, nobody wants to lose contact,” McClendon said, “but I think the worst thing you can do right now is to start looking at the standings. We’ve got to win ballgames.

“This is what I’ve always said, and I live by it, today is the biggest game of the year because it’s the only one we’ve got. That’s the way we have to play baseball. We have to focus on today. Not tomorrow.

“Focus on today’s game and not get caught up in the standings.”

CASTILLO ONBOARD

New catcher Welington Castillo is ticketed for a starting assignment in Thursday’s series finale against the Orioles after getting one day to become acclimated to his new teammates.

“I’m going to get my mind clear here,” he said. “This is a new place. I’m going to (approach it) with a new mind. Just start over, like this is spring training. Just get as ready as I can, fast and quick.”

The Mariners acquired Castillo, 28, in a Tuesday trade that sent reliever Yoervis Medina to the Chicago Cubs. Castillo joined the club prior to Wednesday’s game.

“It might be (a good move for me),” said Castillo, who lost playing time this season in a three-catcher arrangement. “I like to compete, and I like to win games. That’s all I care about.”

McClendon said previously that Castillo will serve a backup role to Mike Zunino and that his playing time would hinge on Zunino’s performance.

Castillo was batting just .163 this season in limited duty for the Cubs, but he has a .252 career average. He had 13 homers and 46 RBIs last season in 110 games.

JACKSON TIMETABLE

The soft, spongy turf at the Rogers Centre in Toronto could keep center fielder Austin Jackson from returning this weekend from his rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Tacoma.

Jackson suffered a sprained right ankle May 3 while running out a grounder in Houston. He began his rehab assignment Saturday at Tacoma and accompanied the club on its trip to Iowa.

“We’re not going to rush this,” McClendon said. “The worst thing you can do is he says he’s 85-90 percent, and you take him to Toronto on the soft turf.

“Then he’s going to go back to 50 percent, and we’re battling this thing a lot longer than we wanted to. We’re going to be patient. When he’s 100 percent, he’s going to come back.”

The Mariners play three weekend games in Toronto before concluding their nine-game trip next week with three more games on artificial turf at Tampa Bay.

MORE MINOR MOVES

Tacoma is picking up two relievers.

The Mariners signed veteran right-hander Kevin Gregg, who addwas released May 11 by Cincinnati, and activated lefty Edgar Olmos from the disabled list. Olmos missed all of spring training because of a shoulder injury.

Gregg, 36, is a 13-year veteran who has a 4.24 ERA in 594 career games with six clubs, but he missed most of last season because of an elbow injury that eventually required surgery to remove bone chips.

His comeback this season with the Reds didn’t go well: 0-2 while allowing 12 runs and 13 hits in 10 2/3 innings over 11 appearances.

The Mariners acquired Olmos, 25, in a Nov. 24 waiver claim from Miami. He was subsequently claimed Feb. 24 by Texas but returned to the Mariners when a physical examination revealed his shoulder injury.

Olmos was 3-3 with a 4.06 ERA in 51 games last season in the Miami system at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.

TILLMAN to start

Right-hander Chris Tillman has sufficiently recovered from his ailing back, he and the Orioles have determined, to allow him to start Thursday’s series finale against the Mariners.

It’s no stretch to wonder whether the Mariners themselves factored into the decision. Tillman, 27, is 6-0 with a 2.03 ERA in six career starts against his former employer.

Recall that the Mariners selected Tillman in the second round of the 2006 but sent him to Baltimore in the disastrous February 2008 deal along with outfielder Adam Jones and others for left-hander Eric Bedard.

Tillman had been scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Angels, but he was scratched due to back stiffness. He reported no problems after playing catch prior to Tuesday’s game.

MID-WEEK MISERIES

The Mariners continue to suffer from mid-week blues.

Tuesday’s loss to the Orioles left then with a 4-11 record in games played on Tuesday (2-5), Wednesday (2-4) and Thursday (0-2). They are 13-10 in games played on other days of the week.

CONSISTENT MUSCLE

Nelson Cruz leads the American League with six homers in May after tying for the major-league lead by hitting 10 in April. His 16 homers overall lead the majors by one over Washington outfielder Bryce Harper.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira ranks second to Cruz among AL players with 12 homers. Cruz and Harper are the only players, prior to Wednesday’s game, with more than 12 homers.

Boston left fielder Hanley Ramirez matched Cruz with 10 homers in April but has not hit one in May. Harper leads all players in May with 10 homers. Cruz and four other National League players have six.

LOOKING BACK

It was two years ago Thursday — May 21, 2013 — that Angels outfielder Mike Trout became the youngest player in American League history, at 21 years and 287 days, to hit for the cycle.

Trout went 4 for 5 in a 12-0 romp over the Mariners at Angel Stadium.

SHORT HOPS

Seth Smith hit the second leadoff homer of his career in Tuesday’s 9-4 loss to the Orioles. He also pulled back a homer later in the inning with a leaping catch at the left-field wall on Adam Jones’ drive. The only other players this season to hit a homer and steal a homer in the same game were Mookie Betts of the Red Sox and Mike Trout of the Angels. … The Mariners had faced 10 consecutive right-handed starters before Wednesday’s game against Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Orioles conclude their three-game series at 9:35 a.m. (PDT) Thursday at Camden Yards. Seattle lefty J.A. Happ (3-1, 2.98 ERA) will face Baltimore right-hander Chris Tillman (2-5, 6.34).

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