Center fielder Austin Jackson could return to the Seattle Mariners’ lineup before the All-Star break. All he has to do is meet manager Lloyd McClendon’s standard.
“If he tells me (Saturday) that he’s feeling great,” McClendon said, “I’ll play him. But he’s got to be playing great.”
Great? Nothing less?
“Yes,” McClendon said. “It just makes sense.”
The Mariners turned to Dustin Ackley on Friday to replace Jackson in center field for the second consecutive game. It wasn’t an ideal matchup; Ackley had just one hit in 10 prior at-bats against Angels starter Hector Santiago.
Back spasms forced Jackson to leave Wednesday’s game against Detroit in the fourth inning. Through treatment, he recovered sufficiently by Friday to try some baseball activities.
“Really, when it happened,” he said, “it was hurting when I’d make any type of movement. Bending over and putting my shoes on, it was spasming up on me a little bit.
“But now, I think, we’ve got that out of there. Now, it’s just going to be testing it out swinging.”
Jackson missed three-plus weeks in May after suffering a sprained right ankle while running out a grounder at Houston. He is batting .252 in 63 games with a .297 on-base percentage and a .360 slugging percentage.
PLANS FOR HAPP
While veteran left-hander J.A. Happ agreed to be optioned Thursday to Hi-A Bakersfield and, by rule, must report to the Blaze, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll pitch in the minors.
McClendon said Happ is tentatively slotted to pitch the fourth game after the All-Star break, which would be July 20 at Detroit. McClendon also acknowledged Happ could benefit by, in effect, skipping a turn in his cycle.
Happ pitched four innings Wednesday in a 5-4 loss to Detroit. He is 4-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 17 starts. He could have refused the assignment to Bakersfield because of his accumulated major-league service time.
If Happ is recalled in time for a July 20 start, his service time this year won’t be affected. He also is not subject to any reduction in his major-league salary of $6.7 million while assigned to the minors.
OTHE PITCHING PLANS
McClendon hedged when asked about his other pitching plans coming out of the break but said Felix Hernandez isn’t likely to be affected by pitching Tuesday in the All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
“If he throws in the All-Star Game,” McClendon said, “he’ll probably throw an inning or two.”
In short: Look for Hernandez to start the series opener July 17 against the Yankees in New York.
MONTERO AT FIRST
Jesus Montero marked his return to the big leagues by starting Friday at first base. McClendon opted to keep Nelson Cruz as the designated hitter, which meant Mark Trumbo started in right field.
McClendon chose to do so, in part, from a desire to protect Cruz, who turned 36 years old earlier this month. But the manager also wanted to apply a personal eye test to Montero.
“I’ve been told,” McClendon said, “that he’s playing extremely good defense down there (at Tacoma) and moving extremely well. So I want to see him.”
ELEVEN AT THE BREAK
Felix Hernandez has 11 victories at the All-Star break for the second time in his career after pitching seven shutout innings Thursday when the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-2.
He also had 11 victories last year at the break.
This season, Hernandez is 11-5 with a 2.84 ERA in 1171/3 innings over 18 starts, including 13 quality starts. He has 112 strikeouts and two complete games, each of which were shutouts.
In 2014, Hernandez was 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA in 1441/3 innings over 20 starts, including 18 quality starts. He had 154 strikeouts but no complete games.
Mark Trumbo said earlier this week that he planned to “simplify” his approach at the plate after batting just .139 in his first 22 games since arriving June 3 in a trade from Arizona.
Simple works, apparently.
Trumbo had three more hits in Thursday’s 7-2 victory over the Angels for his third consecutive multi-hit game. His average is up to .213.
Now, the Mariners would like to see a little more pop for Trumbo, who has just one homer since joining the Mariners.
“He’s starting to get his extension back, which is important,” McClendon said. “You get the ball airborne. I like what I see. I think he’s starting to come on.”
Short-A Everett outfielder Alex Jackson heads “Baseball America’s” mid-season rankings of the Mariners’ Top 10 prospects.
“So far, he’s struggled to square up hittable pitches as a pro,” the magazine reported on its website, “but he still shows bat speed and an outstanding arm in the outfield.”
Double-A Jackson shortstop Ketel Marte is ranked second, followed by Everett left-hander Luiz Gohara, Jackson right-hander Edwin Diaz and Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Pat Kivlehan.
Kivlehan is currently on leave from the Rainiers to play for the United States team at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
The rest of the Top 10:
Jackson first baseman D.J. Peterson, Advanced-A Bakersfield outfielder Tyler O’Neill (playing for Canada in the Pan Am Games), Jackson first baseman Jordy Lara, Dominican outfielder Brayan Hernandez and Everett outfielder Luis Liberato.
The Mariners’ 19 hits in Thursday’s victory tied for their second-highest total in a nine-inning home game since Safeco Field opened in 1999.
Seattle had 20 hits in a 16-1 romp over Detroit on Aug. 22, 2001,
The franchise record for hits in any game at Safeco is 21, which the Mariners accomplished on Sept. 25, 2006 in a 10-9 walk-off victory over Oakland in 10 innings.
Although the Mariners assigned Marte to Jackson earlier this week after he completed his rehab assignment for a broken left thumb, he remains eligible to play Wednesday in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Omaha, Neb.
Marte, 21, was voted as the Pacific Coast League’s starting shortstop after batting .343 in 51 games at Tacoma before suffering his injury.
First, though, Marte is heading to Cincinnati to play Sunday for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game. Diaz is also on the World team.
It was 36 years ago Saturday — July 11, 1979 — that Tom Paciorek went 4-for-4 in leading the Mariners to a 16-1 victory over the New York Yankees at the Kingdome.
The Mariners scored nine runs in the first inning, including seven against Tommy John, who lasted just one-third of an inning. Even Mario Mendoza of Mendoza Line fame had a two-run triple.
The 16 runs were, at the time, a franchise record. The current Mariners record is 22 on April 29, 1999 against Detroit.
Felix Hernandez pitched seven or more scoreless innings Thursday for the 43rd time in his career — a franchise record. Jamie Moyer ranks second with 34. ... Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush went to the disabled list Thursday because of biceps tendinitis. Asked how he felt, Furbush answered: “Great.” Great? “Great,” he affirmed. ... The Mariners’ top-scoring inning this season entering Friday? The third inning with 41 runs. They had scored 39 in the first, fourth and fifth inning. The top inning for opponents was the fourth with 55 runs.
The Mariners and Angels continue their four-game weekend series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 7.17) will make his second start since returning from more than two months on the disabled list because of a strained back muscle. The Angels are starting lefty C.J. Wilson (7-6, 3.82). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.