Seattle Mariners

Mariners reliever Zych revels in his niche in baseball history

New Mariners reliever Tony Zych knows where his place is in baseball reference books and the stack of the team's airline tickets. Zych pitched for the University of Louisville and was drafted twice by the Chicago Cubs (2008 out of high school but didn't sign, and 2011) and was sold by the Cubs to the Mariners on April 1.
New Mariners reliever Tony Zych knows where his place is in baseball reference books and the stack of the team's airline tickets. Zych pitched for the University of Louisville and was drafted twice by the Chicago Cubs (2008 out of high school but didn't sign, and 2011) and was sold by the Cubs to the Mariners on April 1. AP file, 2009

It’s a little piece of history that now belongs to Seattle Mariners reliever Tony Zych.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “Breaking a record is pretty cool. I really didn’t have to do much for that one.”

All Zych had to do was throw a pitch Friday when he made his major league debut in an 11-8 victory over the Athletics. Once he did, he claimed the final spot in baseball’s all-time alphabetical roll call.

Zych (pronounced “Zick”) displaced outfielder Dutch Zwilling, who held the distinction for the past 105 years. It’s not a new feeling. Zych, 25, is used to being last in line.

“Always,” he said. “I always knew right where my stuff was. Like in baseball, if we’re getting our plane tickets, I just reach to the bottom. I know where mine’s at.”

A former Mariner, reliever David Aardsma, holds the distinction of ranking first in baseball’s all-time alphabetical listing. The Mariners also had the first player with a hyphenated last name in pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith.

Zych began his big-league career with two scoreless innings before exiting after giving up two hits in the third inning. Mayckol Guaipe replaced Zych and permitted both runners to score.

That two-run blemish on Zych’s final line didn’t diminish the feeling of achievement, of having finally reached the majors after five long years in the minors.

“A couple of years ago,” he said, “looking at a second season, and a third season ending in Double-A, you’re like, ‘Man, it seems so far (away).’

“This year, it just seemed like I put a couple of things together, and it wasn’t really that far. It’s pretty amazing.”

The Mariners acquired Zych in a cash transaction April 2 from the Chicago Cubs. He compiled a 2.98 ERA this season in 40 games at Double-A Jackson and Tacoma with 55 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings.

“I smoothed a couple of things out with my mechanics,” he said. “I think that helped a lot. I worked with a lot of guys in (learning) how to work hitters. Focused more on pitchability and not so much just throwing hard.”

And now Zych is in the book. The back of the book.

“It’s just a dream,” he said. “It’s really hard to explain. I don’t know how you put it into words.”

LUETGE OFF ROSTER

Lefty reliever Lucas Luetge was sent to Triple-A Tacoma on an outright assignment after clearing waivers, which clears a space on the Mariners’ 40-man roster

The move amounts to a procedural transaction for Luetge, who spent virtually the entire season pitching for the Rainiers.

The Mariners are expected to promote more players Tuesday from the Rainiers, whose season concludes Monday at Las Vegas.

Two promotion candidates not currently on the 40-man roster are outfielder Jabari Blash and reliever J.C. Ramirez. Moving Luetge off the roster suggests Ramirez is unlikely to get a September call-up.

Luetge made one big-league appearance this season; he worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings on April 25 in an 8-5 loss to Minnesota. He is 3-2 with a 5.69 ERA in 29 games at Tacoma.

The Mariners acquired Luetge from Milwaukee in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft.

MEDICAL UPDATES

Two of the Mariners’ top right-handed bats, outfielders Nelson Cruz and Franklin Gutierrez, remain sidelined by injuries. Neither took part in batting practice prior to Saturday’s game.

Cruz is nursing a strained right quadriceps muscle that occurred Wednesday in Houston as he ran the bases. Gutierrez left Friday’s game against the Athletics because of a strained right groin muscle.

While Cruz appears likely to return to action within a few days, Gutierrez’s status is more uncertain.

“He’s still day to day,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It wasn’t as bad as we thought it was, and we’ll see how it feels (Sunday).”

PITCHING PLANS

With lefty James Paxton suffering a setback just as he appeared ready to rejoin the rotation, the Mariners are undecided for a starting pitcher for Wednesday’s game against Texas at Safeco Field.

“I just need to see what happens,” McClendon said, “particularly with our bullpen.”

That suggests McClendon prefers not to send out lefty Edgar Olmos for a third start after he gave up eight runs (seven earned) and 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings in his previous two outings.

The alternative could be lefty swingman Vidal Nuno if he isn’t needed beforehand for a long-relief assignment. He made five starts in August before shifting back to duty as the bullpen’s long reliever.

Paxton exited a rehab start Wednesday for Tacoma at Salt Lake because of a blister and a torn fingernail. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since suffering a strained tendon in his middle finger during a May 28 start.

SEAGER JOINS 20-30 CLUB

Kyle Seager collected his 30th double (and his 22nd homer) in Friday’s 11-8 victory over the Athletics, which enabled him to reach the 20-30 club for the third consecutive year.

He is the seventh player in club history to have three or more such seasons.

The others: Edgar Martinez (seven times), Ken Griffey Jr. (six), Bret Boone (four), Raul Ibanez (four), Alex Rodriguez (four) and Alvin Davis (three).

ARMS RACE

Jose Ramirez and Zych became the 26th and 27th pitchers used this season by the Mariners, which is one shy of the franchise-record 28 in 1999.

The complete list in order of number of innings pitched through Friday:

Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, J.A. Happ, Roenis Elias, Mike Montgomery, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carson Smith, James Paxton, Tom Wilhelmsen, Fernando Rodney, Vidal Nuno, Joe Beimel, Mark Lowe, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, David Rollins, Mayckol Guaipe, Edgar Olmos, Tyler Olson, Yoervis Medina, Dominic Leone, Rob Rasmussen, Logan Kensing, Lucas Luetge, Tony Zych, Jesus Sucre and Jose Ramirez.

Now ... the 1999 list:

Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, John Halama, Jeff Fassero, Gil Meche, Jose Paniagua, Frankie Rodriguez, Paul Abbott, Ken Cloude, Jose Mesa, Mac Suzuki, Brent Hinchliffe, Butch Henry, Tom Davey, Robert Ramsay, Steve Sinclair, Ryan Franklin, Rafael Carmona, Melvin Bunch, Todd Williams, Eric Weaver, Damaso Marte, Jordan Zimmerman, Denny Stark, Aaron Scheffer, Allen Watson, Sean Spencer and Mark Leiter.

MINOR DETAILS

Single-A Everett shortstop Drew Jackson’s growing list of accolades in his first pro season now includes being selected as as the Most Valuable Player in the Northwest League.

Jackson was the league’s player of the month in August and a two-time recipient as player of the week.

The AquaSox also placed center fielder Braden Bishop on the league’s postseason All-Star team, while Rob Mummau was chosen as the manager of the year.

Everett opens the best-of-three North Division playoffs Monday at home against Tri-City (Padres). The series continues Tuesday and, if necessary, Wednesday at Tri-City.

Jackson, 22, was the Mariners’ fifth-round pick in the June draft. He leads the league, through Friday, with 64 runs, 47 steals, a .362 average and a .437 on-base percentage.

Bishop, 22, was the Mariners’ third-round pick in June and is batting .319, which ranks third in the league.

Mummau was also the Northwest League manager of the year in 2013 and the Appalachian League manager of the year in 2011 at Pulaski.

LOOKING BACK

It was six years ago Sunday — Sept. 6, 2009 — that Ichiro Suzuki collected his 2,000th career hit with a first-inning double to right against Athletics left-hander Gio Gonzalez in Oakland.

Suzuki’s hit came in his 1,402nd game, which made him the second-fastest player to reach the milestone in major-league history. Outfielder Al Simmons, in 1934, did it in his 1,390th career game.

Suzuki, 41, is now in is 15th season and playing for Miami. He entered Saturday with 2,927 career hits. He will be a free agent at the end of the season.

SHORT HOPS

Felix Hernandez improved his career record against Oakland to 22-8 in 40 starts. ... Center fielder Brad Miller went 2 for 4 and is batting .309 (29 for 94) in his past 31 games. ... The Mariners now have a winning road record at 36-35. They are 29-36 at Safeco Field. ... The Mariners hold an 11-4 edge over the Athletics in the season series with four games remaining. ... The Mariners have hit at least one home run in 13 straight games. That matches the New York Yankees for the longest streak of the season by an American League club. Colorado had a 15-game run. ... Tom Wilhelmsen recorded his ninth save in Friday’s victory. If he gets one more, the Mariners will have three relievers in double figures for the first time in franchise history. Fernando Rodney had 16 before getting traded to the Chicago Cubs, and Carson Smith has 13.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Athletics conclude their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at O.co Coliseum.

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (6-3, 4.22 ERA), with two extra days of rest since his last start, will face Oakland rookie left-hander Sean Nolin (2-2, 2.66 at Triple-A Nashville).

The Mariners open a 10-game homestand at 3:40 p.m. Monday with the first of four games against Texas at Safeco Field. The homestand also consists of three-game series against Colorado and the Los Angeles Angels.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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