Seattle Mariners

Mariners Baron reaping benefit of long-term perseverance

Mariners catcher Steven Baron was a surprise callup from the minor leagues Tuesday, as the team decided to send Mike Zunino to the Instructional League rather than bring him back to the majors.
Mariners catcher Steven Baron was a surprise callup from the minor leagues Tuesday, as the team decided to send Mike Zunino to the Instructional League rather than bring him back to the majors. The Associated Press

Sure, there were times when catcher Steven Baron wondered whether his career was going anywhere. He spent parts of three seasons at short season Single-A and parts of three others at long season Single-A.

That’s a lot of time in A-ball for a player once highly regarded; the Mariners selected Baron, still just 24, with the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 draft.

“It was difficult,” he said. “Obviously, I questioned my career quite a bit. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this’ sometimes. That was 2013, and I went back to High Desert in 2014.

“But it was like, ‘Let’s see what I’ve got. I’m just going to keep working hard and hope for the best.’ The biggest thing was staying positive day in and day out through all of the failures.

“You understand how this game is such a negative game. You’ve got to take all of the positives you can.”

A big positive occurred Monday when Baron learned he was heading to the big leagues once Triple-A Tacoma completed its season. He arrived Tuesday at Safeco Field and, like many first-time rookies, appeared overwhelmed.

“I was obviously shocked,” he said. “I think my body is still numb, kind of. It’s been a long road for me, but I’m just happy to be here, and I hope I can contribute.

“I want to learn as much as I can and soak it all in.”

While Baron put together his best offensive season, he drew the promotion largely because the Mariners believe Mike Zunino will be better served by heading to the Instructional League to work on his hitting.

Clubs nearly always want three catchers in September. Baron was next in line after putting together a .277/.316/.391 slash (batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage) in 53 games at Tacoma following his June 4 promotion from Double-A Jackson.

“I think a lot of it was maturity,” he said. “There were definitely adjustments, though. The biggest thing with the adjustments is I was able to do them day in and day out.

“The catching became a little easier, and I was able to focus on offense a little bit more. It came from a lot of failure and learning from those failures. Keep pushing forward.”

All the way to the big leagues. Baron made his big-league debut Wednesday against Texas.

CHASING MILESTONES

Robinson Cano is chasing two milestone achievements over the seasons’s closing days.

He needs two extra-base hits to become only the fifth player in history to reach 50 extra-base hits in each of his first 11 seasons.

The others were Carlos Lee (13 seasons from 1999-2011), Albert Pujols (12 seasons from 2001-12), Eddie Mathews (12 seasons from 1952-63) and Paul Waner (11 seasons from 1926-36).

Cano was 1-for-4 in Wednesday’s victory and now needs just 13 hits to become the 13th player to reach 2,000 through his first 11 seasons. Ichiro Suzuki ranks first on the list with 2,428 hits from 2001-11.

PAXTON’S PROGRESS

Lefty James Paxton is scheduled to throw a bullpen workout prior to Thursday’s game to determine his recovery from a blister and torn nail on his middle finger.

But at this point? “All good,” he said.

Paxton said he threw all of his pitches Wednesday from flat ground. That’s notable because his breaking ball is what puts the most stress on the affected area of his finger and nail.

If all goes well Thursday, Paxton will to return Sunday to the rotation for the first time since leaving a May 28 start because of a strained tendon on the same finger.

That will provide right-hander Taijuan Walker with an extra day of rest; he would pitch Monday in the series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

Paxton was 3-3 with 3.70 ERA in 10 starts prior to the injury.

INJURY UPDATES

Outfielders Nelson Cruz and Franklin Gutierrez remained absent from the Mariners’ lineup because of lingering ailments. If healthy, both would have started Wednesday against Texas lefty Martin Perez.

Cruz expects to start Thursday — “I’m in there” — for his first appearances since suffering a strained right quadriceps muscle Sept. 2 while running the bases at Houston.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said Gutierrez “is probably another day or so” from returning. Gutierrez left last Friday’s game at Oakland because of a recurrence of his chronic joint issues.

MINOR DETAILS

Short-A Everett completed its late-season collapse Tuesday with a 4-2 loss at Tri-City (Padres) that completed a two-game sweep in the best-of-three Northwest League North Division playoffs.

It seems the AquaSox just couldn’t close.

Everett ended the first-half season with two losses, which dropped it into a tie with Tri-City for the North pennant. Tri-City won on a tiebreaker.

The AquaSox then lost their last four games in the second half, which forced them again to settle to settle for a tie with Tri-City, which won its last six. Then two playoff losses.

LOOKING BACK

It was 24 years ago Thursday — Sept. 10, 1991 — that Harold Reynolds’ two-out RBI double in the eighth inning provided the winning run in a 5-4 victory at Toronto.

The victory snapped a 13-game road losing streak. That’s not the Mariners’ record, though. They had a 15-game road skid in 2004.

SHORT HOPS

When JC Ramirez worked two scoreless innings Tuesday, he became the 28th pitcher used this season by the Mariners. That matches the franchise record set in 1999. Of the 28 pitchers, 13 were not with the club a year ago and nine were rookies entering the season. … The Mariners recorded their third one-hitter and 11th shutout of the season. ... The Mariners, entering Wednesday, led all clubs with 182 extra-base hits since the All-Star break. … The Mariners are 43-42 since suffering through a seven-game skid from May 30-June 5. They were 26-25 since the All-Star break.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Rangers conclude their four-game series at 12:40 p.m. Thursday with a King’s Court matinee at Safeco Field.

Right-hander Felix Hernandez (16-8, 3.65) will face Texas lefty Derek Holland (3-1, 2.37).

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

@TNT_Mariners

MOST HITS THROUGH FIRST 11 SEASONS

Ichiro Suzuki (2001-11) 2,428

Paul Waner (1926-36) 2,254

Al Simmons (1924-34) 2,188

Pete Rose (1963-73) 2,152

Kirby Puckett (1984-94) 2,135

Wade Boggs (1982-92) 2,098

George Sisler (1915-26) 2,094

Hank Aaron (1954-64) 2,085

Albert Pujols (2001-11) 2,073

Richie Ashburn (1948-58) 2,067

Stan Musial (1941-52) 2,023

Joe Medwick (1932-42) 2,004

Miguel Cabrera (2003-13) 1,995

Robinson Cano (2005-15) 1,986

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