ANAHEIM, Calif. — The rumor mill is starting to churn on the Mariners’ search for a new general manager.
Former Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler are cited by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com as “believed to be the finalists.”
The Mariners continue to decline all comment regarding their search, although signs continue to point to a decision likely being announced by mid-October, if not sooner.
Dipoto and Eppler each have been cited as possible replacements since the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik on Aug. 28, but there are indications that other candidates remain under consideration.
Club president Kevin Mather, who is heading the search, previously interviewed Dana Brown, who is in his sixth season as a special assistant to Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Interim general manager Jeff Kingston is also a candidate. He has served since Sept. 17, 2009, as an assistant general manager.
The Mariners are also believed to have at least one other candidate under consideration. One possibility is Chaim Bloom, who is Tampa Bay’s vice president for baseball operations.
Dipoto, 47, would fill Mather’s stated desire to hire an experienced general manager. He spent 3 1/2 years as the Angels’ GM before resigning July 1 after a messy in-house spat with manager Mike Scioscia.
Dipoto joined the Boston Red Sox in mid-August in an advisory role.
Eppler has never been a general manager but, in his fourth season as a Yankees assistant, he currently assists longtime GM Brian Cashman in all areas of the team’s major-league operations.
San Diego interviewed Eppler in August 2014 for its GM job before eventually hiring A.J. Preller. Eppler has linked to several GM openings over the last year.
Lefty James Paxton reported that his troublesome middle fingernail remained “a little bit tender” Friday, one day after a torn nail forced his removal in the second inning.
“I’m trying to stay positive,” he said. “I’m just going to do everything we can do for it and try to get back out there.”
Paxton faces a major challenge to be ready to pitch Tuesday, as previously scheduled, against Houston at Safeco Field. He had also been slotted to pitch the season’s final game on Oct. 4 against Oakland at Safeco.
Manager Lloyd McClendon declined to identify possible alternatives if Paxton isn’t available to pitch beyond reiterating that right-hander Taijuan Walker isn’t a likely option.
McClendon said Thursday, prior to Paxton’s injury, that Walker was unlikely to pitch again because he has already reached a career-high workload.
A day later, McClendon said much the same thing in describing Walker as “95-percent done.”
Paxton’s early exit Thursday came in just his third start after returning from an absence of three-plus months because of issues connected to his middle finger.
He suffered a strained tendon in a May 28 start against Cleveland that healed slowly. He began a rehab assignment Aug. 23 at Triple-A Tacoma, but exited a Sept. 2 start because of a blister and torn fingernail.
Paxton finally returned Sept. 13 to the big-league rotation.
“I’m frustrated,” he admitted after Thursday’s game. “It’s hard. I want to be out there pitching, and stuff like this keeps on happening. I just have to keep on going and come out the other side. Just deal with it.”
While the Mariners are shutting down Walker because of a mounting workload, they face the opposite problem with Paxton: He needs innings in order to enter next season without restrictions.
Club officials had hoped five late-season starts, combined with a tour in the Arizona Fall League, would boost him to that level. This latest injury increases the likelihood that he will be asked to pitch in winter ball.
Rookie right-hander Mayckol Guaipe closed his two-inning appearance Thursday at Kansas City by striking out four straight hitters in protecting what, at the time, was a one-run lead.
Pretty good, huh? Especially since the four relievers who followed permitted eight runs in a combined 3 2/3 innings in a 10-4 loss to the Royals.
McClendon saw it differently.
“Listen, Guaipe was OK,” he said. “Let’s not get on a high horse about Guaipe. Guaipe has to get the ball down. I’ve told him time and time again. Those four strikeouts were lucky.”
Guaipe has a 5.48 ERA in 16 appearances while allowing 31 hits and nine walks in 23 innings. He had a 2.78 ERA in 38 games at Tacoma. The difference, McClendon said, is Triple-A hitters vs. big-league hitters.
“That’s why it’s tough to evaluate,” he said. “You get them out pitching up in the zone down there because they’re not quality hitters. That’s what happens.
“You come here. You elevate, and you get the (stuff) knocked out of you.”
Usually. Not on Thursday.
It was six years ago — Sept. 26, 2009 — that Ichiro Suzuki was ejected for the first time in his career. And he didn’t even say a word.
Suzuki was called out on strikes in the fifth inning of a game against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He backed away. Then he took a few steps in return, stuck out his bat, leaned over the plate and drew a line in the dirt.
The clear implication was that Suzuki believed the pitch was outside. Umpire Brian Runge was not amused.
Rookie shortstop Ketel Marte entered the weekend with a 12-game hitting streak. The last Mariners shortstop with a longer streak was Yuniesky Betancourt with a 20-game run in 2007. … The Mariners, prior to Friday, led the majors with 105 homers on the road. The last time they had more in a full season was 2000, when they hit 106. … The Mariners have five players with 15 or more homers for the first time since 2001.
The Mariners and Angels continue their three-game series at 6:05 p.m. Saturday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (18-9, 3.54) seeks to match his career high in victories, set in 2009, when he faces Los Angeles lefty Andrew Heaney (6-3, 3.30).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.