It will be a short break for Mariners swingman lefty Vidal Nuno after he starts Sunday’s season finale against Oakland. He’ll soon be heading to Venezuela to play winter ball.
“The benefit is I’m still going out there and pitching every five days,” he said. “You get to stay around baseball and learn. I got the opportunity, and I want to go out there and enjoy it.
“My arm is fresh. I’ll take care of it. I haven’t been injured. I’ve had a routine that’s lasted me all year. If I got hurt this year, it would be a different story. But my arm has been on point since Day One.”
Nuno is one of nine players on the Mariners’ 40-man roster already committed to playing winter ball. At least 12 more players from the organization’s minor-league ranks also will take part.
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Others could be added later.
Nuno is one of three players heading to Aragua, Venezuela, along with outfielders James Jones and Stefen Romero.
“My report date is Oct. 14,” Nuno said, “so I’ve got 10 days off. But I’ve still got to throw back home, still run and stay in baseball shape. So that when I go down there, I won’t have to start fresh.
“My goal is to last (at Aragua) until their first half ends. Nov. 24 is when I’m going back home.”
Here’s the latest list of the Seattle organization’s other players scheduled to play winter ball, with those on the 40-man roster highlighted in bold:
▪ Pitchers James Paxton, Tony Zych and David Rollins are scheduled to join the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, which begins Oct. 13 and runs through Nov. 21.
Paxton expects to be fully recovered from a torn nail on his middle finger in time to start one of Peoria’s early games. The Mariners are debating whether to pull Zych from the Javelinas because of his late-season workload.
The Peoria roster also includes Triple-A Tacoma first baseman/third baseman D.J. Peterson, Double-A Jackson shortstop Tyler Smith and reliever Paul Fry, and High-A Bakersfield outfielder Tyler O’Neill.
▪ Tacoma outfielder Jabari Blash will join Nuno, Jones and Romero at Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League, which begins play Wednesday. Jackson outfielder Leon Landry will play for Lara.
▪ Shortstop Ketel Marte is one of four players committed to the Dominican Winter League, which begins Oct. 15. He will play for Cibao along with Tacoma left-handed pitcher Tyler Olson.
Tacoma right-hander Sam Gaviglio will join Cibao in the second half, and Tacoma outfielder Pat Kivlehan will play in the second half for Escogido.
▪ Reliever J.C. Ramirez is headed for Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific League, which begins Friday. Jackson outfielder Ian Miller will play for Santurce in the Puerto Rican League, which begins Oct. 30.
Three of the organization’s players are heading to the Australian Summer League, which runs from Oct. 23 to Jan. 24: Bakersfield first baseman Kyle Petty, Short-A Everett infielder Jordan Cowan and Low-A Clinton reliever Kody Kerski.
Hisashi Iwakuma will head into free agency after posting quality starts in each of his last six outings. He got a no-decision Friday despite limiting Oakland to one earned run in seven innings.
That should help his negotiating leverage.
Iwakuma continues to cite a return to the Mariners as his preference, and new general manager Jerry Dipoto said that retaining the right-hander is a priority. The Mariners have exclusive negotiating rights through the World Series.
For now, though, Iwakuma is content to let his agent handle negotiations.
“I know this was the team that gave me the chance,” Iwakuma, who signed four years ago with the Mariners after 11 seasons in Japan, said through an interpreter. “I made a lot of friends here. We have a lot of good teammates. I feel like I have a relationship here. All I can do now is wait.”
Iwakuma’s strong finish represented an encouraging conclusion to a season in which a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle in his back kept him on the disabled list from late April into early July.
“I missed a lot of the first half,” he said. “I regret that for getting hurt. But there’s nothing you can do. You just have to move forward. I felt I was able to contribute to the team in the second half.”
Iwakuma, 34, was 7-3 with a 2.63 ERA over his last 12 starts, including a no-hitter Aug. 12 in a 3-0 victory over Baltimore at Safeco Field. Overall, he finished at 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA.
“Our challenge is to make sure we have Kuma for an entire year,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We need to keep him healthy so he can go out there and make 32, 33 starts. When he’s healthy, he’s very good.
“Last year, he won 15 games. The year before, he was in (the mix for) the Cy Young Award. He’s a very solid two or three (starter) in the big leagues. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to win.”
LOSING TO WIN
Something to watch: The Mariners and Chicago White Sox each entered Saturday with records of 75-85, which tied for the 10th worst in baseball. San Diego ranked ninth at 74-86.
That’s an important consideration in looking ahead to the offseason.
The teams with the 10 worst records don’t lose their first-round pick if they sign a free agent who receives a qualifying offer from another club. (They lose their second pick.)
Recall that the Mariners didn’t have a first-round pick in June as a penalty for signing outfielder Nelson Cruz, who received a qualifying offer from Baltimore.
Here’s the kicker: Only 10 teams get the exemption.
If there is a tie for the 10th-worst record, the tiebreaker favors Chicago because it had a worse record in the previous year. The Mariners also lose the tiebreaker to San Diego.
For the Mariners to gain the exemption, they must finish with a worse record than either the White Sox or the Padres.
SUNDAY’S START TIME
A reminder: Sunday’s season finale starts at 12:10 p.m. at Safeco Field.
Some tickets incorrectly say 1:10 p.m. because they were printed and distributed before MLB enacted a rule requiring all games on the season’s final day to start at the same time.
The rule is designed, at least in part, to prevent situations like the Mariners experienced a year ago.
The Mariners began the final day trailing Oakland by one game for the American League’s final wild-card berth, but learned they had been eliminated while their game was in progress.
It was 23 years ago — Oct. 4, 1992 — that Edgar Martinez concluded the season with a .343 average and became the first Mariner to win a batting title.
Martinez also won the batting title in 1995 when he batted a career-high .356. Other Mariners to win the batting title: Alex Rodriguez (.358 in 1996) and Ichiro Suzuki (.350 in 2001 and .372 in 2004).
Robinson Cano entered Saturday with a 14-game hitting streak, which was the longest current streak in the majors. It was his longest streak since a career-best run of 23 games in 2012 while playing for the New York Yankees. … Brad Miller reached a career high Friday when he hit his 11th homer. He had 10 in 2014. All 11 of his homers have come against right-handed pitchers.
The Mariners conclude their season at 12:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field with the finale of a three-game series against the Athletics.
Seattle lefty swingman Vidal Nuno (1-4, 4.19 ERA) will face Oakland right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-8, 3.60). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM.