MINNEAPOLIS — It had all the makings of a poignant human-interest story — veteran pitcher perseveres, overcomes multiple surgeries, toils in the minor leagues, and finally makes it back to the bigs after 975 days.
M’s place Smoak on 15-day disabled list
By LARRY STONE
of The Seattle Times
MINNEAPOLIS — Mariners manager Eric Wedge had said Saturday that he thought first baseman Justin Smoak might be ready to start Sunday’s game.
Instead, Smoak went on the disabled list, retroactive to May 30, the day after he pinch-hit against the San Diego Padres. Smoak has been battling a oblique injury since hurting it on a checked swing against the Texas Rangers on May 25. But he hasn’t progressed as rapidly as hoped.
“The last two or three days it’s still the same, really,” Smoak said. “It hasn’t taken a step forward, it hasn’t taken a step backwards, it’s just kind of stayed the same.”
“Left-handed, I haven’t been able to do much. I don’t want to go out there and be a right-handed hitter, and a righty gets out on the mound and we have to take me out. ... I’d rather be out a little over a week or whatever it is rather than month and half or so. We have a lot of season left, and I’d rather miss a little time than a lot.”
Smoak said he’ll continue his strengthening exercises but will back off from swinging for three or four days.
“It’s just nagging, so let it heal and go from there,” he said.
Mariners make moves
With Smoak on the DL, that cleared room on the 25-man roster for Jeremy Bonderman, who was selected from Tacoma and started Sunday’s game. To make room on the 40-man roster, infielder/outfielder Vinnie Catricala was designated for assignment. Catricala was the Mariners’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, but had a disappointing season with Tacoma in 2012 and was struggling this year with Class AA Jackson.
In one other move announced Sunday, the Mariners traded outfielder Francisco Martinez to the Tigers for cash or a player to be named. Martinez was supposed to be a key player in the Doug Fister trade with Detroit in 2011, when the Mariners acquired him as a third baseman. But he never hit much, was converted to the outfield, and then designated for assignment last week.
Now Martinez is going back to his original organization, with word that the Tigers plan to move him back to third base. The Mariners thus have even less to show for the Fister trade — just reliever Charlie Furbush and pitcher Chance Ruffin, who is being converted to a starter in Jackson.
But Jeremy Bonderman’s feel-good tale had a feel-bad ending on Sunday, as his first major-league outing since Oct. 1, 2010, resulted in a shelling by the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins torched Bonderman for nine hits — seven of them for extra bases, and three leaving the yard — in 4-2/3 innings en route to a 10-0 rout of the Mariners. The M’s managed just five hits, all singles, as they lost for the 12th time in 16 games in this rapidly deteriorating season.
“It was a lot of fun to walk out there and get back on the field and try to help the team win,” Bonderman said. “But obviously you have to pitch better than that.”
And apparently, he’ll get another chance to do so. Manager Eric Wedge quickly answered in the affirmative when asked if Bonderman would make his next turn, scheduled for Friday at Safeco Field against the New York Yankees.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “He just has to go out there and take what he learned from this and make the adjustments. Have a good workday. He can’t let this one beat him up. It’s his first time back in a while, and that’s significant, too. Have some good workdays and go out there and just be better next time.”
Bonderman started off well, retiring the Twins in order in the first inning. But the barrage started in the second, when Ryan Doumit, fresh off his walkoff triple on Saturday, led off with a homer. That gave the Moses Lake native a cycle — homer, triple, double, single — in his last four at-bats.
The Twins piled on three doubles in the inning for two more runs. They added two more runs in the fourth, aided by Chris Herrmann’s first career homer and a triple by Aaron Hicks, then put up two more in the fifth on Josh Willingham’s two-run homer.
Bonderman was pulled for Hector Noesi, who had his own struggles. He gave up seven hits and three runs in 2-1/3 innings.
“I felt really good, actually,” Bonderman said. “I just made some mistakes and left some balls up. Obviously, at this level you can’t do it. It wasn’t a very good day.
“I’m just going to try and work harder. It’s basically all I can do. Just keep grinding and try to work the bottom half of the zone. To be successful at this level, that’s where you have to pitch. And I didn’t do that today.”
Bonderman, 30, admitted he wasn’t sure this day would ever come after Tommy John surgery and two other thoracic procedures. The Pasco resident signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners in January and had been toiling all season with Tacoma.
“I never knew if I’d ever get back,” he said. “I just wanted to work hard and leave it all out there so I didn’t have anything to be disappointed in, or to look back and say I could’ve done this or I could’ve done that.
“I just appreciated being out on that field again. It’s not something you can take for granted. You just have to find a way to be better.”
That goes for all the Mariners. They fell nine games under .500, matching their biggest hole of the season, and got just one runner as far as second base. That came in the first inning, when three singles failed to net a run as Michael Saunders was doubled off first on Jason Bay’s liner to short.
The rest of the game was a breeze for four Twins pitchers, with starter Scott Diamond going the first six for the win.
Raul Ibanez, who turned 41 on Sunday, didn’t believe there was any lingering hangover from Saturday’s devastating loss, when they couldn’t hold a 4-2 ninth-inning lead.
“There shouldn’t be,” he said. “Yesterday’s over. And just like yesterday’s over, today’s over. We need to get after it tomorrow and put together another nice run here. We’re capable of doing that.”
Nor is Ibanez buying into the notion that the Mariners, who begin a 10-game homestand against the White Sox on Monday, are being victimized by bad breaks, or disconcerted by the numerous roster moves in recent days.
“I’m a firm believer in creating your own breaks,” he said. “As a team, I think we have that mindset, create our own destiny, and we’re very capable of doing that. If we want things to change, we have to change them, and we’re very capable of doing that.
“I would say we’re masters of our own destiny. Whatever the outside circumstances are, our job is to focus on winning and doing it together as a team. Regardless of what moves are going on, we have to get it done on the field.”
And right now, that’s not happening.