His name is Buck, and he’s here to field

Staff writerJune 16, 2014 

SEATTLE — John Buck fetched his first baseman’s glove before Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon had a chance to change his mind.

Sunday’s starting first baseman, Logan Morrison, left the game in the fifth inning because of a self-inflicted gash over his left eye. In went Buck to make his big league debut at first.

Buck had played first base in the minors, and he takes pregame grounders at first, shortstop and third.

“I don’t know if I’m going to take over (Justin) Smoak’s spot,” Buck said with a smile. “He should be nervous.”

Buck was serviceable during his three innings at first base. The Mariners made a defensive shift in the ninth, pushing Willie Bloomquist from second to first and plucking Robinson Cano from his designated hitter role to play second.

Why Buck in the sixth?

“We didn’t have anybody else,” McClendon said.

Morrison had five stitches, dried blood and a clear, stretched Band-Aid over his left eyebrow after the game. He smashed his bat off the dugout wall after popping out with two runners on in the fifth. A broken piece kicked back and hit him above his eye.

His second moment of irritation on the day — this one less violent than the first — was when he explained he lost his cool.

“Obviously, acted like a 3-year-old,” Morrison said. “Apologized to my teammates. Have to go apologize to (McClendon). Can’t do that. Didn’t want to come out of the game, but he saw me gushing blood from my eyebrow. So, he took me out.

“Embarrassed. No matter how bad I’m playing, can’t do that. Move on and hopefully start helping the team win here soon.”

Morrison, hitting .135, said he usually doesn’t snap.

“I usually don’t play this bad, either,” he said. “I’m going to have to take some lessons from Kyle (Seager) or somebody on how to do it.”

Morrison is a career .246 hitter.

NO RUSH WITH WALKER

Right-hander Taijuan Walker, on a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Tacoma, pitched 62/3 innings Saturday against the Nashville Sounds, allowing one hit and a run in his best outing since coming off the disabled list.

Based on McClendon’s explanation Sunday, Walker should continue to embrace Tacoma.

McClendon said he was pleased to see Walker build his pitch count and wanted that to continue. He also pointed out that when Walker arrives is not up to him.

“I don’t have a timetable for when Taijuan Walker’s coming here,” McClendon said. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t make that decision. I’ve said this time and time again: My job is to take the players the general manager gives me and help them perform to the best of their ability. I don’t pick the roster.

“Do I have a say? Yes. Do I dictate when Taijuan Walker is coming here? No. That’s a question for the general manager.”

INJURED TRIO CLOSER

Outfielders Michael Saunders (shoulder) and Corey Hart (hamstring) and first baseman Smoak (quadriceps) are getting closer to returning. Hart and Smoak ran Sunday.

McClendon said they could be sent on rehabilitation assignments by the end of the week, though each must pass physical tests before returning to the field.

“Saunders and Smoak will come quicker because they have been playing,” McClendon said. “We have to be careful with Corey and make sure we build his at-bats up, and he’s swinging well and running well.”

McClendon will let any claims of readiness from that trio fall on deaf ears.

“Players want to come back,” McClendon said. “They don’t want to be on rehab, and they think, five at-bats, they’re ready to go. That’s not the case.”

RAMIREZ NOT WOWING

Despite five scoreless innings Saturday for the Mariners, Erasmo Ramirez still has significant progress to make.

Ramirez, who walked four, has not allowed a run over his past 102/3 innings despite putting 19 runners (nine hits, 10 walks) on base.

After hearing all spring that Ramirez is known as a strike-thrower, McClendon has yet to see that version of the pitcher. Ramirez has 37 strikeouts and 22 walks in 422/3 innings this season. Over the past three seasons, his walks per nine innings have gone from 1.8 to 3.2 to 4.6.

“He’s got to get better than that,” McClendon said.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Padres start a two-game series at 7:10 p.m. Monday at Safeco Field before heading to San Diego to play two more Wednesday and Thursday. Right-hander Chris Young (5-4, 3.68 ERA) will start against San Diego right-hander Tyson Ross (6-5, 2.97). Root Sports will carry the game.

todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com @Todd_Dybas blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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