Mariners notebook: Seattle signs top pick Alex Jackson

Staff writerJune 19, 2014 

— The Seattle Mariners have reached agreement with outfielder Alex Jackson, their first-round draft pick, according to a Twitter report by Jim Callis of MLB.com.

There was no immediate confirmation of a deal from club officials, although Jackson attended Friday’s game between the Mariners and San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com cited a source as saying Jackson received a signing bonus of $4.2 million.

If so, that would exceed both his slot value ($3,575,900) as the sixth overall pick and the total amount remaining in the Mariners’ signing-bonus pool ($3,882,900).

A $4.2 million bonus would force the Mariners to pay an overage fine of $237,825, but the overage would be less than 5 percent of their total allotted pool and, as such, would not force them to forfeit future draft picks.

Jackson, 18, was a catcher at Rancho Bernardo High School in Escondido, California, but the Mariners previously indicated they intended to shift him to the outfield in hopes of accelerating his timetable.

“We can always put him back behind the plate,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “because he does have the ability to play there.

“But I just think because we think the bat’s going to play quicker, (shifting Jackson to the outfield is) a better way to get him out there. Let him swing the bat, let him get transitioned to the outfield, and go from there.”

Baseball America’s scouting report said Jackson “stands out most for his plus to plus-plus right-handed power potential, but he also has a solid approach and drives the ball with authority to the middle and opposite fields.

“He has a loose swing, electric bat speed and a knack for making hard contact. Jackson has another premium tool in his arm.”

Once Jackson is signed, he is expected to report to Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League.

Iwakuma improving

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma flashed a thumbs-up sign after testing his stiff neck by throwing from flat ground in an early workout.

Iwakuma (5-3 with a 2.59 ERA) remains on schedule to start Friday night when the Mariners open a three-game weekend series at Kansas City.

The problem surfaced prior to Iwakuma’s start last Sunday against Texas at Safeco Field. He then limited the Rangers to one run and six hits in eight innings in a 5-1 victory.

Even so, the ailment prevented Iwakuma from throwing from a mound Monday in his usual between-starts workout.

Smoak to Tacoma

First baseman Justin Smoak began his rehab assignment Wednesday at Triple-A Tacoma in his recovery from a strained left quadriceps.

Smoak batted seventh and served as the designated hitter against Colorado Springs (Rockies) at Cheney Stadium.

Rehab assignments for nonpitchers are limited to 20 days, but manager Lloyd McClendon indicated Smoak would spend only a short time with the Rainiers.

“The leg is feeling good,” McClendon said. “He’ll DH the first day or two and then get out in the field. He just needs to build his at-bats back up. I don’t foresee this being a 20-day thing.”

Current plans call for outfielder Michael Saunders and outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart to begin their rehab assignments Friday at Tacoma.

Saunders is recovering from a sore right shoulder that surfaced June 6 on a swing at Tampa Bay. Hart suffered a strained left hamstring while running the bases May 18 at Minnesota.

Minor details

Seven Mariners prospects took part Tuesday in All-Star Games:

Double-A Jackson shortstop Ketel Marte went 2-for-5 for the South in 6-4 loss to the North in Southern League game in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Right-hander Mayckol Guaipe pitched one scoreless inning.

Advanced-A High Desert outfielder Gabriel Guerrero served as the starting designated hitter for the California League in a 3-2 victory over the Carolina League in Wilmington, Delaware. Guerrero was hitless in two at-bats.

Single-A Clinton right-handers Edwin Diaz (one inning) and Emilio Pagan (two-thirds of an inning) were part of an 11-pitcher relay that combined for a shutout for the West in an 11-0 victory over the East in the Midwest League game in Comstock Park, Michigan. Marcus Littlewood was 0-for-1 with a walk and a sacrifice fly as the starting catcher. Jack Reinheimer was 0-for-2 as the starting shortstop.

Looking back

It was six years ago Thursday — June 19, 2008 — when the Mariners, at 25-47, fired manager John McLaren. Bench coach Jim Riggleman was promoted to serve as the interim replacement for the remainder of the year.

Short hops

The Mariners entered Wednesday tied for the second-best run differential, at plus-37, among American League clubs. Oakland was a runaway leader at plus-130. Toronto was also plus-37, while Los Angeles was plus-36. Kansas City, at plus-18, was the only other AL club in the black. … Lefty Roenis Elias induced his 15th double play Tuesday in seven inning of a 6-1 victory over the Padres at Safeco Field. That ranks third among American League pitchers. Cleveland’s Justin Masterson and Los Angeles’ C.J. Wilson have induced 16. … Kyle Seager entered Wednesday with a .920 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) over his last 49 games.

On tap

The Mariners and Padres complete their two-and-two “natural rivalry” series at 3:40 p.m. Thursday at Petco Park. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 5.27 ERA) will face San Diego righty Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.72.) Root Sports will carry the game.

The Mariners then head to Kansas City, Missouri, for a three-game weekend series before returning to Safeco Field for a six-game homestand against Boston and Cleveland.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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