Infielder Ketel Marte experienced a hoary baseball tradition when he got the news Wednesday that he was heading from Triple-A Tacoma to join the Seattle Mariners for his big-league debut.
The old misdirection play.
“I was in the lineup (Wednesday in El Paso),” Marte explained, “but when I came to the field, they took me out. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. What the (heck)?’
“After the game, (Tacoma manager) Pat Listach said, ‘You’ve got to go to Double-A.’ I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ Then he said, ‘No, no, no. Congratulations, you’re going to the big leagues.’”
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It took a moment to sink in.
Thinking he had been demoted to Double-A Jackson, Marte admitted, “I was so sad, man.” And then the reversal: He was heading to Minneapolis; in an instant, his dream had come true.
“I was crying,” Marte admitted. “I was so emotional. I was so happy. I called my mom, and she’s crying. I mean, I’m good now. I’m so happy.”
Marte, 21, drew a walk in five plate appearances Friday in his big-league debut, and he played second base again Saturday in place of Robinson Cano, who is still nursing a strained abdominal muscle.
That’s a short-term fit, though. While Marte played shortstop primarily throughout his five minor-league seasons, his future might be in center field as an eventual replacement for pending free agent Austin Jackson.
“He’s going to play,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It makes no sense to bring him here to sit. When Cano comes back, (Marte) will play some short and center field. He’s got a bright future.”
Club officials and many scouts question whether Marte has the arm strength to play shortstop on a regular basis. That’s not yet a firm assessment. Evaluations are continuing.
But it explains why Marte spent time in center field last month at Tacoma.
“I spoke with Brant Brown, our (minor-league) outfield instructor,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He said he thought this kid would be a natural out there.
“(Marte) can obviously play shortstop. He’s a natural second baseman by trade. He’s very athletic, and Brant was very impressed with his routes on balls.”
Marte didn’t balk at the position switch, which came shortly after he started at shortstop in the All-Star Futures Game and the Triple-A All-Star Game.
“When they told me to play center field,” he said, “I just did it. I played center field before when I was 16 (before he signed with the Mariners). I feel good in center field.”
A NUNO START?
The Mariners are leaning toward having reliever Vidal Nuno make a spot start Tuesday at Colorado to fill the rotation vacancy created by Friday’s trade that sent J.A. Happ to Pittsburgh.
That is subject to change should the Mariners require Nuno to pitch extended relief innings before Tuesday. If so, the club would likely recall lefty Roenis Elias from Tacoma.
Nuno pitched six innings in a July 4 start at Tacoma — his only outing for the Rainiers — but he hasn’t worked more than 31/3 innings in 18 relief appearances since arriving in a June 3 trade from Arizona.
The Mariners are carrying eight relievers, which positions them to absorb a short start from Nuno.
Look for former closers Fernando Rodney and Tom Wilhelmsen to fill the primary set-up duties for Carson Smith in a revamped bullpen that lost Mark Lowe through a trade and is awaiting Charlie Furbush to return.
“As we speak right now,” McClendon said, “Wilhelmsen and Rodney would probably get the seventh and eighth innings. (Joe) Beimel will match up (against left-handed hitters).”
The Mariners traded Lowe on Friday to Toronto for three minor-league lefty relievers. One of them, Rob Rasmussen, joined the Mariners before Friday’s game.
Rodney led the majors last year with 48 saves and opened this season as the club’s closer before surrendering the duty to Smith. He entered Saturday at 3-4 with a 5.57 ERA in 44 games.
Wilhelmsen served as the Mariners’ closer for much of the 2012-13 seasons. He is 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 28 games this season.
CANO IN LINEUP
Cano returned to the lineup Saturday as the designated hitter after missing the three previous games because of his injury.
“His biggest challenge is running,” McClendon said. “It’s not swinging the bat. It’s not throwing. It’s running. The idea was to give him two or three days off. Then DH him for a couple of days.
“Then, hopefully, he can be back in the field in Colorado.”
The Mariners open a three-game series Monday at Colorado, where games will be played without the designated hitter.
First baseman Logan Morrison continues to nurse a bruised left thumb, which forced him to depart Wednesday’s game against Arizona at Safeco Field.
Even when Morrison recovers, he is likely to get diminished playing time. The Mariners appear committed to getting an extended look at just-recalled Jesus Montero.
Plans call for lefty reliever Charlie Furbush to throw another bullpen workout Sunday to test his recovery from biceps tendinitis, which surfaced after his July 7 outing against Detroit.
McClendon said Furbush will throw another bullpen session Tuesday in Colorado before, barring any setbacks, heading out Thursday on what projects as a brief rehab assignment at Tacoma.
“One inning, maybe two innings,” McClendon said. “I don’t think it will be more than two innings.”
How rare was Taijuan Walker’s performance Friday when he threw a one-hit complete game with 11 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory over the Twins at Target Field?
▪ It was just the second one-hitter at Target Field since the stadium opened in 2010. There has never been a no-hitter in that span. Zach Stewart of the White Sox had the other one-hitter on Sept. 5, 2011.
▪ Only four other pitchers since 1969 have, before their 23rd birthday, allowed fewer than two hits in a complete game while striking out at least 10 batters. The others: Dennis Eckersley, Dwight Gooden, Kerry Wood and Shelby Miller.
▪ Only two other Mariners have allowed fewer than two hits in a complete game while striking out at least 10. Randy Johnson did it three times. Felix Hernandez did it once — in his perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012.
▪ Only two other Mariners pitched a one-hit complete game at a younger age than Walker, who was 22 years and 352 days old. Hernandez had one at 21.003, and Gil Meche had one at 21.279.
It was 24 years ago — Aug. 2, 1991 — that the Mariners’ Bill Krueger was named as the American League pitcher of the month for July after going 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA in six games (including five starts).
Krueger, now a broadcaster, was 11-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 1991, but left the Mariners after the season by signing as a free agent with Minnesota. He concluded his 13-year career by making six appearances for the Mariners in 1995.
Mike Zunino entered Saturday with a 10-game hitting streak, a career best. … The Mariners hit 37 homers in July, which tied Detroit for the most in the majors. The Mariners finished the month at 12-15; the Tigers were 11-16. … Nelson Cruz’s 27 homers through July are the most by a Mariner since Bret Boone had 28 in 2003. Cruz had 29 homers last year through July while playing for Baltimore and finished with 40, which led the majors.
The Mariners and Twins conclude their four-game series Sunday at 11:10 a.m. (PDT) at Target Field. Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA) will face Minnesota right-hander Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.92).