Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Three Rainiers headed to Triple-A All-Star Game

The Triple-A All-Star Game later this month will have a definite Tacoma flavor after two Rainiers were elected as starters for the Pacific Coast League team.

First baseman Jesus Montero and shortstop Ketel Marte drew starting assignments in balloting announced Wednesday for the July 15 game against the International League at Werner Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

Right-handed pitcher Forrest Snow was also picked to the 30-player squad.

It will make for a busy week for Marte, who will play for the World team on July 12 in the All-Star Futures Game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Marte, 21, is still on a rehab assignment at Peoria, Arizona, in the Arizona Rookie League for a broken thumb. He batted .343 with a .394 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging percentage in 51 games prior to the injury.

Montero, 25, is batting .314 in 76 games for the Rainiers with 13 homers and 60 RBIs.

Snow, 26, is 6-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 17 games, including 10 starts.

ROTATION ON HOLD

Rehabbing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, barring a setback, appears increasingly likely to rejoin the Seattle Mariners’ rotation for Sunday’s trip finale at Oakland.

Club officials still want to gauge Iwakuma’s readiness after he encountered a finger blister — a common occurrence for him — while pitching 52/3 innings Tuesday for Tacoma in an 8-4 victory over Las Vegas (Mets).

Iwakuma allowed one run and five hits while striking out six and walking one in his third rehab start. He encountered no problem with the strained back muscle that forced him to the disabled list in late April.

“Overall, I think I did pretty good,” he said. “I threw a lot better today. I was able to get strike ones and get ahead of the count early.”

Mike Montgomery is currently listed as Sunday’s starter but is likely to be pushed back one day to start Monday against Detroit at Safeco Field.

The Mariners are still discussing alternatives in how to clear roster space for Iwakuma.

DEAL FOR KRATZ CLOSE

The Mariners are close to a deal with free-agent catcher Erik Kratz, who declined a June 28 outright assignment by Boston to Triple-A Pawtucket after clearing waivers.

Kratz, 35, is a six-year veteran who spent time earlier this year with Kansas City before going to Boston in a June 21 waiver claim. He has a .217 average in 180 games as a backup with four organizations.

The Mariners would likely assign Kratz initially to Tacoma because he hasn’t played since June 9.

ROLLINS’ RETURN

Suspended left-handed reliever David Rollins appears in line for a recall to the big league club Saturday when he completes his 16-day rehab assignment at Tacoma.

Rollins, 25, is a Rule 5 pick from Houston who received an 80-game suspension on March 27 after testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that is often used by bodybuilders to build muscle mass.

Rule 5 picks must remain on a major league roster or the major league disabled list for the entire next season. They must be offered back to their former club for $25,000 before they can be sent to the minors.

The Mariners appear interested in retaining Rollins, who has not allowed a run in 71/3 innings over six appearances for the Rainiers.

Returning Rollins to active duty would require a corresponding space-clearing move on the 25-man roster. Long reliever Vidal Nuno, who has options remaining, appears most at risk.

BALLOTING DEADLINE

Can Nelson Cruz hold on to his lead in balloting to determine the American League’s starting designated hitter for the All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati?

Online balloting concludes 8:59 p.m. Thursday at www.MLB.com and the 30 club websites, including www.Mariners.com. The starters for both leagues will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.

Cruz held a lead of 204,905 votes over Kansas City’s Kendrys Morales, the two-time former Mariner, as of Monday in the final balloting update from Major League Baseball.

The pitchers and reserves for the two leagues will be announced at 4 p.m. Monday on ESPN. The five Final Vote candidates in each league for the last spot on the 34-player rosters will also be announced.

INTERNATIONAL SIGNING

The Mariners are the favorites to sign Dominican shortstop Carlos Vargas, 16, shortly after Thursday’s start to the international signing period. He is rated as the No. 19 international prospect by Baseball America .

Vargas is viewed as “one of the top offensive prospects in the class,” the magazine reported and added he “has broad shoulders, a projectable frame and strong wrists to generate very good bat speed through the hitting zone.”

Baseball America questions whether Vargas, at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, will remain a shortstop as he moves through a pro career. It projects an eventual move to third base or the outfield.

Vargas’ bonus is expected to approach $2 million. If so, that would pretty much drain the Mariners’ international allotted bonus pool of $2,150,300.

LENGTHENING ODDS

Think the Mariners are poised for a big second-half push? Then there’s money to be made from www.BovadaLV, the online gaming folks.

The Mariners are now pegged as a 50-to-1 shot to win the World Series after holding 25-1 odds on June 2. They are rated at 25-1 to win the American League pennant; only the Chicago White Sox have longer odds at 28-1.

Also, right-hander Felix Hernandez is no longer the betting favorite to win the Cy Young Award. He is at 11-2 — behind Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (5-2), Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer (11-4) and Chicago’s Chris Sale (4-1).

Nelson Cruz is tied for sixth, at 16-1, to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award. Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout is a heavy favorite at 1-1.

LOOKING BACK

It was 18 years ago Thursday — July 2, 1997 — that Jeff Fassero reached on a bunt single in the second inning of an 8-5 loss to the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

It was the first hit by a pitcher in franchise history.

The Mariners are in a 0-for-48 drought by their pitchers after Taijuan Walker flied out Wednesday in his only at-bat. Three more interleague road games remain on the schedule: Aug. 3-5 at Colorado.

SHORT HOPS

Walker has not allowed walk in his last 271/3 innings, which is the fourth-longest streak in franchise history behind Cliff Lee (38 innings in 2010), Hisashi Iwakuma (352/3 innings in 2014) and Jamie Moyer (281/3 innings in 2002). … Nelson Cruz and Mike Montgomery each had birthdays on Wednesday. Cruz turned 35, while Montgomery is 26. … The Mariners produced back-to-back shutouts for the 19th time in franchise history. The last one was June 8-9, 2014 in 5-0 and 3-0 victories at Tampa Bay. … The Mariners lead all teams with 36 shutout victories in interleague play.

ON TAP

The Mariners open their final road series before the All-Star break with the first of four games against the Athletics at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland. Left-hander Roenis Elias (4-5, 4.25 ERA) might possibly be pitching to hold his spot in the rotation when he faces Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir (4-5, 2.79). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports Northwest and 710-AM.

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