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Dee to see first CF action in spring opener

Gordon impresses shagging flies during BP, workouts
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Three days into the Dee Gordon outfield transition, one thing is clear. The new Mariner has jumped into the challenge headfirst.

While manager Scott Servais said most of his expected Opening Day starters will be eased into game action over the next few days due to the short preparation time, Gordon will make his Mariners debut in Friday's 12:10 p.m. PT Cactus League opener against the Padres, playing center field for the first time in his professional career.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Three days into the Dee Gordon outfield transition, one thing is clear. The new Mariner has jumped into the challenge headfirst.

While manager Scott Servais said most of his expected Opening Day starters will be eased into game action over the next few days due to the short preparation time, Gordon will make his Mariners debut in Friday's 12:10 p.m. PT Cactus League opener against the Padres, playing center field for the first time in his professional career.

The two-time National League All-Star second baseman hasn't missed an opportunity yet to work on his new craft. When the Mariners' big boppers took batting practice on Wednesday, Gordon went out to center field to catch balls off the bat of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, taking his place among a group of volunteer "shaggers" from the local community who handle those duties every day in practice.

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"Why wouldn't I?" Gordon said. "This is my job now, and I'm just trying to get better at it as quickly as possible."

Gordon did outfield drills daily in Miami after being acquired by the Mariners in December, but there's a difference in catching balls hit off live bats.

"That's what they're going to hit them off of, so it makes no sense to just get 'em off a machine," he said.

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Gordon made several smooth sliding catches, roamed far and wide, and hauled in a few balls at the wall. He looked every part the center fielder already, but said looks can be deceiving.

"It's my third day being an outfielder in the Major Leagues, so I have to work on all of it," he said. "I'm not there yet. I've got a ways to go. We'll see how it happens."

Video: Mariners excited about the addition of Dee Gordon

Servais clearly appreciates Gordon's willingness to adapt as quickly as possible.

"Very much so," Servais said. "At the end of the day, he wants to win. He knows he's got to get to a comfort level in center field for that to happen for us, so he's all in."

Servais took some comfort from seeing Gordon handle things smoothly during batting practice.

"He's so athletic," Servais said. "Obviously the ball comes off Nelson's bat different than it does some other guys. There's just so much more carry on the ball, he backspins it so much. Dee wanted to do that, and I thought it was great. He obviously handled it very well.

"He is going to make the acrobatic play, the diving play. You're going to see him jumping up against the wall, though the wall will always win that one, so we're not big proponents of that. But he's going to make a few of those highlight-reel catches, there's no question about that."

Tweet from @Mariners: .@FlashGJr and Ben Gamel putting in work under the ������.#MarinersST pic.twitter.com/0i7fjHOVWg

Gordon and the rest of the Mariners will wear special hats Friday honoring the 17 victims from the recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., which bears special meaning for the former Marlin.

"Anytime a tragedy strikes close to you, or anywhere honestly, it's sad," said Gordon, who lives about three hours from Parkland in the offseason. "I'm glad we're taking steps to show people we actually care. And hopefully some stuff gets resolved from this last incident and we're able to go forward as a country."

Video: Teams to wear Stoneman Douglas hats for ST openers

Worth noting
• Team Zunino outscored Team Seager, 21-18, in a situational hitting contest to wrap up Thursday's workout as the final preparation for Friday's opener. One player who didn't take part was Cruz, as the big designated hitter was sent home early after not feeling well in the morning.

Ariel Miranda, Andrew Moore and Christian Bergman will be the first three pitchers used in Friday's Cactus League game. Mike Leake, Chase De Jong and Casey Lawrence are slated to face the White Sox on Saturday, with Marco Gonzales, Rob Whalen and Chasen Bradford getting the call Sunday against the Dodgers.

Felix Hernandez starts Monday's first road game against the Cubs at Mesa, followed by Max Povse and Ljay Newsome. The Mariners then have a split-squad day on Tuesday, with James Paxton facing the Padres in Peoria and Moore opening against the Royals in Surprise.

• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia is ahead of schedule and has begun taking batting practice, but will be held out of early Cactus League action as he returns from October shoulder surgery. Reliever Tony Zych will also be a little behind most of the relievers to get into games, as he's being treated carefully after dealing with an elbow issue at the end of last season.

• Friday's opener will be radio-only in the Seattle market, but the San Diego broadcast will be available live on MLB.TV.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Dee Gordon

Mariners' dark-horse hopefuls to start auditions

Ford, Rumbelow, Hague lead crop of contenders for roster
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For guys like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, the first game of Cactus League play is a blip on the radar, a chance to get a couple of innings, an at-bat or two, and begin the monthlong buildup to the regular season.

But for those fighting for jobs, like Seattle first baseman Mike Ford, this is the real deal. And it starts Friday when the Mariners face the Padres in a 12:10 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For guys like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, the first game of Cactus League play is a blip on the radar, a chance to get a couple of innings, an at-bat or two, and begin the monthlong buildup to the regular season.

But for those fighting for jobs, like Seattle first baseman Mike Ford, this is the real deal. And it starts Friday when the Mariners face the Padres in a 12:10 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium.

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"This is like the regular season is starting right now for the guys who are trying to crack the team," said Ford, a Rule 5 Draft pickup from the Yankees. "That's how I look at it, and that's how I'll take it."

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Left-hander Ariel Miranda will start Friday's opener for the Mariners, followed by fellow starting candidate Andrew Moore. Both are expected to pitch about two innings and could be competing for the fifth starting role if right-hander Erasmo Ramirez's strained lat lingers all spring.

Here are three other dark-horse candidates for a spot on Seattle's 25-man roster who'll be among those worth watching this spring:

Ford: The 25-year-old's chances took a dramatic rise when Ryon Healy required surgery to remove a bone spur from his right hand on Feb. 14.

As a Rule 5 selection, the Princeton University product needs to either make Seattle's roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Yankees. Healy's injury could buy the Mariners some time to see how Ford fares at the Major League level, which is a large unknown given he's played only 25 games at Triple-A.

The Mariners love Ford's strike-zone discipline, high on-base percentage and power potential, but he'll need to show all of that as well as the ability to handle first base defensively to beat out Daniel Vogelbach, who has a much longer track record at Triple-A.

Healy could make it all moot if he's able to come back in time, but that seems like a tough goal since his time frame is to be cleared right around Opening Day. Given Healy hasn't been able to hit much this offseason due to his hand issue, he'll need to regain his timing, and the Mariners won't want to rush him back and risk a setback.

Reliever Nick Rumbelow: The final bullpen spot or two figure to be hotly contested, and the 26-year-old right-hander acquired by trade from the Yankees has looked impressive early in a camp filled with versatile power arms.

Rumbelow isn't physically imposing -- listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds -- but he brings some heat and racked up 45 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings in 25 games last year on the Yankees' Triple-A and Double-A clubs after returning from Tommy John surgery.

He pitched 17 games for the Yankees in '15 before hurting the elbow and looks like a guy who can help a Major League bullpen again if given the chance.

"I really do feel great," Rumbelow said. "They say you rebound even better in the second year [after Tommy John]. I'm in optimal health and shape right now and just looking to go forward."

Video: Dipoto joins The Wheelhouse to discuss Rumbelow

First baseman Matt Hague: The Mariners have two rookie prospects in Ford and Vogelbach who figure to have first crack at replacing Healy if needed. But the 32-year-old Hague is a non-roster invitee who has more experience than either and is coming off a strong season for the Twins' Triple-A Rochester club.

Hague is a local product who played for Kentwood High and the University of Washington and jumped at the opportunity with his hometown team after stints with the Pirates and Blue Jays. Hague lives in New Orleans now, but his parents and numerous relatives remain in the Covington area southeast of Seattle.

"It's one of those surreal moments, signing the contract," Hague said. "Once I found out the Mariners were interested, I was absolutely ready. And I know my family was."

Hague last played in the Majors in 2015, then spent a year in Japan before hitting .297/.373/.416 with 10 homers and 65 RBIs in 136 games for Rochester last year.

"I don't know what's going to happen, but you want to go out and impress them and show 'em what you've got," he said. "The cards will fall where they fall."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Mike Ford, Matt Hague, Nick Rumbelow

Whalen back in Mariners camp with new outlook

Righty prospect stepped away from game in '17 to battle depression
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When you're living what is supposed to be your dream, but instead feels like a nightmare, something is wrong.

Which is why Rob Whalen walked away from baseball last year, risking his career to get a fresh start on life.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When you're living what is supposed to be your dream, but instead feels like a nightmare, something is wrong.

Which is why Rob Whalen walked away from baseball last year, risking his career to get a fresh start on life.

It's not easy to talk about mental health issues like depression and anxiety, but the 24-year-old Mariners pitching prospect isn't worried about easy anymore. He's worried about young athletes like Tyler Hilinski, the quarterback at Washington State who committed suicide in January.

"I didn't know the kid, but I felt so bad for his family and all that because I felt like that for a time," Whalen said. "I felt alone. I just isolated myself. I was in that bubble for a while, and it sucks to see that. I was fortunate enough to escape it. I got help before it came that far down the road."

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Whalen stepped back from a world he said was closing in on him last July while he was pitching for Triple-A Tacoma, got help and now is attacking life -- and his baseball career -- with a new frame of mind.

And rather than hide from his personal challenges, Whalen wants to let anyone else who deals with depression or anxiety know they're not alone.

"If I touch one person, it's a win for me," he said. "I'm not trying to get pity from anybody. It's my story, and I just want to share it and help somebody else."

Whalen acknowledges he doesn't know the details of Hilinski's situation, but understands how hard it is for young men, particularly in the world of sports, to admit they need help and reach out due to pride or fear of being judged.

"We need to change the stigma that you're fragile if you talk about it, because that's not the case," he said. "We need to continue the conversation."

Whalen said finding the right counselor outside of baseball to open up to about his problems was the first step out of his darkness.

"It's almost like when you're an alcoholic, you have to admit you're an alcoholic," he said. "For me it was, 'OK, let me say these words out loud of how I've been feeling inside for so long,' feeling if I did say it, people would think I'm crazy.

"I was 23, I'd gotten to the big leagues and had a great life. There wasn't a lot to be upset about, but I was just miserable. So it was hard to understand it myself, let alone explain it to others."

Whalen, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Mariners' No. 17 prospect, pitched two games for Seattle last year and started on May 27 at Fenway Park, throwing 5 1/3 innings in a 6-0 loss. But after being acquired from the Braves the previous offseason, he acknowledges now that his mental state wasn't good all year and he came to camp in poor physical condition.

"It's hard to get in shape and be motivated to drive yourself when you don't even want to get out of bed, let alone go work out for three hours," he said. "So I didn't put myself in good position to succeed last year. This year I did. I've dropped 20 pounds, I'm eating better, I feel great, I'm healthy and I think it's a good reset for me."

Whalen said he's dealt with anxiety and depression since his teen years in Florida, though he didn't really understand or confide in anyone about it until talking briefly to a psychologist while with the Mets in 2015.

But he soon was traded to the Braves, then again to the Mariners last winter, and he tried pushing the issues aside while climbing the baseball ladder. He started five games for Atlanta at age 22 and ignored the mounting internal pressures until his struggles reached a breaking point last year.

Whalen said he couldn't concentrate during games, at times feeling "the crowd closing in on me" and finally called it quits after he went back to his hotel following another rough outing in Reno.

"The start didn't go well, I felt like I couldn't breathe," he said. "I just packed my stuff and booked my flight. I was breaking down in my hotel room. I couldn't believe what I just did, but I had to do it."

The Mariners put Whalen on the restricted list, and once he acknowledged out loud the need for help, he found it. Now he says, regardless of whether he makes it back to the big leagues, he knows he can say he returned to the game and gave it his best shot.

And so far this spring, the Mariners have liked what they've seen from the young right-hander. General manager Jerry Dipoto said Whalen has been one of the pleasant surprises in the first week of camp, and manager Scott Servais pulled the youngster aside for some personal praise after his first throwing session.

"I'm probably as proud of him as I am of any of our players," Servais said. "Guys grow up. They mature. He looks different, he's lost some weight. He's had a life change. He stepped back and made some adjustments, not just physically, but mentally.

"It's nice to see the smile back on his face."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Rob Whalen

Diaz turning heads in early throwing sessions

GM Dipoto likes what he's seen from Mariners' closer, Felix
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Until Cactus League games begin on Friday, it's hard to judge exactly how well pitchers are throwing. But that hasn't stopped young closer Edwin Diaz from opening eyes in Mariners camp.

Diaz racked up 34 saves last year with a 3.27 ERA and one of the highest strikeout ratios in the American League, but at 23, he's still learning and growing. And with some extra strength on his wiry 6-foot-3 frame and no World Baseball Classic interrupting his spring, he's looked imposing in the early work at the Peoria Sports Complex.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Until Cactus League games begin on Friday, it's hard to judge exactly how well pitchers are throwing. But that hasn't stopped young closer Edwin Diaz from opening eyes in Mariners camp.

Diaz racked up 34 saves last year with a 3.27 ERA and one of the highest strikeout ratios in the American League, but at 23, he's still learning and growing. And with some extra strength on his wiry 6-foot-3 frame and no World Baseball Classic interrupting his spring, he's looked imposing in the early work at the Peoria Sports Complex.

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"Edwin Diaz's first few bullpens have been electric," general manager Jerry Dipoto said Wednesday on his latest Wheelhouse Podcast. "He's not the only one. There's a handful of guys that have looked awesome in the early going, and maybe no one more so than Eddie."

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Dipoto noted that Diaz has latched on to veteran Juan Nicasio, Seattle's biggest free-agent addition, and the two have been doing "towel work" each morning before the team gathers for meetings to fine-tune the ability to repeat his throwing motion.

"When Edwin gets in his funks, it's usually relative to not repeating his release point and delivery," Dipoto said. "This spring, it's been remarkably consistent. As a result, he has his usual explosive velocity and fastball, and his slider has been incredibly consistent through the first two bullpens, which was not the case in last year's Spring Training.

"This year, it looks spot-on, and his command is great. And he's actually working on a changeup. It's a pretty firm changeup. I guess when you're throwing 100, your changeup does look firm. But the ball sinks, and it could be something in his back pocket that he can introduce against an occasional lefty."

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Diaz, who threw a sizzling session of live batting practice on Wednesday, isn't the only pitcher who has caught Dipoto's attention.

"Guys like Max Povse," he said. "Rob Whalen looks so much better than he did a year ago, in both physical and his mental approach on the mound. Art Warren was really a standout in the early sessions and caught a lot of the interest of our staff. A young guy we picked up as a Minor League free agent, Johendi Jiminian, is a big, big arm and might be as hard a thrower as we have in camp. He's been interesting to watch in the early going."

And, yeah, one of the "old" guys has been impressive to the GM in the initial days as well. The Mariners are counting on Felix Hernandez to bounce back from an injury-plagued campaign, and he's come to camp with a bit of an edge.

"Felix looks energized," Dipoto said. "He's excited to be a part of it, and I feel like Felix is engaged in the work day in a way I haven't seen in a couple of years. And if I've seen anything that excites me most, that's it."

Worth noting
• Outfielder Junior Lake was on the field for the first time after his Minor League deal with a camp invite was finalized. Lake, 27, has played parts of four seasons in the Majors and spent last year in Mexico and with Boston's Triple-A affiliate.

• Right-handed reliever Ryan Garton, who has been held back from throwing as he returns from hip labrum surgery, is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session on Tuesday.

Dee Gordon is wasting no opportunities to get comfortable in the outfield. While teammates where taking batting practice and a number of Peoria-area volunteers shagged balls, Gordon ambled out to center field and spent about 15 minutes chasing down deep drives and making several nice sliding catches.

James Paxton was among the group throwing live batting practice for the first time Wednesday as he continued gearing up for his Cactus League debut on Tuesday.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Edwin Diaz

Mariners' goal is clear: End postseason drought

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As Scott Servais opened his first full-squad workout on Tuesday, the third-year manager wasted no time acknowledging the biggest thing that has been missing for the Mariners.

Seattle hasn't been in the playoffs since 2001, the longest dry spell in the Major Leagues. And yes, Servais said, it's time to change that.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As Scott Servais opened his first full-squad workout on Tuesday, the third-year manager wasted no time acknowledging the biggest thing that has been missing for the Mariners.

Seattle hasn't been in the playoffs since 2001, the longest dry spell in the Major Leagues. And yes, Servais said, it's time to change that.

Tweet from @Mariners: A glimpse inside the first full-squad meeting of 2018.Time to go to work. #MarinersST pic.twitter.com/DnXDFCa6nz

"There's a few guys out there that have worn a Mariner uniform for a long time and haven't got the experience to play in the playoffs yet," Servais said. "I know there's a fanbase that is very hungry for it. I know I'm dying for it. So why not? We'll address it a little bit and embrace it."

The Mariners, who finished third in the American League West last year at 78-86, will tire quickly of hearing about having the longest postseason drought of any major professional franchise now that the Buffalo Bills made the NFL playoffs. But there's only one way to quiet that talk.

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"It's out there," Servais said. "I think we have a really good team. Our division is really good. There'll be a lot of challenges along the way, and we'll have to face some adversity, all those things that play out through the course of the year. But I think the goal is clearly defined on what we're shooting for, and now we have to figure out how to get there."

After five days of strictly pitchers and catchers on the field for formal workouts, the position players joined the fray Tuesday. With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and newcomer Dee Gordon leading the way, the energy level clearly picked up.

"It's exciting when you get the whole team out here," said Seager. "It's time to meet the new guys, get to know everybody a little bit and see where this thing goes."

Seager is encouraged by the addition of Gordon to the top of what figures to be a potent lineup. Hitting behind the foursome of Gordon, Jean Segura, Cano and Cruz is a welcome spot for the 30-year-old third baseman.

"We're going to score some runs," Seager said. "Obviously the two guys ahead of me have been there the last couple years, and hitting behind them has been awesome. They're talking about pushing Segura into the two-hole, and that fits him, too, the way he hits the ball and the way he can go the other way and all that type of stuff. It has potential to be pretty fun and pretty dynamic."

Servais wasted no time driving home a point that will be pursued all spring. The club wasn't good on the basepaths last year, and those little things can add up. So it was no coincidence the first drill of the opening day centered on baserunning, and the team later worked on defensive bunt drills.

It's a condensed time frame this spring, with Cactus League games starting Friday, but Servais will keep conducting baserunning drills throughout the spring and continue focusing on areas that must improve to take that next step.

Tweet from @GregJohnsMLB: Eight Mariners pitchers threw their first round of live batting practice today, including Ariel Miranda, who will start Friday's Cactus League opener vs. the Padres. pic.twitter.com/bvaB4mGdkw

With most of the team returning intact, Servais hopes the Mariners will be able to get off to a quicker start this season after a 2-8 stumble out of the gate led to an 11-15 April last year.

"I believe it's a real advantage that we don't have as many new faces in the room," he said. "There are a few new ones in there. Obviously our center fielder, first base, we've got a few new pitchers. And that's great. That's exciting, too. But the core of our group is back and intact and ready to go."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners

'Way better' Felix off to encouraging start

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's a long way until Opening Day, but the Mariners like what they've seen from Felix Hernandez in his first two mound sessions of Spring Training.

Hernandez was among the final group of eight pitchers to throw their second bullpen sessions of the spring on Tuesday, and the 31-year-old was encouraged by the results as well.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's a long way until Opening Day, but the Mariners like what they've seen from Felix Hernandez in his first two mound sessions of Spring Training.

Hernandez was among the final group of eight pitchers to throw their second bullpen sessions of the spring on Tuesday, and the 31-year-old was encouraged by the results as well.

• Mariners' goal is clear: End the drought

"Way better," Hernandez said. "My mechanics were much better. It was really good. My timing, I wasn't rushing. I was so calm and delivered the pitch. It was really good."

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and manager Scott Servais have been encouraged by Hernandez's focus and effort in the early days of camp as he looks to bounce back from last year's injury-plagued campaign.

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He'll throw live batting practice on Friday, then make his Cactus League debut on Monday against the Cubs in Mesa.

Servais said it's all on schedule with Hernandez, who is on the mound earlier this spring than his usual program. And the manager's not worried about the results at this point.

"As long as he's healthy and throwing all of his pitches, you just keep moving along," Servais said. "That's what Mike Leake does. He's not out there going at 95 or 100 percent. He's getting a feel for his pitches and making a few adjustments and getting comfortable with certain catchers.

"That's what we are looking for from Felix, just to continue to build so that when he does step on the mound for the first Spring Training game, he's got a few more bullpens and he's done more to get to that point and build on it from there."

Erasmo optimistic about quick return

Erasmo Ramirez says the sore lat muscle that led the Mariners to shut him down on Sunday had actually been a lingering issue over the previous week, but he believes the problem really is minor and expects to be back on the mound later this spring without further concerns.

Video: Outlook: Ramirez looks to stick in Mariners' rotation

Ramirez said the tightness in his back was slowly getting better, even while he was throwing every day, but he told the Mariners' trainers about it when it wasn't recovering as quickly as he hoped, and they immediately shut him down for two weeks.

Ramirez had thrown three bullpen sessions even before arriving at camp, and he tossed another Thursday without any noticeable strain. But the location of the soreness led him to touch base with the trainers.

"That's the first time I've had anything in that area, and that's what worried me," he said. "If it was my shoulder or elbow, I know what exercises to do to take care of it."

Ramirez said the muscles already feel better after a couple of days off.

"I'll be fine," he said. "Everything feels awesome. I don't feel it at all. Now I just have to wait. I have to be patient. The good news is when they give me the green light to start throwing, my muscle is going to be 100 percent ready to go and my mind will be free of worry."

Healy healing, but still sidelined

While the rest of his new teammates were on the field for the initial workouts, first baseman Ryon Healy was limited to rehab work and some mobility exercises as he waits for the stitches to be taken out of his right hand following Wednesday's surgery to remove bone spurs.

Tweet from @GregJohnsMLB: Ryon Healy recovering from surgery to remove bone spur as rest of Mariners begin full workouts today..���It���s not fun when you see all those guys out there. I���d much rather be sweating and working as hard as I can instead of sitting here doing media. No offense to you guys.��� pic.twitter.com/7yvXZfbPHT

Healy said he started feeling soreness in the hand when he began hitting in early December.

"You always have some rust in your joints and hands when you start hitting again," he said. "I expected it to go away, and it never did. I eventually spoke up after a couple weeks and said it was too much, let's get it checked out. I took five weeks off, came back and hit and the pain was still there."

Video: Ryon Healy on his rehab from hand surgery

Healy said he's never had any issue with the hand before, and he figures it was probably cumulative over the years.

"That was the most frustrating thing," he said. "There was no initial thing I did to irritate it. I didn't fall on it, I didn't lift or drop a weight on it. It was literally just hitting. So I guess over time, it just built up. It wasn't even something I felt last season. It just started in December."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia is well ahead of his anticipated return from right shoulder surgery as he took part in all the hitting and some of the defensive work in Tuesday's opening session. Heredia will likely be cleared for game action fairly early in the Cactus League season.

Daniel Vogelbach and Mike Ford split duties at first base when the team took infield drills on the main field. As expected, Robinson Cano was at second, Jean Segura at short and Kyle Seager at third base, while new utility man Andrew Romine moved around at all three of those spots while working with that first group.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez

All clubs to don Douglas caps for ST openers

MLB.com @_dadler

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

Video: Teams to wear Stoneman Douglas hats for ST openers

"It's a tragedy. It was a tragedy that hit the state of Florida, where we have two teams, but obviously has very specific baseball connections," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Really a very strong sentiment among the clubs that this was the appropriate thing to do immediately."

MLB teams will wear the caps pregame on Friday and will also be allowed to wear them during their games. Since they're off on Friday, the Royals and Rangers will don the hats on Saturday.

The Commissioner approved the use of the caps during all games on Friday, the Spring Training openers for most of the clubs.

The effort started with a few Grapefruit League teams, which wanted to wear the caps pregame, and it quickly spread across camps in Florida and Arizona. Soon all 30 teams had decided to join in the support and fundraising effort for the school community.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo attended Stoneman Douglas, and spoke at a prayer vigil at Pine Trails Park the day after the shooting. 

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Rizzo said Monday about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting. "You don't know what to say, there's nothing you can say. When people get shot, you're grateful they're alive. When they pass away, you're grateful you knew them. Just to see how real it is, it's sad and it's why I'm so proud of what they're doing back in Parkland and how everyone is coming together. They're going to turn this tragedy into something positive.

"The caps made for the fundraising effort will be provided to all players, coaches and umpires."

The Stoneman Douglas High School caps are reminiscent of how the Mets wore NYPD and FDNY caps following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The Mets donned the caps to honor the first responders in their first game after the attacks, in Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, and again in their return to New York four days later. In that memorable game at Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning to lead the Mets to an emotional win over the Braves.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Lewis sidelined following minor knee surgery

GM Dipoto offers updates on outfield prospect, Erasmo, Healy
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Outfielder Kyle Lewis, the Mariners' top-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not among the 40-plus players who began a Minor League mini-camp at the club's Peoria Sports Complex on Monday, as general manager Jerry Dipoto said he's recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his balky right knee.

The 22-year-old Lewis had a cleanup procedure on his knee about 10 days ago and isn't expected to be on the field until the end of April. The hope now is that the procedure will take care of Lewis' ongoing issues since major surgery following a home-plate collision in 2016 just a month after he was selected with the 11th pick in the 2016 Draft.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Outfielder Kyle Lewis, the Mariners' top-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not among the 40-plus players who began a Minor League mini-camp at the club's Peoria Sports Complex on Monday, as general manager Jerry Dipoto said he's recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his balky right knee.

The 22-year-old Lewis had a cleanup procedure on his knee about 10 days ago and isn't expected to be on the field until the end of April. The hope now is that the procedure will take care of Lewis' ongoing issues since major surgery following a home-plate collision in 2016 just a month after he was selected with the 11th pick in the 2016 Draft.

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Dipoto said the club should know more after Lewis reports to Minor League camp on Thursday.

"There was kind of a floating piece of bone that was pinching off or creating a problem," Dipoto said. "It explains why he was having so much pain. Hopefully we are able finally to determine the source of the irritation and move forward in a productive way."

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Lewis played 49 Minor League games last season after rehabbing from his initial surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament as well as a torn medial meniscus and lateral meniscus. He was shut down again after feeling some discomfort during the Arizona Fall League, then had further problems after trying to gear back up this winter.

"Kyle has a chance to be a really good player," said Dipoto. "The fact that he's been frustrated by this, very few people in our organization work harder than Kyle Lewis. And he's had to because of what he's encountered so early in his career. He's been great about it. And we are hoping this is the final step to getting him healthy."

No firm timetable on Erasmo

Dipoto acknowledged there's no certainty that right-hander Erasmo Ramirez will be ready for the start of the season after being diagnosed Sunday with a strained lat muscle in his right side.

The hope is that Ramirez can be cleared to start throwing again after a two-week shutdown, but that's the best-case scenario based on the 27-year-old catching the injury before it got worse.

"As we know from having dealt with Evan Scribner the last couple years, lat issues can become bigger or long-term issues," Dipoto said. "Hopefully we caught this one early enough that it's short to mid-term. We don't know yet. We're hoping in two weeks we get a thumbs-up and he's ready to roll. But that's not a slam dunk. Then we have to take it day by day."

Video: Jerry Dipoto discusses Erasmo Ramirez's lat injury

Dipoto said having Ariel Miranda and Andrew Moore as potential fill-ins means the club will stay in-house for solutions while Ramirez is sidelined. Additionally, a favorable early schedule would help if he's not initially ready.

"The great benefit we have, roughly for the first five weeks of the season, we have a day off about every week," Dipoto said. "That means we can be somewhat creative in how we get through with our starting rotation, if we need to start with Erasmo [on the disabled list].

"What would be more damning is if it's a long-term issue, and that is something we're going to have a tough time absorbing. So in the short term, we believe he'll be back and we're hopeful that's in two-three weeks. But over the long haul, we have to be prepared if it's longer than that."

Healy could be late arrival as well

First baseman Ryon Healy is projected to be out four to six weeks following Wednesday's surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand, and there's a good chance he won't be ready when Seattle opens regular-season play on March 29.

"Whatever time it takes to get him back, we'll take that time," Dipoto said. "We're more concerned for the long haul."

Dipoto said veteran non-roster invitee Matt Hague is a candidate to fill in until Healy's return, as well as rookie left-handers Mike Ford and Daniel Vogelbach.

Healy did check in to camp for Monday's physicals. All 25 position players reported on time, including newly signed outfielder Junior Lake, who agreed to a Minor League deal.

Combined with the 32 pitchers and six catchers already in camp, that group will take the field Tuesday for the first full-squad workout leading up to Friday's Cactus League opener.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Ryon Healy, Erasmo Ramirez

Opening Day starter for Mariners TBD

Felix holds active streak with 9 straight opener nods
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For the past nine years, choosing an Opening Day starter has generally been a foregone conclusion for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez has handled those duties every season since 2009, the longest active streak of any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

But Hernandez, who has started 10 of the past 11 openers, is coming off an injury-plagued 2017 season in which he went 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 16 starts, while James Paxton emerged as one of the top left-handed starters in the game, going 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 24 outings.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For the past nine years, choosing an Opening Day starter has generally been a foregone conclusion for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez has handled those duties every season since 2009, the longest active streak of any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

But Hernandez, who has started 10 of the past 11 openers, is coming off an injury-plagued 2017 season in which he went 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 16 starts, while James Paxton emerged as one of the top left-handed starters in the game, going 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 24 outings.

So manager Scott Servais will give things time before making a decision.

"We'll see how things are progressing throughout the spring," Servais said Monday. "Obviously it gets to a point in the spring where you have to make a decision and line up your rotation the right way. But we certainly have guys that are capable of doing that.

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"We saw what Pax did last year, kind of stepping forward for a nice stretch of time and really leading our staff. Obviously everybody knows what Felix has done here through the course of his career. Mike Leake had a nice debut for us last year. We have plenty of guys that can go ahead and take that ball."

The Mariners have time to work things out. The first full-squad workout will be Tuesday and a 32-game Cactus League schedule opens Friday, which allows for as many as six outings each for Hernandez, Paxton and the rest of Seattle's starting candidates.

Video: Felix Hernandez talks about his offseason workouts

Mapping out the early rotation

Ariel Miranda and Andrew Moore, the top two candidates to fill in for Erasmo Ramirez while he's sidelined by a strained lat muscle, are tentatively slated to pitch two innings each in Friday's 12:10 p.m. PT Cactus League opener vs. the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex.

Leake is scheduled to start Saturday's game against the White Sox in Peoria, followed by Marco Gonzales on Sunday against the Dodgers in Peoria. Both games will be available on MLB.TV.

Hernandez is lined up to open against the Cubs on Monday, Feb. 26, in Mesa, with Paxton facing the Padres on Feb. 27 in Peoria.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez, James Paxton

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

MLB.com @_dadler

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

•  Pace of play rules FAQ

A pitch clock -- giving the pitcher a certain amount of time to deliver the ball -- had been one of the major proposals considered. MLB decided to defer implementation of a pitch clock, as well as a between-batter timer, in order to give players an opportunity to respond to the new rules and positively affect pace of play throughout the 2018 season.

"I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players," Manfred said in a statement. "My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

New phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout will be installed and monitored, limiting the ability of teams to steal signs, which is viewed as a contributing factor to the increasing number of mound visits. Rules governing when players can and cannot leave the batter's box between pitches, instituted during the 2017 season, remain in effect.

•  Players, managers react to new rules

"Players were involved in the pace of game discussion from Day 1, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans, but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself -- now or in the future," said Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director.

Here is a breakdown of the new rules:

• Mound visits: Mound visits will be limited to six per team per nine innings. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. Also, normal communication between player and pitcher that do not require either to vacate their position on the field do not count as a visit. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher's request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher.

Video: Hot Stove on mound visits regarding pace of play

• Between-inning breaks: As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. Another important change is that a pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

• Timing of pitcher changes: The timing clock -- as listed above -- also applies to pitching changes, and it will begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track.

Video: Hot Stove on batter's box rule, replay review changes

• Instant replay: All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits 
1. Number
A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.  
B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning). 

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a "cross-up"), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team's total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows: 

Time Remaining | Required Action
25 seconds: 
Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.
20 seconds: Batter's announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.
0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches. 
B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies. 
C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter's box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.  
D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break. 

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:  
A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);
B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches; 
C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box; 
D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire's judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline. 

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks
A. Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.   
B. Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.  
C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher). 
 
4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes
A. Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).  
B. Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event. 
 
5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter's Box Rule
The batter's box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review
The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:
A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season; 
B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Bishop raising awareness 4MOM

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The message is simple: 4MOM.

Braden Bishop bears the reminder on his baseball glove and in his heart. And now the young Mariners outfield prospect is spreading the word in a remarkable fundraising effort that has caught fire with fellow players around the game.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The message is simple: 4MOM.

Braden Bishop bears the reminder on his baseball glove and in his heart. And now the young Mariners outfield prospect is spreading the word in a remarkable fundraising effort that has caught fire with fellow players around the game.

Bishop's 55-year-old mom, Suzy, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease 3 1/2 years ago when he was playing for the University of Washington. His initial response to write 4MOM on his arm before games eventually led to some annual charity auctions to raise money for Alzheimer's awareness programs.

But this winter, after earning his first invitation to the Mariners' Major League camp, Bishop decided to try something new, posting on Twitter that he'd donate $10 for every single he hits in Spring Training games, $20 for every double, $30 for triples and $40 if he manages to crack a home run.

Tweet from @bradenbishop7: During spring training I will personally be donating money to Alzheimer���s for every hit (can���t promise I���ll get any 🤭😎) in either major or minor league games. Single=$10Double=$20Triple=$30Home Run=$40 (don���t hit many of these 😬)#Knocks4MOM #Hits2EndALZ

The idea was noticed by some of Bishop's friends and teammates around the game and many jumped on board with their own offers to donate various amounts. Pitchers offered donations per strikeout, hitters pitched in with their own offers per hit or stolen base. Mariners farm director Andy McKay said he'll kick in $10 every time he says "process" this spring, a word McKay tosses out with great frequency.

At last count, Bishop said more than 85 players had pledged money, plus a number of coaches and even fans who've offered to match various results from their favorite players.

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"It's crazy," Bishop said, standing at his locker in the Mariners' Peoria Sports Complex clubhouse. "I had more of just a personal goal to start, and then a couple people said they wanted to join in or wanted to pledge money off what I was going to pledge. I said, 'Absolutely. The more, the better.'

"Then it kind of just sparked an idea. So I asked some guys who were close to me growing up and are in pro ball, and they were all about it. They kind of put the word out, then I asked guys like Andrew Moore, who I'd played with through college and early in pro ball. It just kind of took off. It's definitely exceeded my expectations. I guess that's the power of social media."

Bishop's motivation is now under 24-hour nursing care at their home in San Francisco. Just a few years ago, Suzy Bishop was a vice president of production at NBC. The former track runner at UCLA produced television shows like Law & Order and Jag, and won an Emmy for the production of "Separate But Equal," a movie about the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Now she can barely recognize or communicate with anyone.

Bishop could bury his head and say life isn't fair, but that isn't his way.

"There's plenty of days when I still say that," he said, "but I'm trying to go down another path."

Tweet from @M_Hanny17: I���m in this fight to End Alzheimer���s with @bradenbishop7. During spring training I will be donating $10 to Alzheimer���s for every hit I get #Hits2EndALZ @4MOM_ALZ

Bishop, the Mariners' No. 4-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, knows he can't save his mom at this point. His fight is to help others in the future.

"There are a lot of people who don't know what Alzheimer's is until somebody close to them gets it," he said. "So raising awareness has been my main goal since Day 1. People should understand what it is so if they do see somebody with early signs, they can detect it and hopefully at some point -- I don't know when -- there should be some sort of fight or cure. Because at this point, you get diagnosed and then it's just downhill."

Bishop knows his focus needs to be on baseball as he undertakes his first Major League camp, so he's established a partnership with Alzheimer's Greater Los Angeles to handle the donations and operations of the charity.

"They do all the day-to-day stuff so when I come here, I don't have to worry about it," he said. "I get a lot of emails from people who want to tell their story to me. They feel a connection. I try to read all of them and then get it in the right hands to respond. It's a lot because I'm trying to focus on my job and you don't want to take away from that, but people need to tell their story and that's what I wanted."

Tweet from @AndrewG_23: During Spring Training I���ll be joining @bradenbishop7 and many others in the fight to end Alzheimer���s. I will be donating $10 for every K and $30 for every BB/HBP. #Ks2EndALZ @4MOM_ALZ

Mariners manager Scott Servais has been impressed by Bishop's drive and embraces the effort.

"It says a lot about the person, no doubt," Servais said. "You see the whole thing he's gone through with his mom and the maturity level to step up and try to make a difference. I think it's awesome. And I think it's awesome that people are following.

"I know there are a lot of guys in our clubhouse that are donating. I will be as well. I will not make it public, but the guys in the room will know. In our society today, so many of us are affected by that disease. It's a real issue and I couldn't be any more proud of him."

For more information on Bishop's efforts or to donate to the fundraiser, visit his website at www.4momalz.com.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Braden Bishop

Strained right lat muscle sidelines Erasmo

Right-hander will be shut down from throwing for a couple of weeks
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Erasmo Ramirez, expected to be Seattle's fourth starter this season, is dealing with a strained right lat muscle and will be shut down from throwing for a couple of weeks, manager Scott Servais said on Sunday.

The 27-year-old right-hander was scratched from his scheduled bullpen session on Saturday, after feeling some soreness. Tests showed what Servais called a "light" strain.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Erasmo Ramirez, expected to be Seattle's fourth starter this season, is dealing with a strained right lat muscle and will be shut down from throwing for a couple of weeks, manager Scott Servais said on Sunday.

The 27-year-old right-hander was scratched from his scheduled bullpen session on Saturday, after feeling some soreness. Tests showed what Servais called a "light" strain.

"Not great news," Servais said. "It's not the end of the world. Things do happen, and it's pretty early. So we'll wait and see how it goes."

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Ramirez has been in Arizona since the start of February and had been throwing without any issues until Saturday. The Mariners, the club he began his career with, re-acquired him last July from the Rays and he went 1-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 11 starts after the deal.

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Servais said it's fortunate Ramirez caught the injury early and didn't push it, since lat injuries can linger if they become serious.

"We have plenty of guys here to pitch early on in Spring Training games," said Servais. "We're counting on Erasmo to do some really good things for us, much like he did last year. But right now, we have to take it slow."

The Mariners were hit hard by injuries to their rotation last season, losing starter Drew Smyly in Spring Training and eventually using a Major League-record-tying 40 pitchers on the season -- including a club-record 17 starters.

Servais said he's not going to start worrying about a repeat of those woes.

"I can't," he said. "I'm not going to. Why would I? We'll keep moving along."

Ramirez is slotted in behind veterans James Paxton, Felix Hernandez and Mike Leake in the club's rotation plans -- with Marco Gonzales the likely fifth starter. Ramirez's injury would seem to open the door again for lefty Ariel Miranda, who filled in admirably in 2017, after Smyly went down early.

Andrew Moore and Max Povse are two young right-handers who are also in the mix.

The injury is the second already this spring to a Mariners club looking to rebound from a 78-86 season. Ryon Healy, acquired from the A's to be the starting first baseman, had surgery to remove a bone spur from his right hand on Wednesday and isn't expected back until around Opening Day.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Erasmo Ramirez