Cruz may hold the key to the Mariners' World Series hopes

Newcomer provides big bat for a club that fell a game short of the playoffs in 2014

Cruz may hold the key to the Mariners' World Series hopes

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners improved by 16 wins last season but still fell one shy of an American League playoff spot, the obvious missing link was a big bat in the middle of the lineup behind Robinson Cano. So when you're looking to a key player for Seattle's success in 2015, it's hard to overlook the imposing presence of newcomer Nelson Cruz.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Dominican brings a power bat to a Mariners lineup looking for that threatening thump. The club hasn't had a 30-home-run player since Russell Branyan hit 31 in 2009. Cruz smashed 40 homers last season for the Orioles, as he earned his third AL All-Star bid and helped his team to the postseason for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

'That was for him': Henry dedicates special day to Sanchez

Mariners prospect gets last-minute call, hits HR against Padres

'That was for him': Henry dedicates special day to Sanchez

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Jabari Henry could have simply relished his own moment in the sun, an amazing story on its own after being called off a Minor League field at the last moment and told by general manager Jack Zduriencik that he was needed to start as an injury fill-in for the Mariners' Cactus League game against the Padres ... and then proceeded to smack a home run in his second at-bat in Seattle's 8-5 loss at Peoria Stadium.

But the 24-year-old outfielder wasn't performing just for himself Sunday. His good friend and Minor League teammate Victor Sanchez died in Venezuela on Saturday and Henry was playing this one for the big right-hander.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Happ labors again vs. Padres, Henry, Ackley go deep

Seattle starter allows five earned runs on 11 hits

Happ labors again vs. Padres, Henry, Ackley go deep

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Justin Upton had three hits and Wil Myers and Matt Kemp each hit home runs Sunday to lift the Padres to a 8-5 victory over the Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex.

San Diego pitcher Andrew Cashner, the projected No. 3 starter, allowed one run on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners option Elias, Smith to Triple-A, reassign 8 others

Moves could clear way for Walker to be named fifth starter

Mariners option Elias, Smith to Triple-A, reassign 8 others

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With just a week remaining until Opening Day, the Mariners moved closer to their final 25-man roster on Sunday by removing 10 players from Major League camp, including left-handed starter Roenis Elias and right-handed reliever Carson Smith.

The moves bring Seattle's roster to 28 players. The final 25-man squad must be set by Saturday, in preparation for the April 6 opener against the Angels at Safeco Field.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners prospect Sanchez dies in Venezuela

The 20-year-old pitcher had been injured in boating accident in February

Mariners prospect Sanchez dies in Venezuela

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Victor Sanchez, one of the Mariners' top pitching prospects, died in Venezuela from head injuries sustained in a boating accident in his home country six weeks ago.

The Mariners confirmed the news Saturday night after MLB.com initially learned of Sanchez's death from his agent, Rafa Nieves. Sanchez was 20 years old and had been in the Mariners' Minor League system since signing as an international free agent at 16.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners scratch Smith due to sore ankle

Mariners scratch Smith due to sore ankle

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right fielder Seth Smith was scratched from the Mariners' lineup Sunday against the Padres with a sore ankle, though manager Lloyd McClendon said the injury was minor.

"He rolled his ankle a little bit yesterday," McClendon said. "It's a little swollen. It's just precautionary. We're not going to let him play today. Seventh game of the World Series, he'd be in there."

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Position battles mostly over, McClendon has 'pen decisions

Position battles mostly over, McClendon has 'pen decisions

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With one week of Cactus League games remaining before heading home to start their regular season in Seattle, the Mariners have 38 players in Major League camp competing for the final 25-man roster spots as of Saturday.

But in reality, there isn't a lot of drama surrounding the final decisions facing manager Lloyd McClendon and general manager Jack Zduriencik.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McClendon makes it official: Felix to start opener

McClendon makes it official: Felix to start opener

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Just in case there were any lingering doubts, Lloyd McClendon made it completely official on Saturday: Felix Hernandez will be the Mariners' Opening Day starter on April 6, when Seattle hosts the Angels at Safeco Field.

That declaration was something less than a surprise, given McClendon said early in camp that Hernandez was "99.999 percent" likely to be the man.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zunino's pops pace Mariners' offense against Giants

Catcher goes yard twice; Iwakuma gives up four runs in five innings

Zunino's pops pace Mariners' offense against Giants

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right fielder Justin Maxwell -- who hit a three-run homer in the fourth -- keyed the Giants' five-run rally in the ninth to edge the Mariners, 9-8, in Cactus League action at Peoria Stadium on Saturday.

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino cracked a pair of solo home runs, and third baseman Kyle Seager added another on a mid-90-degree day where the ball was flying.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Mariners looking like the team to beat in the AL

Strong pitching, depth could help punch Seattle's first ticket to the Fall Classic

Mariners looking like the team to beat in the AL

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Word of advice to serious sports fans: Book your October hotel rooms in Seattle early. Space can get tight out there, and you don't want to get caught off guard.

In one wonderful stretch last fall, the Chiefs hosted the Patriots in a Monday Night Football game as the Royals were preparing to face the A's in the American League Wild Card Game across the parking lot at Kansas City's Truman Sports Complex. The place basically looked like Woodstock for about 36 hours, minus sitar music and rivers of mud.

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Phil Rogers joined MLB.com in 2013, and has covered Major League Baseball since 1984.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Paxton healthy, building for regular season

Paxton healthy, building for regular season

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- James Paxton has been a little behind this spring after getting a delayed start due to a bruised left forearm, but the Mariners left-hander said he should be just fine for the regular season despite a bit of a rocky go in Friday's 5-1 loss to the Royals.

Paxton lasted just 3 2/3 innings on a night he struggled with his command, giving up five runs (two earned) on four hits, three walks and a wild pitch. But the positive side is he feels 100 percent healthy now and went to the bullpen at Surprise Stadium afterward to build his final pitch count to 80 after throwing 68 in the game.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Paxton, Mariners miss mark against Royals

Paxton, Mariners miss mark against Royals

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals Opening Day starter Yordano Ventura appeared sharp and ready for the season to begin, throwing seven no-hit innings in a 5-1 win over the Mariners on Friday night at Surprise Stadium.

Ventura walked two and struck out four before exiting in favor of Jason Frasor, who gave up the first hit to the Mariners, a one-out RBI single by Tyler Smith in the eighth.

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Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McClendon holding off naming No. 5 starter

Walker appears to have edge on Elias for spot in Mariners' rotation

McClendon holding off naming No. 5 starter

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Taijuan Walker is scheduled to start again on Monday against the Angels at Peoria Stadium, while Roenis Elias likely is slated for a Minor League outing in his next appearance. But manager Lloyd McClendon still wasn't ready to pronounce Walker as his fifth starter on Friday.

The 22-year-old Walker had yet to allow a run in 18 innings in five Cactus League starts before facing the Royals, while Elias has a 6.75 ERA in 14 2/3 innings after getting hit hard by the Brewers on Thursday. But McClendon has maintained he won't proclaim who has won the battle for the final berth in Seattle's rotation until the final week of camp.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

MLB Pipeline checks in from Mariners camp

Power percolating throughout Seattle's system; top prospect Jackson talks adjustments

MLB Pipeline checks in from Mariners camp

Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Seattle Mariners.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the past decade, the Mariners have had just two homegrown right-handed hitters who managed to hit 20 homers in a season. Jose Lopez, signed out of Venezuela in 2000, accomplished the feat in 2009. Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, did so last year.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hernandez's strong start 'very pleasing' to Mariners

Seattle ace rebounds from rough Cactus League outing

Hernandez's strong start 'very pleasing' to Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners lost to the Royals, 3-0, on Thursday at Peoria Stadium. But really only one thing mattered in this one. Felix Hernandez looked King-ly and thus all was well.

"I feel like I'm where I want to be," Hernandez said after firing six innings of two-hit, one-run ball. "I'll be ready for Opening Day."

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rule 5 pick Rollins suspended 80 games for PEDs

Rule 5 pick Rollins suspended 80 games for PEDs

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Left-hander David Rollins, a Rule 5 Draft pick who was in the hunt for one of the final roster spots with the Mariners, was suspended 80 games on Friday for testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Rollins will remain the Mariners' property during his suspension, though general manager Jack Zduriencik said the club is awaiting guidance from MLB due to his Rule 5 status.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners' bullpen battle remains wide open

Closer Rodney the only lock for possible seven-man relief corps

Mariners' bullpen battle remains wide open

PEORIA, Ariz. -- While much of the focus on Mariners pitching this spring has swirled around the fifth-starter competition between Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias, there is an even deeper and heated competition for relief spots on a club that posted the lowest bullpen ERA in baseball in 2014.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said Thursday that the only certainty is that Fernando Rodney remains the closer after racking up a Major League-leading 48 saves last season. Even after trading promising right-hander Brandon Maurer and not re-signing veteran lefty Joe Beimel, the Mariners have a surplus of quality candidates for their seven-man 'pen.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Felix turns in solid outing against Royals

Opening Day starter bounces back to allow one run in six innings

Felix turns in solid outing against Royals

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw six strong innings while allowing just two hits and one run Thursday, but Royals veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was even better with 5 2/3 scoreless frames in a 3-0 Cactus League pitchers' duel, won by Kansas City, at Peoria Stadium.

Guthrie, making just his second Cactus League start after missing one turn with a stomach virus, didn't allow a baserunner until Nelson Cruz singled leading off the fifth. Seattle's only other hit off Guthrie was a single by Shawn O'Malley in the sixth.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Elias, Mariners roughed up by Brewers' bats

Seattle starter allows six runs in three-plus innings; Milwaukee hits two slams

Elias, Mariners roughed up by Brewers' bats

PHOENIX -- Brewers left fielder Khris Davis made his first Spring Training home run count Thursday, hitting a first-inning grand slam that one-hopped its way clear out of Maryvale Baseball Park in the Brewers' 15-1 victory over the Mariners.

Davis connected against Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias, who surrendered six earned runs on eight hits over three-plus innings against a Milwaukee team on a tear. The Brewers have scored at least nine runs in five of their last six games, reaching double-digit runs in four of those games.

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Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Walker: Always room to improve despite dominant spring

Righty's Cactus League scoreless streak at 18 innings after start vs. Cubs

Walker: Always room to improve despite dominant spring

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's hard to imagine Taijuan Walker pitching much better or doing much more to impress in his battle for the Mariners' fifth-starter position, but the 22-year-old insists there's more in the tank even after running his scoreless streak to 18 innings this spring in Wednesday night's 3-2 victory over the Cubs.

"You can always be better," Walker said after holding the Cubs to two singles and a walk in six frames. "Zero walks. Especially toward the end, I got a little tired. As spring goes on, that kind of goes away."

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zunino, Cano lead offense behind Walker vs. Cubs

Catcher, second baseman each drive in run; righty's strong spring continues

Zunino, Cano lead offense behind Walker vs. Cubs

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Young Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker hurled six more scoreless innings Wednesday, and catcher Mike Zunino hit his fourth home run of the spring as Seattle defeated the Cubs, 3-2, in a night game at Peoria Stadium.

Travis Wood, battling for the fifth spot in the Cubs' rotation, allowed three runs and five hits over five innings. The lefty was happy with his outing.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McClendon thinking about Weeks sharing leadoff role

McClendon thinking about Weeks sharing leadoff role

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Lloyd McClendon has endorsed center fielder Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter ever since Seattle acquired him from the Tigers at last July's Trade Deadline, but the Mariners' skipper is toying with trying Rickie Weeks in that role at times this season as well.

McClendon had Weeks leading off and Jackson batting second in Wednesday night's Cactus League game against the Cubs, the second time he's tried that combination this spring. And it probably won't be the last.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cora to throw out first pitch on Opening Day

Former second baseman key to Mariners' first postseason run in 1995

Cora to throw out first pitch on Opening Day

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Former Mariners fan favorite Joey Cora will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, the club announced Wednesday.

Cora played second base for Seattle from 1995-98 and was an integral part of the first Mariners team to make the playoffs in 1995. His emotional scene on the bench after the Mariners were knocked out of the '95 postseason by the Indians in the American League Championship Series remains a vivid memory for Seattle fans.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sucre ready for action; hip 'not going to be a big deal'

Sucre ready for action; hip 'not going to be a big deal'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After sitting out two games with a sore hip, Jesus Sucre was ready for duty on Wednesday night, and the Mariners' backup catcher said it's time to begin pointing toward the start of the regular season.

"I feel a lot better," Sucre said prior to suiting up for bench duties against the Cubs. "I practiced yesterday and I think I'm ready to go. I still feel it a little bit, but it's OK."

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Smith bringing professional approach to Mariners

Veteran outfielder homers against former club, keeps focus on contributing for Seattle

Smith bringing professional approach to Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Seth Smith came out swinging Tuesday against his former Padres club, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs in Seattle's 6-4 Cactus League loss at Peoria Stadium.

But playing against the team that traded him in the offseason carried no special weight for the Mariners' new right fielder.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Happ pleased with pitch count, not results

Mariners lefty seeking command of offspeed offerings

Happ pleased with pitch count, not results

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pitching for a new team with people wondering what he's going to bring, J.A. Happ would have preferred a better impression than Tuesday's rough go in a 6-4 loss to the Padres. But the Mariners' southpaw isn't going to overreact to a Spring Training outing, and neither is his manager.

Happ gave up eight hits and six runs (five earned) in 3 2/3 innings. The veteran left-hander walked three and struck out three in an 80-pitch outing that hiked his Cactus League ERA to 7.27.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Smith launches homer on rocky day for Happ

Smith launches homer on rocky day for Happ

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Justin Upton hit his third home run of the spring and Matt Kemp added two hits as the Padres defeated the Mariners, 6-4, on Tuesday at the Peoria Sports Complex.

Austin Jackson and Seth Smith each had two hits for the Mariners. Smith, who was traded from the Padres to the Mariners in December, had a home run in the third inning, his first of Spring Training.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Mariners feel pieces are in place for special '15

Rotation depth, offensive firepower have club looking like WS contender

Mariners feel pieces are in place for special '15

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Mariners are getting the attention of the rest of the American League.

This is a team that has reason to believe it can claim the AL West, but it could well find itself next October appearing in a World Series for the first time in the franchise's 38-season history.

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Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.