By Shannon Drayer
Arlington, Texas – Mariners open a four-game series here in Texas where it is unseasonably cold and ridiculously windy. We will see if that has an impact on tonight’s game. Wind is blowing out to right on top of the stadium but the wind tends to circle in the stadium so it is tough to tell how that will play tonight. Let’s get straight to the lineups because they are interesting.
Start with the Rangers lineup. Really? Sure, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder are in it, but does that look like a Texas lineup to you? Not quite the top to bottom firepower they have had in the past. With Colby Lewis making his season debut the Mariners could have an opportunity to do some damage. Let’s see if the bats break out away from Oakland pitching.
Lloyd McClendon has moved Justin Smoak down in the order and moved Corey Hart to the position he originally envisioned him residing at behind Robinson Cano. Hart has battled different aches and pains as well as his swing, but McClendon believes he is ready to be put back into the cleanup spot.
“I think he’s probably there now,” he said in his pregame meeting with the media. “From a physical standpoint I think he’s feeling pretty good.”
Now that doesn’t mean we will see him paroling right field on an everyday basis anytime soon. McClendon said that his main goal with Hart was to keep him healthy and his concern was how his knees would react to the stopping and starting required of an outfielder.
As for the other moves in the lineup McClendon said it was time to shake things up.
“Maybe get a little bit more power down low in the lineup. Try to get a little bit more balance. Just tinkering a little bit. We got shutout, we scored one run two days ago,” he said.
One question that has been asked quite a bit on Twitter and in the comment section of the blog is why not move Dustin Ackley (.308 average) up in the order? McClendon hasn’t been asked that question but it is a topic that we addressed on the roundtable segment of the pregame show. Mike Blowers had some insight on why you wouldn’t move Ackley quite yet.
“I think it’s a couple things,” he said. “One, it takes pressure off of him. For example, if he were hitting second like Miller is, maybe Dustin would try to do things differently because of that. I think the other part of it is when you’re down at the bottom of the order, there’s a tendency for the pitcher to let up a little bit, maybe make a few more mistakes. But I think the biggest change with Dustin is it’s freed him up to just go and hack and I think that’s when he’s at his best. I think if he’s not worried about moving a runner over, trying to work counts, do all these different things that are required in different parts of the lineup, and he’s just free to go be himself, you’re going to get the production.
“From talking to him, even in the spring, he made some comments that I thought were perfect, and that is just not worrying about the results anymore and getting your swings in. I think being at the bottom of the lineup is probably a good idea. I don’t think that’s a place where he’s going to stay, but I think for now it’s a great idea. And it seems to be working great. Because with Brad hitting second, he’s not going to change his game right now, he’s going to be aggressive and he probably will be that way for his entire career – and that’s okay. It works right now.”
• Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw his simulated game Saturday in Miami. He will throw 45 pitches to hitters and, if all goes well, will most likely be sent out on a rehab assignment when the team returns from its road trip.
• The Mariners are dodging Adrian Beltre, who is on the DL with a mild quad strain, on this trip, but will probably see him in the next home stand. Beltre is eligible to come off the DL April 21 and was on the field before the game running the stadium and doing agility drills.
• If you tune into the radio broadcasts for this series you will hear a new voice. With Dave Sims taking the series off, Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith will trade off calling the games with Mike Blowers on ROOT Sports, and former Mariner and current Rangers analyst Mark McClemore will join us on radio. He will pair with Goldsmith today and tomorrow and Rizzs on Wednesday and Thursday.