SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners released veteran outfielder Eric Byrnes on Sunday night, two days after a late-game gaffe and then bizarre exit from the clubhouse on a bicycle.
The punchless Mariners announced after they were swept at home by the Texas Rangers that they also optioned 23-year-old infielder Matt Tuiasosopo to Triple-A Tacoma.
Seattle called up outfielder Ryan Langerhans and infielder Josh Wilson from Tacoma. Both will be in uniform tonight against Tampa Bay after Monday’s off day.
Manager Don Wakamatsu hinted after Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Texas – which spoiled yet another outstanding day of pitching, this one from Doug Fister – that changes were imminent.
“There are decisions that have to be made,” Wakamatsu said after Seattle scored just three earned runs in 32 innings against the Rangers.
“If someone would have said you’d throw 26 scoreless innings in a three-game series and get swept, they’d think you were crazy. Kind of tells you the shape of the offense.”
The Mariners signed Byrnes in January after Arizona released him. He was 3 for 32 (.094) in 15 games, including striking out looking on three pitches with the bases loaded in the fourth inning on Sunday. His release comes at a minimal cost to Seattle; the Diamondbacks are paying all but $400,000 of the $11 million due in the final year of his $30 million contract.
On Friday night, he inexplicably pulled his bat back on a botched suicide squeeze in extra innings of a scoreless game. Ichiro Suzuki was tagged out on the play.
Texas manager Ron Washington was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Jim Wolf that there should have been a strike called on Byrnes on the botched squeeze play. Washington just “could not fathom” that Byrnes pulled back the bat.
Asked if he’d ever seen that in his 39 years of professional baseball, Washington said Friday night: “No, never have. That’s why I couldn’t believe when Jim told me that Eric pulled back on it. Ichiro’s flying down the line, Eric squares the bunt – how can you pull a bat back? But he did.”
To top it off, Byrnes froze at a fastball right down the middle for strike three, squandering Seattle’s chance to make Cliff Lee’s debut with the Mariners a winning one.
Byrnes, who was living nearby in downtown Seattle, bolted out the front door of the clubhouse riding his beach cruiser bicycle mere minutes after the game ended. He made a right turn down a tunnel and then made a 90-degree left turn around approaching Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik before he could make eye contact.
Zduriencik glanced up, then kept walking to the clubhouse that had every Mariners player but Byrnes in it.
Byrnes spent much of Saturday morning on the clubhouse couch watching a movie. He then retreated to off-limits areas when he was approached to be asked about his bizarre night.
On Sunday morning, Byrnes was back on the couch watching another movie before the Mariners put him in an amended lineup in left field because they scratched veteran Mike Sweeney with back stiffness.
“Eric Byrnes is a tremendous competitor and a credit to baseball. We wish him only the best and expect him to land on his feet,” Zduriencik said in a team statement.
The 36-year-old Sweeney may be part of another move to improve the offense. He is batting .179. He and 40-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. have produced no home runs and just six RBIs in 86 combined at-bats in an anemic platoon at designated hitter. Yet the Mariners aren’t about to jettison Griffey, a Seattle icon in the second and likely final year of a return stint with the Mariners.
Tuiasosopo, Seattle’s third-round draft choice in 2004, had made the team because he could play many positions on a squad that has had a limited bench with a 12-man pitching staff and the DH platoon.
Langerhans, 30, appeared in one game with Seattle last month before being designated for assignment on April 8. He was hitting .282 at Tacoma. He played in 38 games for the Mariners in 2009.
The 29-year-old Wilson, a veteran of 188 major league games, was leading Tacoma with a .333 average.
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