MINNEAPOLIS – The financial tumblers are quickly falling into place for the Mariners’ 2017 draft class.
Scouting director Scott Hunter said nine of the club’s top 10 picks already have their travel papers for next week’s minicamp in Arizona –including first baseman Evan White, the club’s first-round pick from Kentucky.
The lone exception is second-round pick Sam Carlson, a prep right-hander from Minnesota. The holdup there, apparently, doesn’t involve dollars but merely the fact that Carlson’s season isn’t yet over.
“At this point,” Hunter said, “I’m pretty confident everybody we drafted up until the later rounds, there’s only four or five guys who may take a little time. They’re sitting back.”
Those players, generally, are “high-ceiling high school guys” selected outside of first 10 rounds who have the alternative of a college scholarship.
Hunter effectively confirmed the club has a deal with White, who will begin his pro career at Short-A Everett.
“Evan is coming in (Thursday) for his physical,” Hunter said. “He’ll head back to Arizona for Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (for the minicamp) and then he’ll fly back to Seattle with me or with the Everett team.
“But on (June 22), we’re going to do the official signing here in Seattle and let him meet Scott Servais and do the tour of the clubhouse, meet the players and take batting practice on the field.”
The MLB Draft, which consists of 40 rounds, completed a three-day run on Wednesday with selections covering the final 30 rounds.
Drafted players must sign by July 15. Those who fail to do so and attend a four-year college can’t re-enter the draft until after their junior year. Those who don’t attend a four-year college are eligible for selection in next year’s draft.
Hunter said the Mariners spent two late picks on prep standouts from the Pacific Northwest who are unlikely to sign: Seattle Prep center fielder Jesse Franklin in the 37th round and Century (Ore.) left-hander Kolby Somers in the 38th round.
“Jesse Franklin…put up huge numbers,” Hunter said. “Our scouts really liked him, but with his commitment to the University of Michigan, we just couldn’t risk taking him too early in the draft and losing (part of) our bonus pool.
“We did identify the talent. We took him just in case one of our first 10 picks don’t sign. If something goes haywire, we might in a position to make a run at him.
“Very similar to Kolby Somers, who was at our pre-draft workout and is going to the University of Oregon. A left-handed pitcher with a very big upside with regards to what his talent could be three years from now.”
Hunter cited two other picks the club hopes to sign but who are weighing their options to attend a four-year college: junior-college right-hander Tommy Romero (15th round) and prep center fielder Miles Christian (18th round).
“Out of the entire draft class,” Hunter said, “we’re only sitting and waiting on four or five players. If we can lock those guys up, it’ll be an extremely exciting time for all of us.”
The minicamp runs Saturday through Wednesday at the Mariners’ year-round complex in Peoria, Arizona.
“The kids fly in for their physicals on Saturday,” Hunter said, “and will start Sunday morning with light workouts. Then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week before they leave for their affiliates.”
The carousel keeps spinning in the Mariners’ quest to keep fresh arms in their bullpen.
When right-hander Casey Lawrence threw 63 pitches Tuesday after replacing an ineffective Christian Bergman, it virtually ensured Lawrence would be heading back to Triple-A Tacoma.
On cue, the Mariners confirmed Wednesday that Lawrence had been optioned, postgame, to the Rainiers in order to recall right-hander Chase De Jong, who will serve (for now) as the club’s long reliever.
“We’ve done this frequently,” manager Scott Servais admitted. “With our starting pitching being as banged up as it is, there have been some outings that have gone short. We’ve let the long man in our bullpen run with it.
“Unfortunately, when you do that, he’s going to be down for three or four days. In that case, we flip them out for somebody (fresh) who is on the 40-man roster. That’s how we’ve been able to stay afloat.
“It’s not ideal. It’s not the way I’d particularly like to do it. But about six weeks ago, we realized the situation we’re in, and we thought that was the best way to handle it.”
The Mariners had four starting pitchers on the disabled list for nearly a month before James Paxton returned May 31. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are on minor-league rehab assignments and could be back later this month.
Drew Smyly remains on a throwing program with a loose target date for a return around the All-Star break.
So the Mariners’ version of the Tacoma Shuttle will remain in operation for a while.
De Jong is back for the fourth time this season. Lawrence was optioned to Tacoma for the third time since the Mariners acquired him in a May 11 waiver claim from Toronto.
“Chase De Jong is here today,” Servais said. “He knows his role. If we get into a bad game, or something happens early in the game, he’s probably going to be in there, and we’re going to run him. We’ll try not to burn through five bullpen guys.”
Other riders on the Seattle-to-Tacoma shuttle include Dillon Overton, Emilio Pagan, Ryne Harper, Tyler Cloyd and Rob Whalen. Just about anyone on the Mariners’ 40-man roster.
“Unfortunately, it’s not their fault,” Servais said. “The starter had the bad outing, and now the long guy has to wear it. And oftentimes, he’s wearing it with a plane ticket back to Triple-A.
“It’s not a great conversation to have, but I think the guys know where we’re at. They know what their role is when they get called up.”
Keeping an eye on Modesto
Even as the Mariners look to rebound Wednesday from Tuesday’s drubbing by the Minnesota Twins, club officials will be closely tracking the first few innings at Hi-A Modesto.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to pitch three innings for the Nuts against San Jose (Giants) in his first game action since being diagnosed with shoulder inflammation following a May 3 start against the Los Angeles Angels.
Plans call for Iwakuma to throw roughly 45 pitches over three innings.
A normal progression, if all goes well, would slot Iwakuma to throw roughly 65-70 pitches over five innings on June 19 – probably at Triple-A Tacoma, which will be playing Salt Lake (Angels) on that night at Cheney Stadium.
Felix Hernandez is making his third rehab start for the Rainiers on Saturday in his recovery from bursitis in his shoulder, which forced his exit from an April 25 game in Detroit.
Barring setbacks, Hernandez and Iwakuma could each return to active duty at some point on the nine-game homestand that runs from June 19-28.
As for Wednesday’s game against Twins, it’s got to be better than Tuesday (doesn’t it?) when the Mariners surrendered a club-record 28 hits in a 20-7 shellacking.
Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio looks to continue a run of solid outings since entering an injury-depleted rotation in mid-May. He is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA and has yielded more than one earned run just one once in five starts.
“The thing that’s stood out for me,” manager Scott Servais said, “is his ability to not get too amped up. Too ‘Oh, my gosh, the wheels are falling off.’ You see with some pitchers, they literally do fall off.
“He does have a way of calming it down and continuing to make pitches. His maturity, as much as anything, sticks out to me. That’s what you get from a guy who has pitched a lot of minor-league baseball.”
Gaviglio’s future in the rotation is uncertain. With Hernandez and Iwakuma seemingly poised to return, Gaviglio could find himself back in the minors or, possibly, in the bullpen as a long reliever.