SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said after Saturday's game that the club has decided to shut down top pitching prospect Michael Pineda for the rest of the season for precautionary measures.
"The simple reason is because of innings," said Zduriencik, who added that the Mariners had a plan from the beginning of the year to limit Pineda to between 140 and 150 innings this year.
"Our decision is that we think this is a prized product of ours and a guy we want to protect."
Pineda, 21, had elbow problems throughout 2009, which limited him to 47 1/3 innings for Class A High Desert. But he came into his own this year, starting in Double-A West Tennessee, where he went 8-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 77 innings, and carried it over to Triple-A Tacoma, where he's gone 3-3 with a 4.76 ERA and pitched another 62 2/3 innings. Pineda, whose fastball reaches the upper 90s, has posted 154 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings and has remained healthy.
The Mariners would like him to stay that way, which is why they're calling it a season.
"We obviously think a lot of him," Zduriencik said. "We think this guy has a chance to be a quality starter at the Major League level, and we think it's going to happen soon.
"So again, there's no issues here -- nothing physically wrong with him at all. It's just strictly an innings issue, and again, we figure the best thing to do for our best future and his best future is to stop it right now.'
Zduriencik said Pineda would stay with his Tacoma teammates through the end of their season and that there is a "chance" that the Mariners will have Pineda up with the big league team in September "for a few days" to experience life in a Major League clubhouse and see some of his former Tacoma teammates.
After that, the Mariners will send Pineda to Arizona until the end of instructional league and then home to the Dominican Republic. Zduriencik said Pineda is slated to return to Arizona in January to be ready for Spring Training in Peoria the following month.
And as for what happens there, Zduriencik said the team is eager to find out. That's because the Mariners view Pineda as having a serious chance to break camp with the Major League team in '11.
"I think he comes into camp next year, I think that should be the mindset that he has," Zduriencik said. "We've seen this guy dominate this year. ... All the earmarks are there that this guy has a chance to have a very, very good future. ... We feel strongly this guy's going to have a great shot to make our club."
Figgins adjusting to second in field, lineup
SEATTLE -- Before Chone Figgins had even played a regular-season inning in a Mariners uniform, he had already switched positions in the field and in the batting order from his previous year with the Angels.
He accepted his new spots on the diamond (second base, from third) and in the lineup (second, from leadoff) as a challenge that he'd embrace as part of helping a team win. And while that hasn't happened this year, with the Mariners at 50-78 heading into Saturday's game against the Twins, Figgins said he doesn't want to change it in 2011. Still, top prospect Dustin Ackley could be looking at a future at second base after switching to that position from first prior to the '10 season and advancing to Triple-A Tacoma.
"I want to play second base," Figgins said Saturday. "This is the decision that we chose to go with, and I'm not a person that gives up. I stick with whatever I'm given, and try to perfect it the best I can."
According to the defensive statistic known as Ultimate Zone Rating, Figgins was the best at third base in the American League in '10. But after switching to second -- a position he had hardly played while coming up in the Angels and Rockies' organizations -- he has fallen to fifth in the AL in those rankings.
"I think the thing that I still need to work on is obviously the ball going to my left, going toward first base," Figgins said. "That's a tough play for me. Earlier in the season and going through the course of the season, turning double plays, I think I've been real good at that. But it's still a work in progress. It's such a different side of the field, with attacking at third base versus not attacking at second. I still have to understand when to attack and when not to attack."
The same could be said for hitting, where Figgins had to adjust to batting behind Mariners leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki after batting first for the Angels in the most productive years of his career.
"I think during the first three months of the season, I wasn't attacking the game," Figgins said. "It had nothing to do with where I was hitting in the lineup. I just wasn't attacking the game. The second half of the season, I've been swinging the bat more like myself and having at-bats more like myself. I'm just trying to finish strong."
Figgins, who has been mentioned in trade rumors lately, said despite the tough year, he's still happy being a Mariner.
"I'm not going anywhere unless they tell me," Figgins said. "I don't want to go anywhere. I chose to come here, because I like the direction and I like the guys that are here. That's how I feel."
Ackley in mix, but not likely for callup
SEATTLE -- Will Dustin Ackley get a September callup?
That's been a topic of speculation around Safeco Field lately, with last year's first-round Draft pick (second overall) having adjusted well to second base and to Triple-A pitching. Through Friday, Ackley was batting .280 for Tacoma.
But with Ackley ticketed for another Arizona Fall League campaign, the Mariners seem to be leaning toward acting conservatively and letting their top position prospect take it easy before heading for the desert.
"It's hard to say," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "Every player has his own individual time clock. I think in this scenario, you need to realize that it was just about a year ago that he signed. So now he's gone Double-A and Triple-A and switching positions. He's had a lot of success lately.
"We're going to do what we think is best for Dustin. There's a lot of things to consider here."
Brown pays visit to old Triple-A friends
SEATTLE -- For Mariners interim manager Daren Brown, there were a few reasons for visiting the Triple-A Tacoma team he recently left to lead the big league staff.
Brown said he went to Cheney Stadium, about 30 miles south of Safeco Field, on Thursday morning and arrived during early work and batting practice.
"I still have some of my stuff down there, so I had to go get some of it," Brown said with a laugh, before reflecting on his former club with pride.
"I wanted them to know that I haven't forgotten about them. I am who I am. I care about them. I was down there battling with them every day for 100 games, and you don't just leave and not care what's going on there.
"I just told them I hope that if they get an opportunity to celebrate that they'll think about me a little bit."
As staff ace Felix Hernandez ran out of the dugout to take the field for pregame stretch Saturday morning, he turned to reporters and said, "Listen, listen," while pointing up at the speakers on the giant stadium scoreboard. Right after he said it, the stadium stereo system played radio announcer Rick Rizzs' call of Hernandez's grand slam home run off Mets lefty Johan Santana at Shea Stadium on June 23, 2008.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.