04/28/10 7:40 PM ET
Lee to make Mariners debut against Rangers
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
But on Friday, the Mariners are entering a new variable into the equation. His name, of course, is Cliff Lee.
Lee, the prize trade acquisition from the Phillies this offseason, makes his 2010 debut Friday night against the Rangers, as the Mariners return home to Safeco Field. The left-hander made one rehab start coming off his abdominal strain for Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday and accomplished what he needed to in order to be ready.
"I was excited and ready to get back to facing hitters," Lee said after the six-inning outing. "I don't know what I expected. I expected to go out and throw strikes, force them to swing the bat. As a starting pitcher, that's all you can do: Try to locate and give your team a chance. Fortunately, I was able to do that and work on some things. My next start should be in Seattle against the Rangers, and I look forward to that."
He might not be as excited if he takes a look at how the current Rangers have hit him over the course of his career. In 73 combined at-bats, Rangers hitters on the active 25-man roster have collected 25 hits for a .342 average. Josh Hamilton (4-for-10) and Michael Young (9-for-24) have hit the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner the best, though Lee has limited the damage by allowing only four extra-base hits -- all doubles -- among those 25 hits. That being said, Lee has gone 5-3 with a 7.09 ERA in his career against the Rangers.
Lee faced the Rangers on Opening Day last year and got the loss after allowing seven runs on 10 hits over five innings of work. One player not included in the stats above went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs in that game while leading off for the Rangers. That would be Ian Kinsler, Texas's own impact player making a return from injury.
Like Lee, Friday will be Kinsler's 2010 debut as the second baseman comes back from an ankle injury. That could be good news for the Rangers as they try to figure out the Mariners' new weapon. Kinsler has gone 7-for-13 (.538) with a double, a triple and five RBIs against the left-hander in his career.
Rangers: Kinsler's return sparks roster decision
With Kinsler returning to action, that will likely mean bad news for one of the Rangers' infielders who have been filling in for the injured second baseman. Joaquin Arias and Andres Blanco are out of options, but there isn't going to be room on the 25-man roster for both of them. That means one will have to be designated for assignment and/or traded to make room.
Arias, who is also a candidate to go on the disabled list, has hit .321 over 16 games, including 12 starts at second. Blanco has hit 100 points lower, though he has gone 6-for-19 after starting the year 0-for-9. Blanco -- who started at shortstop Thursday -- is considered to be better defensively, especially at multiple positions, which is the role one of them will be asked to fill once Kinsler is back playing every day.
Mariners: At .500, club can now aim higher
All things being equal, the Mariners don't feel too bad about where they are record-wise 22 games into the season. It helps to know they're coming back home, where they've gone 7-2 so far, as opposed to a much less impressive showing on the road. But considering they've been without Lee until now and the offense has been inconsistent, at best, being right at .500 is not too shabby.
"I think for us it's trying to get on a consistent stretch," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "We knew coming out of Spring Training we had some challenges not having Cliff throwing every fifth day, but there are some guys who have stepped up. Our biggest thing now is getting our offense rolling. When we were at home, we were getting more depth throughout our lineup and we need to get back to that and be more consistent throughout."
The Rangers have taken the season series from the Mariners in five of the last six years. ... After Elvis Andrus got a day off Thursday, Young is the only Ranger who has started every game this season. ... This is the start of a nine-game homestand for the Mariners against the Rangers, Rays and Angels. ... Friday's opener is Felix Hernandez bobblehead night for the first 20,000 fans through the turnstiles. Hernandez will start Saturday. ... The Rangers' Tommy Hunter, who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, is expected to join the team Friday night.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.