Time For a Change: Franklin, Jones Called Up

 After the offense exploded for 18 runs in the first series of the season, the Seattle Mariners’ bats have cooled of late scoring only 25 runs since, including three seperate occasions in which they were shut out. We’re barely halfway through April, and you’ve heard this a million and a half times by now, but it’s still early. The club is now 7-6 after Tuesday night’s loss to the Texas Rangers and remain second in the wide open American League West. There is some change in the air however, as Nick Franklin and James Jones have been called up from Triple-A Tacoma after Blake Beavan and Logan Morrison were placed on the disabled list.

On the injury front, Beavan hits the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his shoulder and will fly back to Seattle to receive further treatment. The right-hander made his first start of the season on Tuesday but was limited to just four innings of work before being lifted. Apparently mentioned before the game that he was having trouble “getting loose” and struggled with maintaining his velocity last night. Morrison on the other hand, left Monday night’s game before the second inning after feeling tightness in his right hamstring. Prior to Tuesday night’s game, LoMo told manager Lloyd McClendon that he was able to hit but unable to run, so his 15-day DL stint is simply a matter of giving him time to return to 100 percent.

There’s no doubt that the big news of the day is Franklin’s call up, and he’ll see game action tonight against the Rangers as the designated hitter. The top prospect is red hot at the moment — he’s put together a slash line of .395/.469/.744 in 11 games at Triple-A — and should provide a spark to the Seattle lineup that could use a bit of a boost right. As PI’s Jason A Churchill alluded to last night, it’s entirely possible Franklin could get regular at bats without taking away from the club’s regulars. Otherwise, as Jason and others have said, it’s a waste of time to have the youngster sitting on the major league bench when he could be playing everyday in the minor leagues.

After a hot start to the year, Brad Miller has cooled of late and has seen his average dip down to a .214 mark. It’s not as though Miller has completely fallen off the map however since he does have hits in four of the last five games. But the fact he has struck out in all but two of the club’s thirteen games this season and has only one walk to his name aren’t overly encouraging. Again, it’s still early, but if Franklin comes out hitting and the team is winning games with him in the lineup, it’s not inconceivable to suggest he could displace the incumbent Miller at shortstop if his struggles continue, but that’s jumping to too many conclusions far too fast.

Although he didn’t see any time in the outfield in the minors this year, it seems as though the club is willing to throw him and out and see what happens. But so long as Michael Saunders isn’t starting regularly, the club could take advantage of Franklin’s bat for the first two thirds of the game before inserting Saunders to shore up the defensive side of things; similar to what they’ve done so far with Stefen Romero.

Many have deemed Franklin’s future as a Mariner to be in the outfield, which is certainly still a possibility, but he still represents a very attractive trade piece. It’s unlikely it’s played a factor in the M’s decision to promote the young infielder, but maybe, and just maybe, the call-up could be a showcase of sorts for the top prospect considering the dire straits the rotation has found itself in. It’s no secret that the pitching staff could use some help now that James Paxton has joined Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker on the disabled list, and Franklin could still potentially net a quality young arm. That’s purely speculation on my part though based on what we were hearing in the spring. The trade rumor front has been quiet as it typically is this time of year, and it doesn’t sound as though there’s been much moving in the young infielder’s market.

He definitely won’t immediately garner as much attention as Franklin will, but Jones could be one to watch as it’s expected he’ll be more of a situational player than a regular while he gets his first taste of major league action.

The outfielder has also had a solid start to the year hitting .310/.370/.405 in 11 games and provides another real option in center field. It’s no secret that Abraham Almonte hasn’t had the best of times so far in the season, remember he’s still just 24, but the Mariners seem married to the idea that he should be the club’s leadoff hitter for the conceivable future and it’s unlikely his status will change just yet.

It’ll be an interesting next couple of weeks as the club works with several moving parts in the lineup, but for tonight, King Felix Hernandez goes up for his fourth straight win to start the 2014 campaign against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers. Happy Felix Day!

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Tyler Carmont

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