Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon knows he has to take a special approach with his younger players, something that requires patience when overseeing a club expecting to contend in the AL West.
Rookie starter Roenis Elias is going through a rough patch at the moment, but that could be coming to an end as he faces the sputtering New York Mets' offense at home Monday night.The signing of Robinson Cano immediately increased expectations for the Mariners (52-46), who are in third place behind major league-best Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.Seattle dropped two of three to the Angels over the weekend, though both defeats came on walk-off hits. Fernando Rodney blew a one-run lead in the ninth Sunday as the Mariners fell 5-4."We've had a lot of tough losses this year, so this is not one we're going to dwell on," McClendon said.Cano, hitting .335, sat out the series finale with soreness in his hamstring and is considered day to day."It's been a tough grind for him," McClendon said. "He's only had one day off in the first half, played in the All-Star Game, traveled. It just makes sense."It's also been a rough go for Elias (7-8, 4.54 ERA), who has lost his last three starts while posting a 10.05 ERA. He gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings of an 8-1 loss to Minnesota in his last outing July 9.The 25-year-old left-hander has given up at least four runs in five of his last seven starts."One thing we forget with young players, and pitchers in particular -- this game can be really cruel sometimes," McClendon said. "One thing I told (Elias) is, we'll get through these growing pains. We'll be there every step of the way. He'll bounce back."Facing the Mets' lineup could be exactly what Elias needs.New York (46-52) scored once over the final 18 innings while dropping the last two of a three-game set with San Diego, and it was no-hit through 7 2/3 innings of Sunday's 2-1 loss.Daniel Murphy's double marked the Mets' first hit, and Seth Smith had an RBI single in the ninth"I think we saw in the fourth time through the lineup we started having better at-bats," Murphy said. "I got the base hit, David (Wright) got the base hit. So the next time we'll have a better idea."The Mariners are averaging only 2.2 runs over their last 13, and Mets starter Jonathan Niese will look to keep their lineup in check again as he comes off the disabled list.Niese (5-4, 2.96) hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 17 starts, but his last outing was cut short due to a strained left elbow. He allowed one run and left after facing just three batters in New York's 6-5 win over Texas on July 4.Daisuke Matsuzaka will head back to the bullpen with Niese returning, but manager Terry Collins said Matsuzaka could step in if the left-hander needs to exit early."That's the role (Matsuzaka) is going to fill," Collins told MLB's official website. "I think he brings a real useful piece to our pitching staff."Niese has never faced Seattle, which has won seven of the nine all-time meetings. These teams haven't played since 2008.
Roenis Elias is allowing a .114 batting average against his curveball this season, fourth best in the majors among pitchers who ended at least 50 PA with a curveball. Elias throws his curveball 23.8 percent of the time, third most in the AL among qualified pitchers. Lucas Duda is hitting .071 against curveballs this season, worst in the NL among qualified batters.