Notes: Reflecting on Wrigley experience
Lowe's rehab ramps up; Draft pick DuRocher signs contract
CHICAGO -- The ivy-covered walls, dark green bleachers and the huge, human-operated scoreboard overlooking the national treasure that is Wrigley Field measured up to expectations on Tuesday as several Mariners players toured the National League's oldest facility."This is my first time here and have really been looking forward to seeing it," Willie Bloomquist said. "I took a few minutes today just to walk around and take it all in. I love historical places, and there aren't too many of these old ballparks left." Bloomquist said he would do more exploring on Wednesday, mostly on the outside of the famed stadium. "This is pretty neat," he said. "I'm glad I got a chance to play here." The series opener Tuesday night marked the first time in Mariners history that they played a game at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley. The Mariners have now played in every Major League city except Atlanta, while the Reds and Marlins are the only teams that have not played in Seattle. But the Reds (and Ken Griffey Jr.) come to town later this month. Reserve catcher Jamie Burke is among the Mariners that have played here before, and he still has vivid memories of the last game he played at Wrigley. He was a backup catcher for the White Sox in 2004, and was the receiver in the third game of a three-game Interleague series against the Cubs. "It was tied in the bottom of the ninth, the bases were loaded, there were two outs, Damaso Marte was on the mound with a full count on the batter," Burke recalled as though it were yesterday. "Everyone was running on the pitch, which was low and away, and I have never heard anything so loud in my life. "The ground was shaking, it was so loud." Mariners reliever George Sherrill, who grew up in Memphis and was a Cubs fan because he could watch them on WGN, has visited the Cubs' home one other time. A friend of his knew former Giants pitcher Shawn Estes and received tickets for a Giants-Cubs game. "They were great seats, about 34 rows behind the visiting dugout," he said. "They would have been even better seats if there hadn't been a big beam blocking our view." Third-base coach Carlos Garcia has fond memories of Wrigley.
"I got my first [Major League] hit here," he said. "It was a single to right field off Bill Long in 1990 [one of the two hits he had in four at-bats that season]."Garcia spent the following six years with the Pirates and visited Chicago often. It always was of his favorite places to play, and he did well. In fact, before he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of a nine-player swap in 1996, he heard that the Cubs were trying to trade for him. "It would have been nice to play here," he said. "Great park, great fans and a great city." Manager Mike Hargrove recalled having one career at-bat at Wrigley Field. "I went into the game as a pinch-hitter against Bruce Sutter," he recalled. How did he do? "Grounded out to first base, I think. I don't know for sure." And what if he had gotten a hit?
"I'd have remembered that," he said.Cubs manager Lou Piniella has either played or managed in every Major League stadium, and he ranks Wrigley Field right near the top -- ahead of Fenway Park in Boston. "This is a wonderful place for baseball," Piniella said. "If they built a Field of Dreams for Major League Baseball, this would be it. I think it's better than Fenway, can you believe that?" The Lowe-down on Mark: The comeback from elbow surgery for right-handed reliever Mark Lowe could soon reach another stage. He is scheduled to throw two more bullpen sessions, followed by one or two simulated games. If all goes well, he could be sent on a rehab assignment soon after his final simulated game. Hargrove said there's a chance Lowe could rejoin the Mariners bullpen before the All-Star break, which would be at least two weeks earlier than originally expected. Lowe pitched in 15 games for the Mariners last season, posting a 1-0 record and 1.93 ERA. Having him in the 'pen, along with hard throwers Brandon Morrow and J.J. Putz, would give Hargrove a powerful trio of right-handed relievers. Sign here: Former University of Washington quarterback Johnny DuRocher became the first player selected in last week's First-Year Player Draft by the Mariners to sign a contract. He'll report for work on Thursday in Peoria, Ariz. The 34th-round Draft pick threw only six innings during the Huskies' season, but the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder showed enough in those six innings to warrant interest from his hometown team. "I'd always been a football guy," DuRocher told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I grew up dreaming about Rose Bowls and the NFL. But baseball is giving me the opportunity to continue being a competitor. That's something important to me. I've always been a competitor." The Draft and signing came nearly six months after the Bothel, Wash., native had brain surgery after suffering a concussion last November in a football game against Stanford. He was later diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was found to be benign. On the farm: Outfielder Adam Jones currently has a five-game hit streak with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, hitting .565 (13-for-23) with two doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBIs. Rainiers infielder Gookie Dawkins has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games, (30-for-75) with nine multi-hit games. During this stretch, he has raised his average from .171 to .263. Center fielder Jeremy Reed went 0-for-5, ending his 11-game hitting streak. He has hit safely in 15 of his last 18 games, going (28-for-79). ... At Double-A Tennessee, right-hander Travis Chick, acquired from the Reds last season for closer Eddie Guardado, combined with two relievers on a three-hitter as the Diamond Jaxx blanked visiting Huntsville, 1-0, on Monday. Chick allowed two singles and walked three and struck out three in five innings for his first win since being reassigned from Tacoma. On deck: The three-game Interleague series continues on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with Mariners right-hander Miguel Batista (7-4, 5.48) opposing Cubs left-hander Sean Marshall (2-2, 2.08).
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.