SEATTLE -- Lucas Mann was working on his Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Iowa a few years ago and needed a thesis topic. He loves baseball. The Class A Clinton LumberKings were about an hour away. He started going to games. He logged a lot of miles on his car.
The stories Mann found there turned into his first book, Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, which was published by Pantheon and released on May 7. In the book, he profiles players in the Mariners organization, including top prospect Nick Franklin and pitcher Erasmo Ramirez.
It isn't a book for seamheads, as Mann explained while visiting Safeco Field on Friday. It was more about a town, a sport and the remarkable bond between fans and players chasing their dreams in America.
"You know it's long-shot odds for Minor Leaguers, but when you're in the clubhouse with some of these guys that I got close to, no matter how talented they were and how hard they worked, it was this uphill battle," Mann said. "And these guys keep playing as hard as they can and with as much pride as they have in the context of just how impossible these odds are.
"It was weird to be around guys who are better at baseball than anybody I'd ever known but it still seemed like they had a really outside shot. It was like, 'Wow, this is hard.'"
Mariners' shakeup continues with Triunfel's addition
SEATTLE -- The Mariners followed up their demotion of Jesus Montero with a few more moves and some explanations on Friday night.
The Mariners decided to look to the future and called up infielder Carlos Triunfel while designating Robert Andino for assignment. Andino, who arrived in an offseason trade for outfielder Trayvon Robinson, was hitting .185 in 76 at-bats with Seattle. Triunfel, 23, hit .300 with four homers, two triples, 19 RBIs and 29 runs scored in 44 games for Triple-A Tacoma.
Seattle replaced Montero on the active roster with catcher Jesus Sucre. Sucre, who hit .302 (16-for-53) with one double and five RBIs for Tacoma, was inserted into the lineup against Texas but will fill the backup-catcher role.
"I think you evaluate everything at face value for what it is, and as we watched a little bit of what Triunfel did last year, we watched him in Spring Training, and you watched what he's done this year, I think all of us, the organization, felt that this is a guy who's a pretty good defensive player, he's got a great throwing arm and there was going to be a point in time where we needed to see him at the big-league level," Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "We thought that was important.
"You get to a point where you make a decision on this player going forward as well as the other factors. With Robert Andino's situation, signing this year to be a backup infielder, we thought that it would probably be a short-term deal, and then you just evaluate where you're at and where you're going and what you're trying to accomplish, and I think with Triunfel and the things he's done that he deserves the chance to be up here right in our eyes so we can watch this kid play."
The team also deemed it important for Montero to get his head clear and his offensive game on track in Triple-A while learning the ropes at first base. Montero appeared overmatched at times behind the plate at the Major League level, and manager Eric Wedge said getting reps at first and playing designated hitter while still catching once or twice per week will help Montero focus on getting his swing back.
"In the end, his bat, that's the carrying tool," Wedge said. "And with as much time, effort and emotion, energy he had to put in behind the plate, it just didn't feel like we were putting him in a position to succeed offensively."
As for Sucre, the team loves his defense. He hasn't made an error in 110 consecutive games, dating back to Aug. 27, 2011, while playing with Double-A Jackson. Sucre, 25, said his first words when he found out he was going to the big leaguers were, "Oh my God." But he said he wasn't all that nervous about making his debut.
"I'll just get in there and do my job," Sucre said. "Do the best I can."
And as for infield prospect Nick Franklin, who was batting .318 with four homers and 20 RBIs and a .920 on-base-plus-slugging percentage entering Friday's game for Tacoma, the Mariners are continuing to be patient.
"I think what Nick needs is to play down there every day and get his at-bats," Zduriencik said. "He's playing second and shortstop. I think most people would tell you, at least right now, that Carlos is a more accomplished shortstop. And I think that was a key component in why we wanted him up here. ... I think Nick just needs to stay down there and continue to swing the bat."
Back of Mariners rotation is struggling
SEATTLE -- Entering Friday night's game, Joe Saunders had an ERA of 5.64, Aaron Harang was at 8.58 and rookie Brandon Maurer was at 6.80. In other words, aside from ace Felix Hernandez and emerging star Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle's starting pitchers have been struggling.
The club hasn't yet addressed the issue with a roster move.
"We feel like we need to be doing better with the bottom of our rotation, but we feel like we've got guys here who are capable of doing it," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We just need to be more consistent with that. You look at Maurer, I think he's in a little bit different situation because he's younger and he's learning every time he's out there. But we'll continue to look at him from start to start and go from there."
Maurer is 22 years old and has made nine Major League starts, so there's an awareness that continued disappointment might be viewed as a hindrance to his development.
Still, Wedge said it's too early to go down that road.
"If we ever get to that point, we'll make a move, just because he is in a different situation with his age and whatnot," Wedge said. "But he's shown some toughness out there. I know he's also shown some frustration at times, but that's very normal for young players and young starting pitchers in particular.
"People just have to go through that. It's not always a smooth transition. You have to go through some things early on that end up being part of your DNA as a Major League pitcher."
• Zduriencik said he had a chat with former big leaguer and current Triple-A starter Jeremy Bonderman after Bonderman's rough start for Tacoma on Thursday in front of Seattle's brass. Bonderman, who is attempting a comeback from April 2012 Tommy John surgery, gave up eight runs on 11 hits in five innings.
"I encouraged him to keep his head up," Zduriencik said. "It was just a bad outing, that's all. But there were still some things there that you saw that you liked."
• Wedge said the fact that Montero reported to Triple-A right away despite the fact that he had 72 hours to do so was admirable.
"That does mean something," Wedge said. "I was proud of him for doing that."
• Shortstop Brendan Ryan hit .393 (11-for-28) with two doubles, one homer and four RBIs in eight games during the recently completed road trip. He recorded at least one hit in seven of the eight games.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.