SEATTLE -- The Mariners observed Jackie Robinson Day with a very special guest, NBA legend Bill Russell, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Russell, who lives outside Seattle, is an African-American trailblazer in his own right, having been the first black coach in modern pro sports when he accepted the position of player-coach with the 1966 Boston Celtics. He also became a friend of Robinson's, and was a pallbearer at Robinson's funeral in 1972.
In the Mariners' clubhouse before the game, outfielder Chone Figgins said it's always a special day when he and the rest of his teammates suit up in Robinson's No. 42.
"I think about just how fortunate I am and we all are," Figgins said. "I don't think people realize the magnitude of who he was and what he did, just from the baseball side, what he had to go through. I just hope that a lot of players understand that the stuff that he went through was beyond [sanity]. What he did made a huge difference for all of us being able to play this game."
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Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims is the only full-time African-American play-by-play man in the Major Leagues. He grew up in New York as a huge Robinson fan and said he has never understated the impact Robinson's life made on society in this country.
"He's one of the most important Americans ever," Sims said. "I grew up listening to stories about Jackie Robinson, I grew up looking at World Series programs. I used to page through them all the time. They were dog-eared, and I think they just disintegrated at one point. And when I can remember playing ball and my father would pitch, he'd throw seven or eight right down the middle and the next five would be at my head. He'd say, 'What do you think Jackie Robinson had to put up with? Stand in there.' I learned those lessons.
"I remember growing up in Manhattan and running across Seventh Avenue, dodging traffic because I saw Rachel Robinson and just had to run across the street and say hello and thank her. What they did, I can't comprehend how big it is."
Setting lineup a complex process for Wedge
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge has been with his team from Spring Training to Japan and finally back stateside. But despite all that time with the players and the numerous opportunities to see different combinations on the field and in the batting order, setting the starting lineup each day isn't as simple as it may seem.
One of the keys to putting together a lineup is if the opposing pitcher is right-handed or left-handed. If a righty is on the mound, Wedge will start more lefty batters, and vice versa for lefty pitchers. But that's just one factor.
"Early on in the year, you're going to have to play more lineups -- especially when you have a young team, especially when you come out [of] Spring Training," Wedge said. "Also to make sure these guys get in there, you play them all spring and then they're not playing for a while."
The lineup isn't something Wedge starts thinking about when he arrives at the ballpark each day, either. The process begins immediately after the previous day's game. Sometimes, Wedge will finalize it before he goes home for the night. But other times, he'll sleep on it and make the decision when he arrives at the park in the morning.
The positive to waiting until the morning is Wedge has more time to evaluate players mentally and physically, as he did for Sunday's game against the A's.
"When I put the lineup together," Wedge said, "it's a combination of the numbers, plus feel, plus where they are health-wise, plus where they are mentally."
Mariners say goodbye to A's ... for a while
SEATTLE -- The Mariners celebrated two occasions on Sunday. The first was Jackie Robinson Day. The second was that after the matinee against the Oakland A's, they won't play that team again until June 25.
Several players expressed humor-tinged relief about getting a break from a club they've played seven times in the first 11 regular-season games and in two different countries (the United States and Japan), three different cities (Oakland, Seattle and Tokyo), not to mention occasionally running into each other during the six weeks of Spring Training. There was no acrimony intended, but the Mariners seemed to indicate that it will be good to see more of the American League.
"Geez, I feel like we've played them every game so far," first baseman Justin Smoak said with a smile. "And we've had ... what? Three Opening Days with them so far? One in Japan, one in Oakland and one here. So it's going to be nice not to see them for a while. It's just one of those things.
"Uncle, you know? How many times can you play a team in two weeks? Now, we get to face some other guys and give them a rest for a little while."
Shortstop Brendan Ryan likened the scheduling oddity to when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and his team was constantly seeing the Marlins, who shared their Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla.
"You got real sick of seeing the same pitchers," said Ryan. "But as a hitter, you get real familiar with the pitchers and what they've got. So you kind of like that aspect of it, so it works two ways.
"But to get charged up and go battle against a different lineup, that's always welcome, too. Some variety [is] always good, just to get the adrenaline going differently."
Outfielder Mike Carp, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right shoulder, made his third rehab appearance on Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma, going 1-for-3 with a walk. Carp was eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday.
Hector Noesi became just the second Mariners pitcher to throw eight innings and not allow a run in his Safeco Field debut on Saturday. Felix Hernandez accomplished the feat on Aug. 9, 2005.
Jesus Montero's eight-game hitting streak was snapped on Sunday.
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.