As Max Povse’s 6-foot-8 frame unfolds in his windup, and he comes down the pitcher’s mound — an imposing motion of legs, arms and length, it brings back memories of a former Mariner with a similar build. No, not Randy Johnson. Remember Doug Fister?
PEORIA, Ariz. — As Max Povse’s 6-foot-8 frame unfolds in his windup, and he comes down the pitcher’s mound — an imposing motion of legs, arms and length, it brings back memories of a former Mariner with a similar build.
No, not Randy Johnson. Povse isn’t that tall or left-handed or possess a 99-mph fastball and exploding slider.
Think more recently. Think of a regrettable trade from general manager Jack Zduriencik that yielded minimal returns for the Mariners.
Brewers 24, Mariners 3 at Maryvale Stadium
Notable: There are days like this in spring training. But manager Scott Servais can’t hope for many more. A day after watching his pitching get beat up against the Angels, Servais endured an even worse outing from his staff in a 24-3 trouncing by Milwaukee. The Brewers banged out 24 hits, including six doubles, a triple and four homers off Mariners’ pitchers.
The problems started with starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who never made it out of the third inning, giving up a total of seven runs on six hits in 22/3 innings with two walks. Iwakuma gave up runs in every inning he pitched, including back-to-back homers to Keon Broxton and Travis Shaw in the second.
Asked if there was anything good about his outing, Iwakuma replied through interpreter Antony Suzuki: “Nope.”
What went wrong?
“Overall, my timing, my balance, I couldn’t get my lower body to sync to my upper body, I couldn’t get the feel for every pitch that I had,” he said. “Nothing was working. I have nothing to say that went well.”
• Ben Gamel and Daniel Vogelbach provided the offense for Seattle. Gamel hit a solo homer in the first inning for a brief 1-0 lead. Vogelbach crushed a two-run homer to left-center in the seventh inning to trim the Brewers’ lead to 24-3. But the greatest rally in Cactus League history never ensued.
• Danny Valencia made his first appearance in the outfield this spring. He started the game in right field and went 0 for 2.
Quotable: “That was rough, about as rough as they come. They hit a lot of balls hard. We just didn’t pitch very well, obviously. Kuma didn’t have a whole lot today. The guys behind him, early in the game, not much either. Unfortunately those games happen, we’ve had a couple in a row. We’ve got to get it back on track.” — Servais
On tap: The Mariners will return to Peoria Stadium on Tuesday to host the Chicago White Sox. Left-hander James Paxton will make the start for Seattle with lefty Dillon Overton and right-handers Nick Vincent, Dan Altavilla and Micah Owings all slated to pitch in relief. The White Sox will start talented prospect Lucas Giolito. First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. The game will be televised on Root Sports and MLB.TV. The live radio broadcast will only be on mariners.com. A delayed broadcast will run at 7 p.m. on ESPN 710.
OK, so that doesn’t narrow it down.
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Remember Doug Fister? The lanky, strike-throwing machine that used a quality sinking fastball and all of his 6-foot-7 frame to create an angle that hitters loathed?
It’s easy to see that similarity in the 23-year-old Povse in his outings this spring. And it’s not by accident.
“I’ve watched Fister pitch a lot,” he said. “He does stay tall and gets that good down angle. I’ve watched him and tried to pick up a few things here and there. It helps a lot.”
Whatever Povse is doing in his first big-league camp, he should continue it. He’s made four appearances and hasn’t allowed a run or a hit in six innings while striking out four and walking none.
“Honestly, I just feel good,” he said. “I’m making good pitches. I feel like I’m attacking guys right now, getting ahead and getting in good counts and putting hitters on the defensive side so they are not taking good swings.”
It was evident in Sunday’s outing against the Angels. While the rest of Mariners’ pitchers struggled, Povse was brilliant. In his first inning of his outing, he retired Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols with relative ease. He then worked two more 1-2-3 innings.
“Coming out early, facing all three of those guys, they are really big hitters and I was just able to make some good pitches and get some good outs,” Povse said.
Manager Scott Servais wasn’t surprised to see Povse not overreact to that situation.
“Just getting to know him, he is from North Carolina and takes things in stride,” Servais said. “He doesn’t have a real fast heartbeat, I guess is the best way to put it. I’ve been very impressed with how he’s handled camp.”
But it’s more than just strikes. It’s the angle of all those strikes. Always downward and from an arm angle that looks like his hand is scraping the sky.
“It’s always been something I’ve been working on,” Povse said. “I try to use my height to my advantage.”
Why does downward plane matter from Povse and pitchers of his build make it so difficult?
“When the ball is flat, the hitter is going to see the whole ball,” Servais said. “When a ball goes down, they don’t see the whole ball. They don’t see it as long and they don’t see it as well. So you’re likely to get on top of the ball and pound it into the ground. Having angle to the fastball is a very big deal.”
It’s why Fister was so successful in his career despite a fastball that topped out at 92 mph and other guys that throw in high 90s wash out because of too much hard contact.
“We’ve seen guys here, (Arquimedes) Caminero threw the ball 100 mph, but his fastball was pretty flat,” Servais said. “Guys see it. It’s not velocity that gets hitters out, we’ve all seen that. Big-league hitters can hit a fastball. They’ll hit a bullet if you shoot it at them in the same spots all the time. You’ve got to move it around and take some movement off those pitches and the angle of the fastball is a big part of that.”
But having some velocity and angle is a bonus. Povse has surprised the Mariners this spring with his velocity. Normally about 91-92, he’s been sitting 93-95 mph this spring.
“You take a guy that big and he does it pretty easy,” Servais said. “He’s not grunting it down the mound, it’s coming out pretty easy.”
To prepare for this season, Povse enlisted a personal trainer in the offseason. He credits the uptick in velocity to that work.
Povse is likely to start the season in Class AA Arkansas, but it’s not difficult to see him moving up to Class AAA Tacoma with more success.
Could he follow a similar path to Fister?
While Fister is still not with a team this spring, he’s had a solid major-league career, making 212 career appearances, including 199 starts and posting a 77-76 record and 3.60 ERA. Fister went 65-46 with a 3.51 ERA after leaving Seattle. That trade that netted Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and Francisco Martinez didn’t quite pay out similar returns.
Maybe the Mariners can have a reversal of that trade and will find future Fister-like production in the 23-year-old Povse. They acquired him along with Shae Simmons from the Braves for former first-round pick Alex Jackson.
In 54 minor-league starts and one relief appearance in the Braves’ system, Povse posted an 18-13 record with a 3.59 ERA.
“I enjoyed my time in Atlanta,” he said. “It was a good organization to be in. But being over here, this being my first big-league camp, you get off to a good start and it gives you some confidence.”