ARLINGTON, Texas — As the Mariners’ daily preworkout infield session came to an end Saturday afternoon, Abraham Toro had yet another discussion with infield guru Perry Hill.
It’s been a daily occurrence for the 24-year-old infielder since the Mariners acquired him from the Astros along with reliever Joe Smith in the controversial trade that sent relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to Houston.
“We’ve talked a lot,” Toro said.
After hitting a pinch-hit homer against his former team in Tuesday’s loss, Toro has started at second base in the three games since as Dylan Moore moved to left field. It’s likely Toro, who played primarily third base for Houston this season and his MLB call-ups in 2019 and 2021, will be at second base predominantly for the Mariners.
“There’s only one way to get experience,” manager Scott Servais said. “You have to go out and play it.”
It will be a bit of a transition for Toro, who played 19 games at second base in the minor leagues.
“Fortunately for us we’ve got one of the best infield coaches in the game in Perry Hill,” Servais said. “Perry’s making strides and getting the reps in with him in pregame. He needs to get comfortable and where his feet need to be around the bag on double play turns and things like that. I like what I’ve seen so far. I know one thing, Toro worked his tail off. He’s not afraid of working and is focused on getting better. Perry will get the most out of him.”
Hill has been impressed with Toro already.
“He centers the ball really well,” Hill said. “His footwork is crisp. But he hasn’t played there in a long time. When you play on the left side of the infield, the ball is coming at you and everything is going one way. But when you are on other side of the infield it’s different. The angles are different. When you are turning double plays, you are going one way and having to throw back the other way. He’s got to learn how to manipulate and turn his body. That’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Hill admitted that it’s difficult to gauge where Toro is at defensively until after about 10 games.
“We are going to give him as many opportunities as we can,” Hill said. “I think he’s going to take it all in and be fine. I have no doubt he’ll be able to handle it. You see the athleticism.”
After throwing a bullpen session Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Park with Ichiro, yes, that Ichiro, serving as his catcher, Justus Sheffield (left forearm strain/oblique strain) is expected to throw a live bullpen session Tuesday.
Sheffield posted a post-bullpen photo of him and Ichiro, who was wearing full catcher’s gear, to his Instagram account.
If all goes well in his live batting practice session, Sheffield would go out on a rehab assignment five days later.
It’s likely the Mariners will have Sheffield make multiple starts to build up his innings count and also try to address some of the command and mechanical struggles he had before going on the injured list.
“It’s not just me,” Servais said. “He wants to be pitching well. He was a little frustrated with his struggles before he went down with the injury. He wants to get it back going in the right direction again. And it’s one of the things I talked to him about before we came out on this road trip is focus on the one or two things that he needed to make adjustments mechanically, and then hopefully that helps them be more consistent in the command of his fastball and getting his changeup going as well.”
When Sheffield is ready to return, will he enter the starting rotation or pitch long relief. The Mariners traded for lefty Tyler Anderson to take his spot.
“A lot of those decisions depend on where we’re at, at the moment,” Servais said. “What does our starting rotation look like? What does the bullpen look like? How’s the health of our guys look? The biggest thing is, we’ve got to get Shef healthy, get him back out there throwing and commanding the ball, get his changeup going and all the things that we saw last year. We need to get him going in the right direction again, and then we’ll see where he fits on the roster.”