Servais was happy to see both pitchers leave healthy after strong outings
PEORIA, Ariz. — A day after watching two of his starting pitchers — Felix Hernandez and Drew Smyly — put on a stellar pitching duel in the World Baseball Classic second round in San Diego, Mariners manager Scott Servais was quite satisfied with two things: 1. Both of his pitchers came out of the game healthy and without an over-extended pitch count. 2. The quality of the outings from both pitchers.
“Really good,” he said. “I couldn’t be any happier with the way they threw and went about it. Both guys were really attacking and throwing strikes and trusting their stuff. They both had really good stuff. It was a good outing on both sides.”
Servais and much of the Mariners staff watched the game with great intent, not just as casual fans. They were taking notes on every detail. To them, this is like a spring training start that offers a little more information for evaluation.
“I’m watching pitch sequencing and how they are doing it, how they are using their stuff,” Servais said. “Obviously, we know Felix better than we know Smyly.”
Basically, they were watching and evaluating how each starter worked as if it were a big league game.
“Just having to execute through those lineups,” Servais said. “It’s not your typical spring training lineup. That’s the real deal. Seeing them have success there, it should put them in a good spot.”
Smyly pitched 4 2/3 innings, giving up one unearned run on three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. He was dominant at times, showing his nasty breaking ball and using pinpoint fastball location. He struck out the side in the fourth inning — the hitters were Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Rougned Odor. The unearned run came via his own throwing error on a bunt by Robinson Chirinos in the third inning. That set up a sac fly and gave Venezuela a brief 1-0 lead.
“Smyly was outstanding last night, using the high fastball and the curveball,” Servais said.
Hernandez worked five shutout innings, allowing three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. His only real drama came in the third inning. He gave up three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases. After a brief visit at the mound, Hernandez made his biggest pitch of the game, getting Adam Jones to hit a groundball to Jose Altuve to start a 4-6-3 double play.
“Felix threw a lot of curveballs last night and it was great to see,” Servais said. “I know it’s something that he’s working on. He got the double play ball when he needed it. There was a lot of good stuff.”
The Mariners have been pushing Hernandez to modify his sequencing and putting some additional studying into scouting opposing hitters, feeling that many teams have taken advantage of patterns in his attack on hitters.
“We always talk about his secondary pitches and they’re all well above average and to use them differently,” Servais said. “Maybe use the curveball more than the slider or become less reliant on the changeup, use more high fastballs and four seamers. There’s a number of different things we’ve talked about. And he tried them all last night and had success with all of them. That’s great. That’s what you want to happen when you are discussing different things. But he had great feel for all of them last night. So it’s going to be easier when you have that many weapons to go to. Some nights he doesn’t. But when they’re all clicking, he can get you out in a number of different ways. It was great to see. He’s trying different things we’ve talked about. And he’s getting good results.”
Servais was also quite pleased that neither of the WBC managers overextended his pitchers.
“It was a good experience for both of them,” Servais said. “It’s a very a competitive environment. I was very glad to see both of them come out after five innings. I think it was the right thing to do based on where they had been to that point this spring. Both of those guys had only gone out there for three innings. Asking either of those guys to go six, that’s too much. That was handled properly in my opinion.”
Servais wasn’t certain when he would see either pitcher return to Peoria. But he’s expecting to see Smyly in the coming days. The original plan was for Smyly to pitch one game and return. But there was some doubt that he might remain with Team USA for the duration.
“What I’m led to believe is that (Smyly) will be headed back into our camp,” Servais said.