Here's a few morning notes, quotes, links and thoughts on the Mariners. Position players report to Peoria today and will have their physicals. James Paxton will resume throwing next week and Willie Bloomquist is progressing.
Good morning from sunny Peoria, Arizona ….
From today’s paper and Mariners’ “river” of news and goodness is my story on Danny Hultzen and his return to the mound. From the story …
On Sunday, Hultzen threw his first bullpen session of spring training. It was a simple but forceful showing of what the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft was, and still could be, for the Mariners. He showed a lively fastball, threw his changeup and worked on his curveball and slider.
“It feels completely normal,” he said. “I feel like I’m back. I have no idea what a game will be like. I haven’t been in a full-game situation in a long time. But as far as how my arm feels and letting it go without thinking about it, I’m definitely back to before.”
Here’s video from that first bullpen session.
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A year ago, I wrote this big story on Hultzen and what he was going through as he recovered from shoulder surgery. I remember being amazed at how upbeat and optimistic he was about the grueling recovery. He admitted there were times he felt down, but everyone you talked to around the Mariners marveled at how hard he was working and the positive attitude he would bring each day. He is legitimately one of the nicest kids (I’m getting old) that I’ve covered. You can’t find anyone that would say a bad word about the kid.
The expectations for Hultzen are very low this season. They just want him to make it through the year healthy and find the feel of his pitches. He didn’t throw at all last season and just over 30 innings in 2013. My guess it that they won’t let him go much more than 100 innings this season. They may also start him off at a lower level and not right back at Class AAA Tacoma.
Either way, it’s good to see him back on the mound again.
Larry Stone has his column on his thoughts on improving pace of play. From the column …
The way I see it, baseball is facing a three-pronged challenge to stay relevant, and they’re all intertwined. Pace of game obviously is one of them. There’s also the alarming decline of offense, with runs-per-game dropping to 4.07 in 2014, lowest since 1981.
And then you have the fight to win over the youth audience, which is increasingly turning to other sports or video games rather than baseball. This obviously is a complex issue, particularly in the inner cities, where the financial burden of travel ball is daunting, as Andrew McCutchen pointed out in a recent essay.
It makes intuitive sense, however, that if you pick up the pace of the game, and increase the offense, baseball would be more appealing to all audiences, but particularly young people.
The remaining Mariners position players, who haven’t been here working out already, are scheduled to report to camp today and take physicals. DJ Peterson made an appearance yesterday and Patrick Kivlehan arrived a few days ago.
Manager Lloyd McClendon expects everyone to be here – no visa problems or excused absences necessary for Wednesday’s first workout. There’s only a handful of players who haven’t arrived early – Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Rickie Weeks, Dustin Ackley and Seth Smith.
“I texted Robbie yesterday and I told him that spring training was in Arizona not Florida, just to make sure,” McClendon said. “He texted me back and he said he needed an address.”
McClendon said that the plan is for James Paxton to begin throwing the first of next week. Paxton is listed to participate in fielding drills today but obviously will not throw.
“Ideally we want to make sure all the soreness is gone before we get him back out there,” McClendon said. “The doctors feel he should be fine the first of next week.”
McClendon said that Paxton’s workouts in the offseason will offset this time missed.
“I think he had five or six bullpens under his belt before he got here,” McClendon said. “It won’t take much for him to get back into the swing of things.”
As for a player getting hurt falling down the first agility drill of a workout, McClendon forced a chuckle, “It is what it is.”
Was he surprised it was a pitcher?
“No,” he said with a real chuckle.
Willie Bloomquist continues to show McClendon that he’ll be ready for the start of the season. The question of being able to run at full speed has been answered.
“He ran the bases yesterday and he’s going to run them again,” McClendon said. “He did fine. I think that’s the first test. Obviously it’s going to be day to day and how feels from one day to the next. It still bites now and then, but that’s normal. He has to get used to it.”
Bloomquist’s surgery was anything but simple.
“He’s doing fabulous if you really think about it,” McClendon said. “He’s way ahead of schedule.”
Here’s the bullpen session groups for today. You’ll notice that The Fernando Rodney experience will be taking to the mound for the first time today. Rodney is ahead of schedule compared to last season after signing late and then being limited early on.
Rodney was dancing on the first day of camp. It took a few days last spring to see that.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” McClendon said.
But it’s clear that Rodney is more comfortable this season.
“Obviously, getting him into camp early helps quite a bit to get him in shape,” McClendon said. “He’s familiar with is teammates. It’s a lot easier coming in with a year under your belt – for all of us. I’m glad he’s having fun and I want him to stay healthy. He’s feeling great and moving well. His PFP’s have been sharp.”
The Fernando Rodney Experience
Here’s my hit with Ian Furness and Jason Puckett on Sportsradio KJR talking about the Mariners:
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The always entertaining Danny Farquhar was on the Sandmeyer show on Monday. Here’s a link to that spot.
ESPN 710’s Michael Grey talked to Tom Verducci about what the M’s should expect from Nelson Cruz