Greetings from gray and soon to be rainy Peoria, Arizona. The Mariners are going to try to get as close to a full workout in as possible. The forecast is supposed to be for the rain starting at noon.
“We are going to try and get everything in,” McClendon said. “We’ll see.”
Here’s the forecast ….
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The Mariners hope to play an intrasquad game on Monday. But that could be in doubt with forecast calling for even more rain. The team announced the probable starting pitchers going forward (below). Jordan Pries and Erasmo Ramirez would start in that game if it happens. Beyond that, McClendon said that Taijuan Walker would start Wednesday’s Cactus League opener – the annual Charity Game against the Padres. These probables are all subject to change because of the weather issues.
Walker was excited to make the start. San Diego will give veteran right-hander Jason Lane the start. As my buddy Corey Brock, who covers the Padres from MLB.com pointed out on Twitter, Walker was nine years old when Lane, now 38, made his big league debut.
It’s a slight change for Walker compared to last spring where a shoulder injury made him a spectator.
“I wasn’t able to do anything,” he said. “I wasn’t even able to play catch. To be able to start a game and actually have a spring training is good.”
Walker is in a weird position. Yes, it’s the first game of the spring, but he’s also in a competition for a starting spot. Obviously, Cactus League results won’t determine that starter, but he also wants to pitch well this spring.
“I’m going to treat it like a game,” he said. “It’s a competition too. So I’m going out there always trying to do the best I can.”
One thing that will be interesting to watch is the addition of a slider to his repertoire. Walker said he scrapped the cut fastball that he’d been using on occasion in past seasons for the slider to go with the slower curveball he throws. The similarities in throwing the cutter and slider pitches should make the transition somewhat easier. Walker likes the action on the slider compared to the cutter.
“There’s more depth to it and more break to it,” he said.
So far it seems to be effective. Now it’s just finding consistency with the pitch.
“I threw it live in BP the other day,” he said. “The first couple I threw were kind of shaky, but after that it worked really good.”
PROBABLES – SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Monday — intrasquad game
Team 1 Team 2
Jordan Pries Erasmo Ramirez
Charlie Furbush Joe Saunders
Lucas Luetge Justin Germano
Stephen Landazuri Tyler Olson
Mark Lowe Forrest Snow
Wednesday vs. the Padres
Thursday vs. Padres
Friday at the Dodgers
Saturday (SS) vs. Arizona
Saturday (SS) at CWS
Sunday at Cincinnati
We have three Mariners stories appearing today’s Seattle Times and in the news “river” of information on the website.
I wrote about side-arm reliever Carson Smith and his unusual delivery. Smith wowed the Mariners in the final month of the season, allowing just two hits and no runs in nine appearances.
Even with his dominant September, Smith admitted that he’s still fighting just to make the team.
“There’s plenty of locks to make this team, and I know I’m not one of them,” he said. “We have a good bullpen. I don’t think anybody is going to underestimate it this year. It’s a tough bullpen to crack. But the same time, all it’s going to do is make you tougher as a pitcher. Hopefully, I can feed off that and get better.”
The Mariners have seven bullpen spots open. McClendon said he’d like to have two lefties relievers, but isn’t going to force it if they can’t find a viable candidate to join Charlie Furbush.
So who are locks?
1. Fernando Rodney
2. Danny Farquhar
3. Tom Wilhelmsen
4. Charlie Furbush
Those four aren’t going anywhere. I’d consider Yoervis Medina a lock since he’s big and strong and durable. He had some issues at times last year, but McClendon likes his power sinker. He got a little shaky when he got slider happy and lost command of that fastball. But he still finished 5-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 66 appearances. He didn’t allow a run in 54 of 66 appearances.
You want to assume Dominic Leone is a lock as well. He was brilliant as a rookie, going 8-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 57 appearances. He struck 70 batters in 66 1/3 innings. Leone also showed the ability to pitch multiple innings.
So if those two are in as well, that leaves one spot for either Smith or a lefty from the group of Lucas Luetge, Joe Saunders, Rafael Perez and David Rollins.
One thing Smith has tried to work on this offseason and this spring is a change-up to use against lefties. Because of his side-arm motion and his slider that runs into lefties, he needs something that goes away from them.
“I’ve worked on my change-up and it’s a developing pitch,” he said. “This offseason it has gotten better. That’s going to be my main key to get lefties out is to control the change-up and use three pitches to them as opposed to just two. Mixing that in as much as I can and keeping them off balance.”
Here’s his splits from Class AA and Class AAA
*** Larry Stone wrote about the shortstop battle.
*** Matt Pentz had the notebook about Patrick Kivlehan