PEORIA, Ariz. — From Justus Sheffield’s new two-seam fastball and Yusei Kikuchi’s tighter delivery to the pop Kendall Graveman and Taijuan Walker have shown while returning from Tommy John surgeries, Mariners manager Scott Servais is impressed with what he has seen from his staff early this spring.
“I’ve been really happy with our pitching, top to bottom,” Servais said. “Can’t say enough about it.”
Potential 0pening-day starter Marco Gonzalez made his third start Wednesday night when the Mariners dodged the rain long enough to play San Diego, and Kendall Graveman is expected to throw about 60 pitches in his start against Cincinnati on Thursday.
Mariners’ starters have a 1.77 ERA in the last 15 games, with 43 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .175.
“Taijuan. What Graveman’s looked like. Kikuchi has taken a huge step forward,” Servais said.
“We’re pretty confident what we are going to get from Marco. We didn’t know how quickly the young pitchers would assimilate in camp and step forward. We love their stuff. We have good pitching at the big league level. We have young pitching, and we have young pitching coming.
“We’re in a good spot.”
Sheffield, 23, is on track to make his first opening-day roster, while free agents Graveman and Walker will fill spots vacated by Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez and a handful of others.
For Graveman, health has been the only issue. He was 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA with Oakland in 2016, his only full major league season, before shoulder and elbow injuries hampered him the last three seasons and limited him to two minor league appearances in 2019.
He has thrown four scoreless innings in two spring starts.
“His stuff has been good,” Servais said. “It’s just a matter now if he can maintain the stuff through three, four innings of work and continue to build upon that.”
Graveman, who throws strikes and pitches to contact, relies heavily on a groundball-inducing two-seam fastball. He had the fifth-highest ratio of ground balls to fly balls in the AL in 2016.
“Kendall has a really good idea of who he is,” Servais said. “He’s a sinker-baller, and he has worked on his secondary pitches a little bit this spring. He’s ready to put a big year up for us. He has a lot of goals that he wants to accomplish.
“Big outing for him tomorrow.”
Graveman missed his last scheduled spring start because of illness but threw 60 pitches in a bullpen session that day and remains on track.
“I hate that I didn’t get to compete last time but looking forward to the next one,” Graveman said.
Dylan Moore’s right wrist injury Tuesday was not as serious as it first appeared, Servais said, and Moore was to take some swings in the batting cage Wednesday.
Moore was struck by a 93 mph fastball from the Angles’ Dylan Dundy on Tuesday, but the ball hit Moore between the bones under the wrist and did not produce much swelling.
“We got really lucky,” Servais said. “It sounded horrible. You hear the sound and it almost sounded like it hit the bat.”
Moore, who has four hits including a homer in 10 at-bats this spring, is competing with a group that includes Tim Lopes, Sam Haggerty and Carlos Gonzalez for a reserve role.
Haggerty was to seek a second opinion about the soreness in his right elbow that has idled him for several days, Servais said. Haggerty, who had a previous MRI, is 5 for 14 in eight spring games.
“I don’t think it’s a surgery situation, but I don’t know for sure,” Servais said.
Cargo getting more playing time
Veteran Carlos Gonzalez has improved the quality of his at-bats recently and will continue to receive playing time as he seeks to win a roster spot.
“He’s been through a lot of spring trainings before, and it looks like his timing is coming together and has been much better,” Servais said. “Maybe not quite as consistent with making hard contact.”
Gonzalez, who did not start Wednesday, is 6 for 22 with two RBI and three walks this spring. He is in camp on a $750,000 minor league contract.
“He’s got a lot of experience, and he knows how to work his way through an at-bat,” Servais said.
“We have decisions to make roster-wise here as we get closer to the end. He’ll continue to play and we’ll continue to evaluate.”
The Mariners reassigned left-hander Anthony Misiewicz to minor league camp Wednesday, leaving them with 50 players including 14 nonroster players camp.