And that's it folks, game one is in the books. Well, sort of. The Mariners don't open their regular season until March 31st, so in a way, this was more like game -33 in the books. But still, it was a real baseball game! With real pitchers, throwing real baseballs to real baseball players, who are wearing different uniforms! One of them was named Robinson Cano, and he was wearing a Mariners uniform. Another player was René Rivera, and he was not wearing a Mariners uniform this time. But a person who was wearing a Mariners uniform was a 55 year old man with no hair and a mouth full of teeth slowly grinding into tiny pieces with each scowl out of the shadows of the dugout. His name is Lloyd McClendon, and today was the first day of his era in Seattle. Let's look at some of the highlights from the M's 7-1 victory over the Padres in the annual Charity game.
- Erasmo Ramirez looked good in his first spring training outing, giving up two hits in as many innings. He only struck out one Padre hitter, but generated mostly ground balls when hitters made contact, which is a great start for a pitcher who finished 2014 with a 4.26 xFIP. The Tacoma News Tribune's Bob Dutton recently posted an article where Erasmo details a focus on spotting his pitches during winter ball and relying less on his fastball, comments he echoed in an interview with Shannon Drayer during today's broadcast. I know everyone shows up to camp each spring with a new "thing", but Erasmo is still only 23, and I'm much more interested in that familiar trope if he's involved, rather than say, Blake Beavan.
- Speaking of Beavan, he actually performed quite well in his two innings, giving up only 1 hit and 1 walk with 31 pitches. And the rest of the Mariners arms looked fine in their first outing as well, giving up only 5 hits as a collective unit. Tom Wilhelmsen and Lucas Luetge went hitless with an inning each, and Danny Farquhar came in the 9th to seal the victory, although it took him a minute to settle in. It's the first day. The only thing truly of note here was the first appearance from bullpen-hopeful Joe Beimel, who fluctuated everywhere between 85-91 on his fastball. Elbow injuries are nasty both before, and after they happen.
- The minor-league kids did well in their late inning play--including a double from Burt Reynolds in his first at-bat as a Mariner--as did Dustin Ackley and Logan Morrison, who each showed some pop at the plate. Even Abraham Almonte was out there stealing bases, and its only February 27th. But the real story was a quick sequence in the bottom of the first, following Robinson Cano's first at bat as a Mariner:
(both gifs courtesy Seattle Mariners)
Soon afterward, Logan Morrison sent Cano to second and scored Kyle Seager with a sac fly. Then, up walked Justin Smoak, presumably to his usual bone-jarring country music and palpable sense of confusion and worry over the situation ahead of him. Robinson Cano has apparently taken a bit of a liking to Smoak so far, introducing him to a hitting drill popularized by Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, which is designed to force a player to use his lower half to turn weight into the ball rather than reach for them with their upper body. Here's Smoak, doubling in Cano:
Smoak has a long way to go to salvage his career. He has a lot of work left to do over the season, retraining himself, and moving away from bad habits he developed through a litany of hitting coaches and situational changes over the past few years. One drill and one double aren't going to do the work for him.
But I had both these .gifs open in separate tabs during the game to remind myself to use them in the recap, and when I would click back to open them, both would start consecutively, after the pitch was hit, the ball bouncing into right-center as the camera zoomed to follow it. One from a five-time all star and Home Run Derby champion, another from a 27-year old bust with only a handful of dingers and an obnoxiously passable wRC+ to his name. Without fail, I would have to wait until the .gif reset to know which one was hit by whom. I don't know if that means anything. But damn, it feels good to have baseball back again. Even when it makes my head hurt.