I'll be writing down my thoughts as this afternoon's televised game progresses. If you're planning on watching, feel free to chip in with whatever comes to mind.
Gil Meche, Bobby Madritsch, and Matt Thornton go against Kirk Rueter, who makes for a good example of what would happen if we added Aaron Sele to the rotation.
First pitch from Meche floats to the plate, where Ray Durham drills it for a base hit into right field. Nice start. At least Spiezio didn't screw up playing the bounce.
Second pitch from Meche is drilled by Vizquel to first base, but Sexson's glove is good enough for the line-drive DP. Can we get a three-pitch inning?
Quote Jeff Brantley, after two pitches: "Meche isn't showing me anything." What a scout.
Mariners Starting Lineup:
Ichiro (2-4)/Reed (0-3, DP)/Beltre (1-1, BB, RBI, R)/Sexson (1-2, R)/Boone (1-2, SF)/Ibanez ("2"-4, RBI)/Spiezio (0-3, SF, RBI)/Wilson (1-3, DP)/Santiago (2-3, 2B, 3B, 2 R, SH)
Strong (1-1, RBI, SB)/Bloomquist (0-1)/Gil (0-1)/Reese (0-1)
If Ichiro wants to make a run at .400 this year, he's going to need a lot of good bounces and infield hits. So far, so good. On a tangentially-related note, did Omar Vizquel leave his arm in Cleveland?
So far, Meche is topping out at 92 with a flat fastball. He flashed a jaw-dropping curveball that fooled everyone in the park (including the umpire, who called it a ball) and got Niekro to ground out weakly on a straight change, though, so there's some good news here.
A borderline strike call to Sexson in the second inning generated a resounding grumble amongst the crowd. But we're not a frustrated fan base...
More Brantley: Mike Matheny makes a run-and-a-half difference for the pitching staff's ERA.
I went out and grabbed a sandwich before Rueter's fastball made it to the plate. Still waiting on the changeup. Scott Spiezio took a nap mid-delivery and still woke up in time to hit a ball harder than he did all of last season. You want to see a pitcher on the brink of annihilation? Rueter's your man.
0-2 pitch, and Meche throws a belt-high fastball over the plate. Hello, blood pressure. The good news is that he's retired eight in a row since allowing the leadoff single, hitting 93 on the gun a few minutes ago. If he can keep his fastball on the inner half of the plate, like he did to end the third inning with a strikeout, then he'll be fine.
When Dan Wilson gets in front of your fastball, you shouldn't, y'know, throw that fastball.
Ramon Santiago comes to the plate and practices his sacrfice bunting. At least he's being honest with himself.
Brantley: "Rueter changes speeds so well." Rueter changes speeds like Jay Buhner changes hairstyles. If it ain't 78, it ain't Kirk Rueter.
Brantley (yeah, I found a guy to pick on. Deal with it.): "If your catcher sets up on the inside of the plate and you can't hit your spot, the hitter won't swing at the changeup on the next pitch." Next pitch: Durham strikes out swinging on a changeup.
If you listen really carefully when Dan Wilson tears off his helmet in pursuit of a foul pop-up, you can hear Seattle's middle-aged women swooning.
In the fourth inning, Meche threw a handful of 86-88mph fastballs around the outer half, then pounded Alou high and in with a 92mph burner. It's not hard to see why fans think he's capable of so much more.
With men on first and second, Boone flies out to left, and the runners advance. That's the kind of thing that we saw happen to Randy Winn nearly every friggin' day last year.
Gil Meche's day is done after four innings. Showed a few good fastballs, and had a stretch where he was locating his big breaking ball pretty well, keeping it down in the zone. Bobby Madritsch is on in relief, still throwing every pitch out of the stretch. It doesn't really flatter his velocity; his fastball averaged 87mph in the inning.
Does Kirk Rueter own a car, or does he just flap his ears as a convenient means of aerial transportation?
Chalk Rick Sutcliffe up as another guy who thinks Gil Meche has "electric stuff". Hargrove's talking about how Meche does well around 95 and "gets hammered" when he sinks to the low-90s. Meche spent most of the day throwing 89-91, reaching 93 just once. Hmmm.
Of the three balls that Ichiro's hit today, the weakest one went for a hit and the two line drives were caught by the infield. I'd be interested to see a guy who has that kind of luck over a full season. How would the defense play him? Things to ponder during a lull in the action...
I wonder if Richie Sexson's swing has any effect on the earth's orbit.
If Randy Johnson is the only starting pitcher who's succeeded with a two-pitch arsenal, Madritsch might be the next. His fastball doesn't really blow you away - he's topped out at 90 so far today - but his changeup is flat-out incredible. Half of them look like slurves, and the other half begin and end at knee level. Impossible.
Boone and Ibanez have reached on consecutive errors. At last, our luck is turning! Huzzah! (Update: presumably on a dare, the scorekeeper has ruled the second one as a hit.)
Ramon Santiago has shifted to second base in the seventh inning. Such versatility makes him a vital component of the roster, much more capable of filling a need than some clown like Justin Leone. I mean, Santiago's grounded a double and a triple today, while making some outs in the field. Leone hasn't done any of that! He's not even playing! Thank goodness for Spring Training, which separates the wheat from the chaff.
If one start can push Aaron Sele ahead of Ryan Franklin in the race for the fifth rotation slot, can one at bat push Benji Gil ahead of Willie Bloomquist? After Wee Willie popped out, Gil hit a fly ball several feet short of the warning track. If a guy is going to make an out, I'd like that out to be made a respectable distance from home plate.
Bobby Madritsch's day is done after three stellar innings. In comes Matt Thornton, who misses the zone with his first two pitches. Ah, consistency.
In the eighth inning, Thornton allowed four hits and a run while inducing a double play and benefiting from an outfield assist by Raul Ibanez. The good news: five straight strikes to end the frame. Hope that carries over into the ninth.
Raul Ibanez wins the "hardest-hit ball of the day" award. 405-foot fly out to a 410-foot center field. It's not often that a hitter misses playing in Safeco.
When Matt Thornton throws a strike, an angel gets its wings.
Reichert is out to pitch the ninth inning today. Final line on Thornton: 16 pitches, 8 strikes, varied between 76-93mph. Showed a straight fastball and only threw two offspeed pitches. When you're primarily working on controlling the heater this late in ST, you're probably not in good shape to make the big league team out of camp.
Reichert takes care of the ninth inning, and the game, with 13 pitches (8 strikes). A double play accounted for the final two outs. Only one pitch reached the plate above belt level, as Reichert was pounding the zone low and away. He threw his moving fastball 12 times out of 13 pitches, averaging 87mph.
As for Madritsch, 27 of his 38 pitches were strikes. 75% of his fastballs hit the zone, topping out at 90 but mostly hanging around the 86-88 range. With that kind of fastball and a devastating changeup that sank as low as 72 today, the speed variation makes him a tough guy to hit, and he showed that today by striking out four hitters. (I didn't get to chart Meche's performance.)