Today was Felix's final start before Opening Day and it began...not great. By the end of the first inning he had thrown almost 30 pitches, and surrendered three hits and four runs, one of which was unearned thanks to Dae Ho Lee momentarily forgetting he plays first base now (I'm being harsh. Lee actually overcharged a grounder, so eager was he to make a play at firs, but wound up booting the ball and letting a run score). The second inning for Felix went more smoothly, with Felix giving up a single but not allowing a run to score. While only scheduled for two innings, Felix worked the third as well, at his request, as he wanted to focus on his two-strike pitches. Felix's velocity for the day had been hovering around 87 on his fastballs and low-80s on his change-ups, but in the third inning he started throwing his change-up in the high 80s and was able to have a 1-2-3 inning, finishing his day with a strikeout to Daniel Norris on a nasty 86 mph change-up that dipped sharply at the plate like a hawk sensing prey. However, the four-run deficit would prove to be too much for the Mariners, and though they battled back, Blake Parker would give up a run and Tony Zych would surrender a two-run homer and the Mariners lost this utterly boring, utterly meaningless game and although I never wish time away, I am now officially ready for Spring Training to be over. I am typing this sitting in the sunny backyard and I can smell the budding lilacs and there are two fat blue jays chattering around the rosemary bush and Seattle is ready for you, Mariners. Come home.
Some other points of interest:
* All the kudos in the world to the staff at ROOT and on the broadcast team, who have managed to wring interest from a stone throughout Spring Training. Today's broadcast again featured the delightful Ryan Rowland-Smith, who offered valuable insight on each of the parade of pitchers we saw through today's game. Bill Krueger is great, but it's nice to have a pitching specialist on the broadcast who was in the game more recently. Today's broadcast also featured a brief interview with Ketel Marte, and I was impressed at how far his English has come since the last interview I heard with him, back in August of last year. Mike Blowers asked Ketel how many stolen bases he had in him this year, and Ketel, who is clearly a graduate of the David Skiba School of Optimism, predicted he could get 50. "I got my legs ready," he said. "They just have to give me the opportunity." After a pause, he added, "And I have to get on base, of course." Getting on base hasn't been a problem for Marte this spring; he's batting .326 with an OPS of .961 and today extended his hitting streak to eight games.
* Mike Montgomery pitched a strong inning of relief today. After giving up a hit to Matt Kemp that could have been a double if not for a superb outfield effort by Nelson Cruz (!!! more on this later), who gunned Kemp down at second, MiMo got Wil Myers to ground out, then struck out Yangervis Solarte on a nasty breaking curve at 78 mph. MiMo's velocity was buzzing in the low to mid 90s for his fastball, which he mixed with a high-70s curveball that had the Padres fooled. Tony Zych followed MiMo and worked two innings, giving up two singles to start the sixth before working out of the jam with two strikeouts, and in the seventh, hitting Austin Hedges, striking out Jabari Blash, and giving up a two-run homerun to Adam Rosales before getting another strikeout and groundout to end the inning. Zych was sitting at the mid-90s with his fastball, even touching 97 a few times, but his control seemed a little off. Still, the possibility of the one-two punch of MiMo and Zych is probably the thing I'm most excited about looking at the current bullpen.
* Dae Ho Lee played the entire game, long after all the other starters had been lifted, and was rewarded with a single in the bottom of the ninth. It's clear he's still adjusting to the US game, but between his natural talent and clear desire to succeed, he's very much won me over this spring training. Tyler O'Neill, who's looked impressive in his brief appearances this spring, and Austin Wilson both had hits, and Daniel Robertson recorded another RBI hit, a double that just missed being a homerun. The Mariners' various minor league affiliates should be some fun watching this year, and coming up later this week Ethan will tell you why.
* A treat for those of you who have read this far in the recap: here's Nelson Cruz doing his best Kill Machine impersonation and making a great play on the ball with a strong throw to get out Kemp. goms.