Well today the Mariners earned their first loss of the spring, after heading down the highway to Maryville to meet the Milwaukee Brewers and their PITCHf/x-less stadium. This is an issue which makes covering Spring Training games for the mobile blogger quite difficult, and although everything doesn't have to be about me--I guesssssss--you have to admit it would be nice to be able to see what kind of pitches Mike Zunino looked at today while making all three of his outs. Here, for example, is what it looked like as Mike grounded into a double play in the top of the fifth inning, DHing a spot behind Luis Sardinas who made it to first on a grounder up the middle a moment before:
But alas, it's game three and you are not here for Mike Zunino analysis. This was Taijuan's first start of the year, and by all accounts it went about as expected. His velocity was reportedly up around where it should be, but as a result he was kind of all over the place, running through an efficient first inning before loading the bases in the second with a walk and a set of singles.
Taijuan with 18 strikes/16 balls in two innings. Not sharp in second inning, but hey, it is his first start of the spring. Brewers up 1-0.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) March 4, 2016
I'm sure it's just about what the M's were expecting. It's kind of weird to think that somehow, despite visibly experiencing both his ceiling and his floor over the past couple of seasons, that Taijuan is still something of an unknown entity as we start what could very well be his breakout season or...something else. Of course also, who cares, spring training, etc, #wellactually.
After the game, Shannon Drayer got a few words out of the 23-year old in which he noted that pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre has been pushing him to work on his curveball a little more than in the past. This was bookended with lots of "ums" and "wells" and when you consider there was that period last season when Taijuan was throwing literally nothing but fastballs, this seems like the most non-news news event of the entire spring so far, including who said what after hitting baseballs off certain Cy Young pitchers during particular exercises. Good lord, day three and I'm already sick of this nonsense.
Taijuan will be, pending an apocalyptic asteroid or torn elbow ligament, starting the season out of the rotation for the Mariners. But Cody Martin is something of a different story. Martin relieved Taijuan in the third and fourth innings and gave up only a single hit, which had to probably feel good for the 26 year old still-rookie who has bounced between three organizations in the past calendar year including a waiver claim. Martin is probably going to start the season in Tacoma, but represents some solid depth for the organization which is being remade in Jerry's image down to the lowest level. J.A. Happ-returnee Adrian Sampson gave up four hits in the next two innings, and Michael Guaipe followed him a moment later with similar luck. There were dingers, there were replacement fielders, some asshole was drunk and yelling right next to an onfield mic. Spring is back in full swing, folks, and you're right in the middle of it.
On the offensive side, the Mariners had a bit of a quiet afternoon. Seth Smith got the only hit off Brewers' starter Wily Peralta, just as Blowers and Goldsmith were talking about how much hitters hate facing interleague pitchers both in spring and during the regular season. In fact, Smith was the only Mariner who reached base more than once this afternoon, which I didn't even remember until looking it up and which is also about the most Seth Smith thing possible. You know, he's just kind of there, waltzing around out in a corner, snagging a fly ball here and bloppin' a blooper into shallow right.
NRI Mike Baxter hit a two run blast in the eighth, giving the Mariners their only runs on the afternoon. But the most interesting part of the game--oh god, Mike, if you're reading this, I'm gonna look like a real putz here--was a bunt. Yes, a bunt. But look at this beauty!
Now that is a bunt. Said bunt came off the bat of Shawn O'Malley, who if you remember did a few things last year while the Mariners were busy not doing a few things, although this time he looks to continue his streak of doing things as the Mariners actually do things! The reserve roles still have yet to fully shake up, but considering how weak the farm system is, has been, and will sadly continue to be, it's kind of nice to have a few question marks still waiting in the wings.
Tomorrow the M's head back to Peoria for a noon game against the Angels, and this one is going to actually be on television. Anthropomorphic Giant Bowie Knife Wade Miley will be making his first start for the Mariners, and truth be told I'm pretty excited to see what he's going to bring to the rotation. Until then,