There’s a moment when Spring Training starts to get boring.
It typically occurs in mid-March, when roles are firmly established, position battles have sorted themselves out, and the “I will watch literally any baseball game on television with the passion and energy of one thousand waterfalls” vibe has worn off a tad. The excitement of Spring Training being here shifts to the anxiousness over the arrival of meaningful, regular season baseball.
The first few games of Spring Training, however, are enthralling. Seeing everyone back in uniform, surrounded by the popping of mitts and cracks of bats instantly transports you back to that universe where baseball is everything and the possibilities are endless. Baseball is back and it’s not going anywhere for a very long time.
The Seattle Mariners pummeled everything in their path today, getting to San Diego Padres pitching early and often and pulling out a 13-3 victory in their Spring Training opener.
The scoring started immediately. In the top of the first, shiny new shortstop Jean Segura sent a bullet into the left field corner for a one-out double. Robinson Cano followed with a four-pitch walk, setting the stage for Nelson Cruz and his abundance of ever-expanding muscle mass. Cruz worked the count to 1-1, got a pitch over the heart of the plate, and connected:
Talk about opening Cactus League play with a BOOM. pic.twitter.com/8DT2Wb5oXe— Mariners (@Mariners) February 25, 2017
We make mistakes in life. Sometimes I forget my work badge at home and have to go through the main entrance of my building like a newbie. Sometimes my water bottle accidentally spills into my messenger bag. Sometimes I scribble addresses too sloppy when I jot them. The point is to learn from your mistakes. And yet, the year is 2017 and pitchers are still somehow throwing baseballs to Nelson Cruz over the plate. May they never learn.
The Mariners would tack on another run in the fifth inning, when Jarrod Dyson walked, stole second, and then raced home on a Shawn O’Malley RBI single. It all seemed to play out exactly like the blueprint everyone drew up for Dyson when the Mariners acquired him: get on first and show ‘em what speed do.
An inning later, the Mariners were back at it again, this time getting to 27-year-old lefty Keith Hessler for four runs. Non-roster invitee Tyler Smith got it going with a leadoff infield single, followed by a Daniel Vogelbach single to left field, followed by RBI doubles from Tuffy Gosewich and Guillermo Heredia to left field. A third run would score when Hessler misplayed a ball hit by Shawn O’Malley. The Mariners grabbed their fourth and final run of the inning on an impressive display of athleticism: the pulling off of a double steal of second and home with O’Malley and Heredia.
Literally one inning later, they were back at it, getting to former Mariner Logan Bawcom for three runs. Smith, Heredia, and D.J. Peterson all provided RBI singles in the effort.
Then, because sometimes we all like our numbers to look nice and neat, the Mariners decided to gather two more runs in the ninth inning to give them that pretty, ten-run victory. The runs came via a D.J. Peterson double to left field, a Guillermo Heredia double to right field, and a two-base error off of the bat of Tyler O’Neill.
When the dust settled, the Mariners had tallied the following: 13 runs, 17 hits, 7 doubles, 1 home run, and 3 stolen bases. The bats are indeed back.
On the pitching side of things, everything was okay outside of a rough fourth inning from potential spot starter candidate Ryan Weber. Ariel Miranda started the contest, finishing with one strikeout and one hit allowed in two scoreless innings. Miranda managed to generate four ground ball outs in the brief appearance and his only base hit came on a sharp, ground ball single by Cory Spangenberg.
Casey Fien pitched the third inning, working around a leadoff single to toss a scoreless outing. He recorded strikeouts against Jose Pirela and Erick Aybar.
After Weber surrendered the lead in a three-run fourth inning, the bullpen managed to hold things down the rest of the way. James Pazos worked a scoreless sixth, working almost exclusively with a sinker that sat at 93 mph, according to Gameday. Cody Martin Cody Martin’d his way to two scoreless innings, using stellar command to induce a ton of weak contact. Shae Simmons then closed things out with a breezy ninth inning that included a line out, a fly out, and a ground out.
Some notes on everything that happened:
- Guillermo Heredia vs Ben Gamel for the fourth outfielder spot is one of the few intriguing position battles in camp. Heredia went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a stolen base on the day. Gamel finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
- Tyler Smith, who is competing for the utility bench role, filled in nicely at third base after Kyle Seager exited. He went 2-for-3 and was sturdy on defense.
- Boog Powell made his first spring appearance, pinch running for Vogelbach in the middle of the game.
- Top prospect Tyler O’Neill went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his debut.
- Mariners pitching didn’t issue a single walk and struck out five in the game
- Mariners hitting, meanwhile, recorded two walks and twelve strikeouts.
- It’s back. It’s really, really back