Today was an early test of our ability to pay attention to spring training, with a radio-only game that featured very few marquee players, a slow-developing offense, and an endless parade of guests in the broadcast booth ranging from Brock Huard (somewhat interesting) to Tom Haudricourt (not interesting, and annoyingly talking over the Shae Simmons appearance that was the sole point of interest of this game for me) to TV announcer for the Brewers, Brian Anderson (who at least apologized for talking over the pitches, although at that point the game was relatively boring anyway). If you followed this one only on Gameday, that’s totally understandable, although that might have been of limited help:
Oh Gameday, it's spring training for all of us pic.twitter.com/WPqgHTmW5s— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 2, 2017
Ariel Miranda got another start as he continues to work on his slider. According to Gameday, every single pitch Miranda threw was a slider. I have some doubts about Miranda suddenly developing a 90-mph slider after throwing it at an average of 82 last year. Top prospect and 80-grade smiler Lewis Brinson gave Miranda a fight in the first at-bat of the game before eventually lining out. After retiring Orlando Arcia quickly on a pop-out—this time I think Gameday is correct in calling the 82 mph pitch a slider—Miranda ran into a little bit of a jam when Travis Shaw, who is apparently a Brewer now, punched a first-pitch single to left field. Old friend Eric Thames was up next, so we were treated to a recounting of Thames robbing Sam Fuld of a hit in the first inning of what would turn out to be Félix’s perfect game. Aw, Eric Thames. We wish the best for you, although not in this particular game. Miranda started out with the slider to Thames but missed, and then panicked and went back to his fastball, which Thames promptly deposited into center field. Miranda would work out of the jam with a little bit of luck on the next batter, Jett Bandy (Jett, short for Jettisoned from the Angels). Miranda went back to his fastball for a called strike, then tried the slider again and missed, so went back to the fastball again, which Bandy clubbed into center field but luckily right at Dyson. It’s clear that Miranda isn’t comfortable enough with the slider to throw it when he’s behind in the count, but the Brewers were getting to his fastball well. I suspect Ethan Katz, who worked with Vieira on developing his slider, will probably have some coaching for Miranda after the game.
The Mariners are serious about stretching out Miranda, who pitched three innings today. In his second inning of work, Miranda started off by walking Scooter Gennett on five pitches, throwing four consecutive fastballs after missing with his first slider. He started the next batter, Manny Pina, out with two more fastballs, both of which missed the zone by a considerable margin, even factoring in Gameday’s day drinking, when Carlos Ruíz decided it was time for a chat with his pitcher. Miranda was able to get a flyball out on the next pitch, a fastball low in the zone. The next batter was Ivan DeJesus, and Miranda got ahead of him 0-2 with two called strikes (one on the slider, one on the fastball) and probably should have had a strikeout on either the next pitch or the one after that, judging from Rizz’s reaction and the boos of a disappointed Peoria crowd. But baseball is a real jerk sometimes, and so is Mother Nature, because after inducing what should have been an easy flyout to left field, Tyler O’Neill lost track of the ball in the wind and the sun for a sun double. They’re Good Dogs Brett Phillips then sacrificed home the Brewers’ first run. Miranda would rebound with the next batter, getting Brinson to line out on three pitches, and then put up a 1-2-3 inning in the third to complete his day. 45 pitches in three innings with just 22 strikes isn’t ideal, but it’s good experience for the young lefty as he continues to work on expanding his arsenal. Even if Miranda winds up in the ‘pen, having more pitches at his disposal to work with will make him all the more dangerous.
Offensively, the Mariners were quiet until the fourth inning, when Nelson Cruz doubled to lead off the inning, and Carlos Ruíz brought Ben Gamel (pinch running for Cruz) home on an RBI single. The Mariners eked out runs in each of the next two innings: in the fifth, when Dan Vogelbach hit a two-out single, was replaced by speedy prospect Braden Bishop, who stole second and then took third on a throwing error before being brought home by an Ben Gamel RBI single; and in the sixth, when the Mariners small-balled their way into another run with a combination of singles and productive outs. The big scoring inning for the Mariners was the seventh, when Sebastian Valle walked with the bases loaded for one run, and then spring hero Guillermo Heredia hit a two-RBI single and took second on the throw, so it counts as a double in our hearts, which is the only place spring training stats matter.
For their part, the Mariners’ relievers held it down well, with only Pat Venditte giving up one other run and every reliever recording at least one strikeout in their inning of work. I have noticed that Servais seems to make no spring training mid-inning pitching substitutions; if it’s your inning, it’s your inning no matter what. Shae Simmons, Nick Hagadone, and Dean Kiekhefer all made their spring training debuts with scoreless innings. Simmons’ fastball was recorded by Gameday at about 93-94 mph, and he impressed with an eleven-pitch battle against Scooter Gennett that ended in a called strike three. That must feel good for Shae, partly because it must be nice to have a healthy inning, but also because you should always get the better of a man named Scooter.
Today was sort of a snoozer, so gold stars to you if you stuck it out the whole time. Tomorrow should be a more interesting game as the M’s travel to Surprise to take on the Rangers. Iwakuma is slated to make his spring training debut.