Ed. note: Tonight John and I split recapping duties because spring training is long, yo
Back in the recapping swing of things, then. It was a little surreal to turn on this game and see all the places I was, like, yesterday. Hello, yodeling lemonade seller! Hello, churro vendor who trills his R’s like a machine gun! Hello, obnoxious fan who calls everyone by their first name! Wait, I think that one was me. Anyway, as I mentioned on Twitter, the Mariners won a grand total of exactly one (1) game over the week I was at Spring Training, so apparently all that needed to happen for them to get off the desert schneid was for me to leave again. However, that did not save them from the injury schneid, which is an especially schneidy schneid this year:
Ichiro left the game with a tight right calf.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 15, 2018
I felt especially sorry for the hundreds of fans at the ballpark who must have shown up expressly to see Ichiro, excited to see his name atop the lineup. When I was down there, the energy every time he stepped up to bat was palpable; every ball he took was cheered, every strike he took was met with much disdain for the umpire. Every time his bat made contact with the ball it felt like the air sucked out of the stadium for a moment. Sadly, these fans will have to wait to see Ichiro’s first hit in person.
On the plus side, James Paxton had his best outing of the spring yet. He carved through the first inning, throwing 12 of his 15 pitches for strikes en route to striking out the side, including Buster Posey. His velocity was up around 96-97 and the secondary pitches looked sharp. Big Maple ran into a little bit of trouble in the second when he surrendered a leadoff double to Evan Longoria, but escaped the inning with just one run thanks in part to this defensive gem:
He returned in the third to strike out the side (for seven on the day, woot!) and would collect two more outs before being lifted for the decidedly less exciting Christian Bergman, who hung in there for two and a third innings, only surrendering one run, which hey, good job Metal Dad, go get yourself a rare 7-inch on us.
Meanwhile, the Mariners managed to scrape together some offense, thanks primarily to Mike Marjama, who continues to impress this spring. He was involved in a small-ball run in the fourth and also showed off his pop with this solo blast off actual MLB player Derek Holland:
Good job, guys. I’m not mad you didn’t do this while I was around. Not at all.
This game began just after the end of an exhilarating matchup between the high school JV baseball team I coach and a suburban foe. We emerged victorious, as was to be expected, and as I turned on the game’s later innings on my ride home, I was pleased to see I’d completely bypassed the Christian Bergman portion of the game that followed James Paxton’s first strong outing of the spring. It would be a real catch-22 if Pax has been using a John Coffey-like magic to absorb the injuries of his teammates over the past couple season but decided to maintain his own health in 2018 and let his teammates fend for themselves.
After Ichiro and Jean Segura left this game with leg strains, there was concern of a full deluge, but those actions appear to have been a case of extreme caution. With Segura sidelined, the Mariners were treated to a nice game from back-that-thing-all-the-way-up shortstop Zach Vincej.
Vincej is a Martin Freeman impersonator who is also possibly the second-best shortstop in the Mariners organization at the moment, but was slipped through waivers earlier this offseason and lacks, to this point, the positional versatility of Andrew Romine and Taylor Motter. Vincej put on a display (that rhymes, so I’ll thank you to be appropriately impressed), knocking a base-hit up the middle, stealing a base, and making a couple solid plays defensively. The final play of the game saw him nabbing a slow roller with a runner on third and making a strong throw to avoid the indignity of free Spring Training baseball and/or a tie. It’d be a shock if Vincej has an impact above Tacoma in the immediate future, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
More germane to the players in proximity of the Opening Day roster, Mitch Haniger drove a baseball halfway up the batter’s eye at Peoria Stadium in the 5th inning for his first Spring Training home run. In a week marked by players being pulled out of games, it’s been nice to see Haniger hop in and look comfortable. “Spring Training” me all you want: you don’t hit a ball that far without your hands feeling healthy. That the homer came off of *spins Generic National League Reliever Name Machine* Derek Law and not *spins Generic Double-A Reliever Name Machine* Eric Karch is also a positive.
In other parts of the outfield, El Conde made another encouraging step towards Opening Day readiness. Capping off a 3-for-4 day, Guillermo Heredia turned on a Sam Dyson fastball like it was April 16th, 2017, depositing it on the warning track for a standup RBI double.
More compelling was the reason this double was an RBI: Mike Zunino had been pinch-run for moments before by Mariners INF prospect Bryson Brigman. If the Mariners are to overcome their baserunning woes, perhaps they can manage some sort of buddy system like this in-season with some of their fleet-footed but power-challenged prospects.
The game was closed out by David Phelps and Shawn Armstrong, neither of whom looked particularly sharp, but got the job done. Armstrong’s slider was difficult to handle for hitters, Tuffy Gosewisch, and Armstrong himself. Despite a wild pitch, Armstrong was bailed out by his defense, as Vincej’s aforementioned play was preceded by a leaping snag by 2B Danny Muno and a diving stop by *squints* 1B Daniel Vogelbach, am I reading this correctly?
Well I’ll be. Between this and his first-to-third hustle in the second inning, someone seems to have substituted Shortstopbach for Firstbasebach. Apparently the cloning took after all. Good job, Large Adult Son(s).