Sunday, Spring Training, and non-televised is the trifecta of “games that fly under the radar,” so in case you missed it, here are some highlights from the Mariners’ 4-2 win over the Rockies today at Salt River Fields:
- Wade LeBlanc got the start and surrendered two runs, including a home run to Nolan Arenado, one of three Rockies players I recognized today. After the game he said he felt better than he had in bullpens, but he struggled with the cutter today. He noted he got swings and misses on his changeup, though, which surprised him at how early that came along, as that’s a “hand feel” pitch that doesn’t usually come along until later in camp.
- Justus Sheffield made his Spring debut after being slowed some by a blister and got into a jam in his first inning of work with a leadoff walk (the batter then stole second); he says he didn’t feel like he had a command issue on the walk, but rather that he got two quick strikes and then got too fine trying to come up with the putaway pitch. After a catcher interference call on Lobaton wiped out an easy popup, the jam had thickened with just one out and a runner on second, and a wild pitch from Justus moved the runner to third. However, Justus composed himself and struck out Ian Desmond and Chris Iannetta to escape the inning unscathed. Justus said Dee Gordon was coaching him up on the infield, helping him stay calm, and praised his teammates and the laid-back vibe of camp. His second inning was a much tighter 1-2-3 inning with a groundout and another two strikeouts. Justus’s fastball sat at 93, and he also threw his slider and changeup for strikes.
- So about that catcher interference call: we’re only three games and two innings into Spring Training, but it’s quickly becoming apparent the catcher situation is, like Jersey Shore alum The Situation, no good, and possibly guilty of tax evasion. Some of this is undoubtedly new friends getting to know each other, but the lack of a true defensive specialist is a problem. Martín Maldonado is out there, Mariners. Go get him. Don’t be cheap.
- Erik Swanson, another piece in the Paxton trade, also made his organizational debut, although it didn’t go as well as Sheffield’s. Swanson fell behind the first batter he faced 2-0 before getting a groundout, and then walked the next two batters he faced. A flyout from Brendan Rogers and a strikeout of Michael Saunders (RIP) later, Swanson was out of the inning, but it was definitely shaky.
- After Wade gave up two runs, the bullpen held the Rockies down for the remaining seven innings. Tommy Milone pitched two scoreless innings, Robin Leyer had one, and Matt Tenuta—acquired from the Royals for a dollar last season—worked his way out of a jam in the ninth to earn a save. The pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this point in camp, but it will be interesting to see who challenges for bullpen spots in Tacoma and on the big-league club.
- The Mariners would get their first run in the second on an RBI single from Jake Fraley, but that part isn’t important, the important part is the run that scored was Ichiro, because he walked and then ICHIRO STOLE A BASE:
- The Mariners took the lead in the sixth with contributions from two of the new guys: Shed Long (of course) and Dom Thompson-Williams. Shedric the Awesome also had a stolen base. How awesome is Shed Long? He prompted this colorful quote from Scott Servais, a man not known for colorful quotes:
Shed Long with RBI single today and now has HR, two 2Bs and a single in first 3 games, though the doubles got wiped out by rain.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) February 24, 2019
Servais: "My eyes are wide open on Shed Long. ... He's an electric body. He likes to get out here and have fun and has some swag to his game."
Servais sings the body electric for Shed Long? Sure.
- There’s no video of this, but apparently Evan White made a nice play on a soft grounder, running to first and diving into the base just ahead of the runner. One thing that I haven’t seen much in scouting reports on White is the level of effort he gives—every play, in every situation, including the seventh inning of a Spring Training game. He’s a lot of fun to watch. (When you can watch him. Which was not today.)
Tomorrow the Mariners are back in action and back on TV when they take on Cincinnati at 12:10. That’s Shed’s former team, so we expect to see some hijinks.