The spring only sighed/The summer had to be satisfied/The fall is a feeling that I/I just can’t lose...
There’s never been an earlier beginning to the Mariners season, and as a result never an earlier conclusion to their Major League Spring Training. The last time Seattle ventured to Japan to debut their season, their flight wasn’t until March 22nd, with Opening Day coming March 28th. On that day, Dustin Ackley homered off Brandon McCarthy to give Seattle an early lead. Today, in the team’s final stateside tune-up, a day after Ackley’s release, Ryon Healy took it upon himself to provide a burst of power.
Marco Gonzales wasn’t sharp, walking three even as he K’d five in 2.2 IP. He’d be bailed out eventually by the offense, but he saddled all four runs and would need to be relieved by Art Warren before the third inning’s conclusion. From there it was smooth sailing for the pitching staff. Warren’s command looked rusty, as he continues to work back from shoulder issues, but Roenis Elías looked dynamite.
A great curveball often seems to translate better to a televised broadcast angle than the increasingly-popular tight slider, but we are fortunate to have Roenis’ to enjoy as a result. Shawn Armstrong, Zac Rosscup, and Matt Festa all struggled with command at moments, but successfully slipped past the Giants’ B-team, which would dig several letters deeper on most clubs. They gave the offense a chance to mount a comeback. With the assistance of Cameron Maybin, a comeback indeed they delivered.
Jay Bruce played a role in a couple rallies, doubling twice by hexing line drives towards Maybin in right that the normally capable OF could not handle. Ryon Healy drove Bruce in with the dinger above on his first, then delivered a double of his own in the 4th to cash in Bruce’s replacement: pinch-runner Braden Bishop. The contact was excellent from Ryon, and the kind he’s always been capable of but needed to deliver with greater frequency. Both bashes came off Derek Holland, which is neither stiff MLB competition nor a AA reliever, so judge that as you will.
Despite Healy’s contributions the Mariners were forced to explore alternative offensive sources, and discovered one in Dee Gordon. Dee hit a normal line drive to right field, driving Maybin to his right, but the slight ranging was all he needed and Gordon turned the single into a double. A sac fly and a sharp groundout later and the score was tied 4-4. Edwin Encarnación continued to look lost at the plate, but he’ll have a week to calibrate before the games count in the Tokyo Dome on the 20th.
The victory was sealed in the 7th, as the youngsters took the field against Tyler Beede, who you’ve probably heard a lot about if you are a prospect hound or, like me, attended college with about 15 fervent Giants fans, and perhaps not otherwise. Beede’s story, oversimplified, is one of starter stuff and size but reliever control. He wasn’t necessarily to blame for LF Anthony Garcia absolutely whiffing on a deep fly ball by Tim Beckham that became a double, but after a line drive single to 2B Johnny Adams and a base-hit on an infield chopper up the middle from JULIOOOO (one of two!), Beede’s command began to hurt him. He got ahead of Jarred Kelenic 1-2 (as he had with Julio) before spiking a couple curveballs and missing wide with a heater to walk the lefty and load the bases for Daniel Vogelbach.
One azure-clad fan in particular was watching eagerly all inning, having managed to give the Peoria ushers the slip and secure pristine seating. He was as devastated as anyone when Vogelbach missed turning Beede’s 3-1 heater into an advance scout bound for Japan.
His evening was not to be ruined, even as Vogelbach ultimately struck out, as Beede was replaced by former Mariners reliever Pat Venditte. Working from the right side, Venditte was bested by Braden Bishop to the tune of a 2-RBI double.
A seeing-eye single from Donnie Walton scored Kelenic, locking the final score at 8-4, and setting the sun on the final night the Mariners will spend in Peoria this spring. Tomorrow they’ll fly for Tokyo, leaving behind their minor leaguers and a conspicuously empty space while the rest of the league is only just hitting their stride. The season is about to begin. Grab those flying shoes.