On a not-very-springlike day in Seattle, the Mariners made their 2019 nighttime debut. And while the pitching staff chose to emulate the gross rain-snow mix coming down up near the 48th parallel, Seattle’s young outfielders — namely Domingo Santana, Braden Bishop, and Kyle Lewis — flashed just enough to remind us that springtime is, assuredly, just around the corner in a 7–4 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Let’s start with a reminder: Spring training games don’t count. David Freitas admitted to as much in an in-game interview with the ROOT broadcasters, noting that starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc was “working on a few things” during their bullpen session and the game itself. That much was evident in the second inning, when the A’s strung together four consecutive hits, including a pair of extra-base hits from Josh Phegley and Sheldon Neuse, to take a 2–0 lead. Just an inning later, LeBlanc ceded a four-pitch walk and followed that up with a 1–1 middle-in pitch to Mark Canha, which he promptly knocked out of the park to put the A’s up four.
LeBlanc finished with five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in 3.2 innings, and following him came a parade of fringe-y relievers (although based on the current state of the Mariners’ bullpen, one could classify nearly every reliever as fringe-y) who mostly limited the damage.
The real highlights came on the offensive side of things. First, in the third inning, we got a towering shot from Domingo Santana:
S H W M I N G #MarinersST x Domingo Santana pic.twitter.com/Oy5NFDUhKl— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 7, 2019
Santana’s raw strength here is evident — he takes a pitch that’s over the plate, but on the outer half, and puts it halfway up the batter’s eye in center field. That’s quite a shot! Even given the Arizona winds and the less-than-stellar pitching that one often sees in spring training, it remains impressive. Plus, it’s fun to peek at Santana’s .444/.500/1.167 line (in 20 plate appearances) and just gape. Showmingo has four dingers thus far in spring and figures to showcase his lighttower power all season long.
In the fourth inning, Braden Bishop showed us what’s up with an impressive homer of his own:
ELEVATE ✅— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 7, 2019
CELEBRATE ✅#MarinersST x @bradenbishop7 pic.twitter.com/uHRgO1Pckz
If we’re going to take anything away from this spring training game, this is my top choice. With Mallex Smith still on the mend following his elbow injury, Bishop and his elite CF defense stand a decent chance of making the Mariners’ 28-man roster for the Japan Series in a few weeks. In this at-bat, he’s facing an honest-to-God major leaguer in Ryan Buchter, and he clobbers a pitch left up over the plate.
Good hitters take advantage of these kinds of mistakes, but even so, taking that pitch and depositing it over the left-center fence shows impressive strength and bat skills. The knock on Bishop has always been his bat, and specifically his power; this one example doesn’t prove anything but it could easily assuage some of the doubts about his readiness to handle major league pitching.
Finally, former first-round pick/jewel of the Mariners’ system Kyle Lewis had a nice double off the base of the wall in the seventh inning.
Kyle Lewis continues looking like a guy ready for big things down the road. Double to deep center in the 7th. He's 5-for-11 with two doubles and two HRs this spring.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) March 7, 2019
This strong spring certainly gives hope to Mariners fans hoping for a return to form for the former Mercer outfielder. Lewis was seen as a steal when the Mariners grabbed him at #11 in the 2016 draft, but a vicious knee injury suffered in Everett that summer kept him out for much of 2017. The after-effects were visible last year as Lewis struggled between A+ Modesto and AA Arkansas.
If Lewis can rediscover his old approach and work to quiet his leg kick just a bit, it’s not hard to imagine him charging up prospect lists, perhaps all the way to the Top 100 with a big half-season to start the year. His upside remains among the highest in the system.
Otherwise, this game was a pretty typical spring training contest. The Player Cast gave us a few innings featuring the delightful RRS Australian accent. Dan Wilson and Mike Blowers, and later Dave Sims, went over the Mariners commercials with all of us, with significant laughter coming after the Crafty Lefties ad and debatably real laughter coming after the Hanimal Fanimal ad.
Tomorrow’s contest against the Cincinnati Reds (also known as the 2019 NL bandwagon team of choice of former staff member Isabelle Minasian) starts at 5:05pm, though it’ll be a radio exclusive.