Spring training isn’t known for can’t-miss action. From its lack of applicability to the regular season to the hordes of fringe major leaguers parading in and out of the lineup, there’s no mistaking it for Sunday Night Baseball. (Although since the M’s have appeared just once on SNB since 2004, so maybe that’s not the best comparison.)
That said, today’s 2–0 loss to the Anaheim-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels did little to break the mold. There were defensive mistakes (J.P. Crawford’s first inning error, Jake Fraley falling down to allow a run-scoring double in the second), there were failures to execute (a botched hit-and-run in the eighth off the bat of Tim Lopes, although that came with a dollop of bad luck), and there were plenty of players I had never heard of (Livan Soto? Luis Aviles Jr.?).
But there were still a few positives to take home from today’s contest. Starting pitcher Justin Dunn, who is very possibly motivated by his snub from Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects list, struck out three in 1.2 innings. He faced a strong Angels lineup — Trout, Ohtani, Rendon, and Upton all started — and did well, allowing just the one aforementioned hit. He also helped the Mariners’ long-term chances by plunking Mike Trout, although that particular course of action isn’t generally encouraged. You don’t love to see allowing a walk and a HBP, but it’s still just March, after all.
I’ll spare you the two steals that Andrelton Simmons notched in that second inning, the second of which came vis-a-vis Patrick Wisdom not paying attention and covering third base. They were, uh, not pretty.
Another bright spot today was Cal Raleigh behind the dish. Though the Florida State product was 0–1 in his only plate appearance, he made a nifty move to catch a runner stealing second.
Been waiting to see Cal Raleigh, who is very underrated as a catcher, throw this ST. Here he is hosing a speedy Jordyn Adams with a perfect throw: pic.twitter.com/kpwfMWbZSi— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 4, 2020
I mean, that is a laser of a throw. If he can back up his bat with a glove like that, I’m officially excited to see him as the backstop of the future for this organization.
The game drifted along aimlessly for a few more innings, with a second run coming in the 7th off Yoshihisa Hirano. The Japanese native, and former Arizona Diamondback, left a couple pitches elevated over the middle of the plate, and Jose Rojas (2B to right) and Justin Upton (1B to left) took advantage.
In other bullpen news, Dan Altavilla, whose last name means high town in
French Spanish, put together a nice five-pitch inning of relief today. Nestor Cortes Jr. threw a pair of scoreless innings with two K’s. And even Brandon Brennan & Taylor Guilbeau saw some action, allowing no runs in 2.1 IP.
The real highlight of today’s “game” action was on the back fields, where Taijuan Walker was dealing:
Yes, yes, spring training stats don’t count, etc. Nobody’s anointing Walker over here. But given that he was apparently in the 85–88 MPH range just a few weeks ago, it’s good to see that his heater velocity hasn’t left him for good.
Walker wasn’t the only Mariner looking extra good on those back fields, per Greg Johns:
Taijuan Walker retired all seven batters he faced in an intersquad 'B" game this morning in Peoria with 2 Ks. Logan Gilbert threw 2 innings with one hit, one BB and 4 Ks.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) March 4, 2020
So, if you will, allow me to dream of Justin Dunn, Taijuan Walker, Logan Gilbert, and Cal Raleigh all maximizing their immense talent. I’m going to spend a lot more time thinking about that than about this 2–0 loss.