The on-field events of Spring Training can only tell us so much. With its odd scheduling, roster-jumbling ways, the Cactus League is more for remembering how baseball works than making any sort of prognostications. With that said, there are certainly things to be gleaned from each game, even if we understand that they are not gospel heading into the regular season.
For instance, I do not think Patrick Wisdom is actually incapable of hitting the ball, but his prolonged struggles this spring have been a growing cause for concern. Conversely, I don’t think Tim Lopes is the next Howie Kendrick, but I also think this heater he’s working on has earned him a spot on the roster. The one thing anyone who watched today’s game can agree on, though, even after removing hyperbole and other Spring Training caveats, is that Mallex Smith is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
We could listen to Mallex Smith and Ken Griffey Jr. ALL DAY. pic.twitter.com/bfN0TTlf5O— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 7, 2020
The Mariners cycled through several less-engaging players today, particularly on the pitcher’s mound. With news that Kendall Graveman couldn’t go due to sickness, Seattle called upon Zac Grotz, who is Kendall Graveman with the crust cut off. Grotz, one of approximately 47 relievers fighting for an Opening Day job, did well to keep the A’s off the board. In two innings Grotz got two strikeouts while keeping Oakland hitless, easily dispelling Major Leaguers Robbie Grossman, Tony Kemp, and Sean Murphy.
After Mallex and Griffey offered us an illuminating look into rich guy life (Mallex: “What you know about red bottoms? Griffey: If my wife goes shopping and buys five things, she has to get me at least one), Grotz sent Mallex and his microphone walking way. The two clean innings from Grotz, ending with a double play from A’s minor-leaguer Jonah Heim, were a great “right now” moment from the 27-year-old righty. With his slightly advanced age, though, you have to wonder if his realistic MLB days are gone, or if he’ll come down to the wire when the Mariners make their final cuts.
Grotz and the mic’d up session were done after about 30 minutes, and I’ll be honest, this is about where I started to lose interest. The constant reminders of how good Oakland pitcher Jesús Luzardo can be were a reason to stick around though, in a cute little masochistic type of way. The A’s slider machine went 3.1 innings, getting eight of his ten outs via the strikeout. Fear not, though, our division rival may have a polished, left-handed pitching maven ready to take the league by storm at 22, but the Mariners have Tom Murphy.
Murphy stands to be some of the intrigue during this upcoming year that desperately calls for it. Sure, other AL West teams get to watch the best player ever, or go for a third straight playoff spot, or use satellites and Morse code in a way they will assure you doesn’t actually impact the game. But in a season where Seattle is essentially biding its time until their competition starts to waver, watching Murphy and Austin Nola handle the catching duties will be a fun case study in buying low and hoping for great returns. Speaking of catching, Cal Raleigh does it in such an enchanting way.
Seattle’s final highlight of the day came from Paddington’s favorite player: José Marmolejos. He followed Murphy’s home run to left with his own home run to right two batters later. As this came in a Spring Training game from a relatively unknown player, I could not find video of it so you’ll just have to trust me. I can tell you that Marmolejos hit .315/.366/.545 with a 117 wRC+ in 382 plate appearances for the Nationals’ AAA squad last year and seems likely headed for the same level in the Mariners’ system.
The Mariners lost 8-4 as they couldn’t figure out Oakland’s thatch-headed reliever Jordan Weems or stop the opposition from hitting home runs on a windy day in Peoria. They’ll play again tomorrow against the Giants at 1:05, although that game will not be televised, which means we won’t be able to get any juicy nuggets like the ones that came from Saturday’s broadcast.
· Cal Raleigh lacerated a ball down the line for an RBI double.
· Seattle’s bullpen was a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
~ Taylor Guilbeau: 1.1 IP / 2 H / 3 ER / 2 BB / 2 K
~ Brandon Brennan: 1.2 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 K
~ Yoshihisa Hirano: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 0 K
~ Dan Altavilla: 1 IP / 4 H / 3 ER / 0 BB / 1 K
~ Jack Anderson: 1 IP / 1 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 2 K
~ Pen Murfee: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 1 K
· Julio Rodriguez had a bad day. He struck out swinging in his only plate appearance and also forgot how many outs there were after making a catch in right field, allowing a runner to advance as he calmly jogged toward the dugout.
· Angie Mentink complained about the way Hollywood casts baseball players.
· Bill Krueger said The Natural was “expertly filmed”.
· Mike Blowers told a story of having to play left field after one of his teammates got injured. According to him, a ball was hit over his head, sending him back toward the wall as Ken Griffey Jr. hollered “You’re good, you’re good. You got room.” Apparently Blowers did not, in fact, have room. As Blowers told it, he made the catch only to immediately eat some fence. Griffey came over to dust him off and said “You’re an infielder. If I had been yelling ‘Wall, wall, wall’ you would have been too scared to even go back there and make the play.”
· Ryan Rowland-Smith dropped the industry term “jic”, short for Just in Case guy, in reference to the Spring Training players with numbers in the 90s that show up for the final few innings.
· Both Kyle Lewis and Brandon Brennan expressed their appreciation for the 2004 flick Wedding Crashers.
· I discovered that Dan Altavilla has his ears pierced. I now desperately need to see him with the DK Metcalf dangly earring.