Spring training games aren’t about winning and losing, and what happens in the spring doesn’t predict the next six months. Everyone knows this. That being said, this year’s spring training might be a little closer to what the Mariners’ regular season looks like than in previous years—young players struggling and succeeding and struggling again while being overmatched by more veteran competition. That was the case today as the Mariners dropped another spring training game, bringing their record to 4-11, good for the bottom of the Cactus League and trailing just the Pirates and their .200 winning percentage for worst in spring training. Thankfully, the two best players for the Mariners today were two of the team’s young core who Mariners fans will get a steady dose of in 2020 and beyond.
The Mariners, as they often have this spring, struggled offensively in this game, despite a promising early showing from J.P. Crawford, who hit his second triple of the weekend.
He even hit it to the exact same spot as in Friday’s night’s win over the Dodgers, a scorcher down the right field line that scored the seasoned Carlos Gonzalez from first base. A brief note of appreciation for González, who was on base after working a nine-pitch walk from Jeff Samardzija: I still miss Denard Span (Denard5Ever), but it’s sure nice to have a player around who is capable of turning in a Veteran At-Bat. CarGo had a single for himself as well, as did Austin Nola, who continues to be thrillingly capable. It was also a nice day for Kyle Lewis, who had a walk and a single of his own and didn’t strike out once.
The Mariners also got a lift from
Donnie Donovan Walton, who cemented his Grit Lord status by walloping this homer into the “Charro Lodge” at Scottsdale Stadium, scattering a cluster of tech bros:
Pitching-wise, Justus Sheffield had a big game, opening with a near-immaculate inning where he struck out Mike Yastrzemski and Evan Longoria on three pitches each, then got Hunter Pence to pop out on the infield. Sheffield looked very sharp over his three innings of work, striking out five, although he did allow a double to Darren Ruf, who has been taking his Mike Trout pills apparently (three doubles on the day); Ruf then scored when a ground ball snuck past J.P. Crawford. Still, though, it was a monster day from Sheff, who apparently debuted a new sinking fastball, although all his swinging strikeouts came on the slider (and maybe one or two on the changeup? It was hard to tell as the Giants broadcast kept cutting away for dugout interviews). We’ll have a more in-depth look at Sheff’s outing sometime this week, including the new sinker, but for now please glory in the beauty of this death slider:
The rest of the pitching staff fared...not so well. Sam Delaplane came in to replace Sheff in the fourth and really struggled with his location, putting a ball right in Hunter Pence’s sweet spot that was redirected a very long way over the left field wall, and later missing his spot again for a home run to right off the bat of Jaylin Davis. It was a very uncharacteristic outing for Delaplane, who gave up four home runs all of last season, and another reminder that the journey to the bigs isn’t a smooth one.
Carl Edwards Jr. also struggled in his inning, giving up three runs on three hits; the curveball looked good at times but wound up spiked in the dirt a lot, creating even more trouble for him on the bases other than the three (!) doubles he gave up. Danny Bañuelos also got tagged for two runs as he worked in cleanup duty in the seventh and eighth innings. Bañuelos, who is very much Wade LightBlanc, showed an ability to spot pitches and induce weak contact, but he also struggled with command at times, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch in his second inning of work.
One bright spot for the bullpen—and again, good news for the 2020 team—is that Gerson Bautista again looked very sharp in his inning of work. Bautista worked a 1-2-3 inning, with two groundouts and a strikeout. The strikeout was on the slider, which continues to look much improved from last year:
This gif is super dark because the Giants broadcast shoved him in a corner (no one puts Bautista in a corner), but I submit again that Gerson Bautista's slider is the most improved pitch of camp this year. So much tighter and a legitimate out pitch now to pair with his high heat. pic.twitter.com/QAD6YKvPJA— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 8, 2020
The Mariners take on the Brewers in a night game (7:05) tomorrow. It’s a radio-only game, but I will—provided nothing goes wrong with my travel [knocks on all available wood]—be in attendance at that game, so follow the LL account on Twitter for game updates and hopefully some video.