If you were looking for a game to sell you some possibility on the young Seattle Mariners roster, tonight was the night.
Facing the reigning NL Cy Young winner and newly highest annually paid pitcher in MLB history, Trevor Bauer, the M’s were stymied for the first few innings despite some sharp contact from LF Taylor Trammell and SS J.P. Crawford. Seattle’s near full A-team put together some decent plate appearances over the first four innings, but had just a single hit to show for it.
And then came the fifth.
Evan, José and Mitch with some LOUD NOISES— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 23, 2021
To hear Bauer tell it, after four good innings, he stopped focusing in the 5th after working on sequencing in the first four innings and he was just trying to get his pitch count up to the limit where he’d be pulled in the 5th. While I’m sure there’s varying degrees of focus involved, the pitches the M’s clobbered were a 3-1 fastball to Evan White that nearly cleared the batter’s eye, a 1-0 fastball up and in out of the zone that José Marmolejos managed to turn around, and a 2-0 curveball on the outside corner that Mitch Haniger obliterated. The M’s got ahead in the count and punished mistakes, which is what you’d hope for from a young team facing the best team in the league.
Under mistakes that went less punished, the Dodgers’ main scoring came on a two-run homer from Chris Taylor off Justus Sheffield, who looked otherwise solid mixing pitches and avoiding long counts. When he exited at 4.2 innings, he’d thrown just 78 pitches, and with some good work he could’ve easily gone six or more. Sheffield’s 2020 was a huge step in the right direction results-wise, but he’s got a long ledger of being a K or BB guy in the minors and a far shorter track record as a more contact-managing guy with a wipeout slider he can go to as needed. More of that will be good, and less of ill-fated glove heaves like this, from the fan in the light blue.
The pitching was capable if unassuming behind Sheffield, with Rafael Montero looking slowly sharper, and Joey Gerber looking more like the guy he has in the minors with explosive velocity and deception.
Seattle spent the 5th inning on dedicated to hard contact, with Evan White crushing a laser on a good slider that found a glove, Kyle Seager clobbering two doubles into deep right center including one with bases loaded, and Taylor Trammell smashing a similar shot off Blake Treinen at 97 mph that unfortunately went directly at Mookie Betts in right field. Not recommended, Taylor, that’s a big league tip from me to you.
A couple smaller notes that may be something, may be nothing...
- Sheffield’s mechanics looked ever so slightly different today, in my longest look at him this spring. I can’t explain precisely what it is without consulting more video, but I believe he’s just a hair slower with everything, particularly with breaking his hands,
This could be absolutely nothing, it’s just something slightly different and I’m curious if the oft-overeager Sheffield has been working on weaving Marco-esque self-pacing into his windup as well.
- Evan White was choking up tonight a smidge, and I’m not sure if that’s a long-term thing or just something he’s fiddling with, but if tonight’s an indication he can handle big league velo and still deal damage while doing it.
- Tonight’s 7-3 win came on the heels of the club making a series of roster moves.
The majority of the moves are mostly paper changes, all the “minor league camp” pitchers can still appear in Cactus League games like Vinny Nittoli did in the 5th tonight. But Yohan Ramírez being optioned to the alternate site means better odds of a few of the fringier, less optionable relievers making the cut. Gerson Bautista also was released, after having signed a minor league deal post-2020 to remain with the M’s instead of electing free agency initially. Seattle can’t be too upset about how the Robinson Canó/Edwin Díaz trade has worked out, but this is likely the end of the line here for one of its members. It’s also a recognition of the depth of arms Seattle will be trying to get work throughout its system that a 100-mph caliber hurler who was at one time in the club’s top-20 prospects has become, albeit through injury and ineffectiveness, an afterthought.