After a long layoff where players were locked out of training facilities and late to return to spring training, some degree of sloppiness is to be expected, even above that of the typical early spring training contest. Crisp baseball, this was not, as the Mariners fell to the Padres, 4-6, to notch their first loss of 2022. However, some players looked crispier than others, so let’s dive a little deeper:
Crispness level: freshly changed sheets, Egyptian cotton, 800 thread count
Marco was slated to go three innings to open his 2022 season, and he worked through those three innings looking like Exactly Marco Gonzales, pounding the strike zone, mostly locating his pitches, inducing weak contact. He gave up one big hit, a double to Profar, and suffered a bad-luck run scored against him on a fielding error, but overall Marco looked well ahead of where I might have expected given the extended lockout. The changeup, especially, looked to be in mid-season form, which is a good sign since the changeup is so integral to Marco’s success as a pitcher:
Lots of expected sloppiness in this first spring training game but one thing that looks very sharp already is Marco's changeup pic.twitter.com/3wKG6xDM1b— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 18, 2022
Mariners defense not named Marcus Wilson
There were lots of little hiccups in the fielding, but a couple that particularly stung. One, when a ball carried a little further than Jarred Kelenic expected in center field, and he leaped and came up with empty air. For those looking for reassurances that Kelenic can hold down center field for the Mariners this season, this was...not that, but spring training skies are notoriously tricky, it was literally the first inning of the first game, and Jarred in particular has struggled in several of my looks with adjusting to the sky in Arizona in a way he doesn’t seem to struggle in Tacoma, Arkansas, or even Seattle. So we will put that aside for now, although not without some misgivings.
The other error that truly stung was a throwing error on new third baseman Eugenio Suárez that allowed a run to score. Suárez is adjusting to a lot right now, including being named the Mariners’ full-time third baseman, so all the usual caveats apply, but it’s kind of a bummer to see a player with that many spring trainings behind him not make a routine play.
Speaking of routine plays, Noelvi Marte made two of them in two chances at shortstop, and then made a poor decision to attempt a spin move and throw on a hard-hit ball that caromed off the mound that he probably should have just eaten. The throw went wild, and the play looked worse than it needed to, although thankfully didn’t incur any damage on the scoreboard.
A bright spot in today’s defensive slopfest was Marcus Wilson, who made two excellent plays in right field, battling the sun and a strong wind blowing out to right.
Festa also got some help from Marcus Wilson on this catch. Wilson is a former ranked Red Sox prospect with excellent speed and plus raw power. pic.twitter.com/wkJ8Ya4EVN— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 18, 2022
Crispness level: microwaved Taco Bell cheesy gordita crunch
After returning from injury late last year, Matt Festa carried the strong finish to his 2022 season in Tacoma over into spring training, working his fastball and sweeping slider effectively. Pre-TJ surgery, Festa’s fastball was more a 93-94 MPH offering, but has reportedly added several ticks. Devin Sweet looked sharp in his 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts, flashing his elite changeup. Penn Murfee also had a solid inning; he walked the first batter he saw and allowed a single before settling down to strike out the side. The rest of the relief corps didn’t fare so well; Travis Kuhn battled his command and surrendered a three-run homer to new Padre Jorge Alfaro, and Michael Stryffler also had trouble landing his fastball in the zone. Minor-league signing Matthew Koch also got hit around some, giving up a wind-aided solo home run to Nomar Mazara.
You know what home run wasn’t wind-aided?
Crispness level: the ashes of a forgotten planet that fell into the sun, doused with lighter fluid by an overeager amateur barbecue enthusiast and relit in a spectacular column of fire only to burn to a crisp once more
JOLY JELL JULIO pic.twitter.com/FQKFx7BBGa— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 18, 2022
I thought that ball had gone foul based on his reaction out of the box. Angel Felipe snuck two breaking balls past Julio for two called strikes, and then tried to go to that well again. Julio was not about to let him do it a third time. Julio also took a walk in his second plate appearance, showing some good discipline against Steven Wilson, a dark horse candidate for the Padres bullpen in 2022 (he also attempted a steal of second but was thrown out).
Crispness level: A perfectly cooked wood-fired pizza from Pizzeria Bianco
Julio got a significant roar of applause when he stepped up for his first plate appearance after coming in as a defensive replacement midgame, and he paid the crowd back by putting on the J-Rod Show. But the crowd of 5600 was loud and engaged the whole time, with plenty of Mariners fans showing up and showing out, bringing tons of energy to a game that could have felt very sleepy. Welcome back, fans, and welcome back, baseball.