Where were you for the Alberto Rodríguez redemption game?
After being cut off the 40-man roster this past off-season after a disappointing 2022, Alberto Rodríguez has come into spring training with a laser focus on showing the Mariners what kind of player he really is. He’s made some excellent plays in the field, come up with a walkoff double, and tonight had one of the Mariners’ biggest hits of the spring on a night when the rest of the offense was sleepy/nonexistent. Let’s all put on our Berto-colored glasses and reflect.
Logan Gilbert made the start for the Mariners and his fastball had a little less zip tonight, starting out around 95 in the first inning before dipping down to 93-94 in the second, but he generally threw it for strikes. He also threw a handful of curveballs that served as good change-of-pace pitches but he struggled to land for strikes, although he did elicit some weak contact and foul balls.
The Dodgers did make some powerful contact off Gilbert—Miguel Rojas, going after the first pitch he saw, scalded a 95 mph fastball past a diving J.P. Crawford, and then Max Muncy also got after a fastball that luckily floated just to the right of the foul pole, saving the Mariners from falling behind 2-0 early on, although he’d later single anyway off an 84 mph...split change, maybe?
I’m not sure what it was, honestly. Gilbert’s velocity was literally all over the map tonight; he threw his fastball anywhere between 93 and 97 mph, his curve exactly at 81 except for the one he threw at 78, and then a bunch of other pitches that might have been sliders and might have been that new split change. It was effective, however, as other than those two hits, the Dodgers didn’t get anything else off Gilbert over his three innings of work.
Opposing Gilbert, Dodgers starter Michael Grove sliced through the Mariners lineup easily in his three innings of work, eliciting lots of weak contact. In the first inning, he expertly controlled an at-bat against Jarred Kelenic where he attacked Kelenic with off-speed, dialed it up to 96 for a swinging strike, and then went back to his breaking ball for a swinging strikeout.
Emerson Hancock followed Gilbert for two innings of work, the first time I’ve gotten to see him pitch live. Hancock did not draw an easy assignment, facing the teeth of tonight’s Dodgers lineup, as it was, in Max Muncy and Chris Taylor, but he handled himself well against Muncy, getting him reaching after a changeup for an easy flyout, and retiring Taylor on an easy ground ball to J.P. Crawford at short, also on the changeup. However, then Hancock seemed to lose the handle some, issuing back-to-back free passes to James Outman and Michael Busch as he fell behind each hitter 2-0 and struggled to work his way back into the count. Hancock was finally able to clear the inning by getting Jonny DeLuca to pop out easily on a changeup.
Hancock’s second inning of work was similarly fraught, this time from the jump. Facing Yonny Hernández, Hancock got ahead 1-2 before allowing the count to run full. With Hancock’s fastball dipping down to 92-93 mph, Hernández put a mighty hurting on a ball for a leadoff triple. To his credit, however, Hancock buttoned it down, striking out Patrick Mazeika and Jason Heyward back-to-back—dialing it up to 94 on the swinging strikeout to Mazeika and getting Heyward with the fastball—before getting Rojas to fly out easily on the changeup, no harm done.
Unfortunately, “no harm done” also largely describes the Mariners offense tonight. J.P. Crawford and Kole Calhoun teamed up twice to give the Mariners two base runners in the fifth and seventh innings, but each time their gifts were squandered. Not nice, guys!
I had this recap all written out and was ready to push “send” until the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and two strikes. First, Alberto Rodríguez absolutely lashed a fastball from Tyler Cyr over the right-field wall that would have given the Mariners a 2-1 lead but it just....went foul. The foul pole giveth and taketh, I wrote sagely, saying a little thank-you to the baseball gods for the symmetry.
But then, Cyr decided to throw him that pitch again, and this time Berto directed the ball to center-right:
Alberto Rodríguez: HERO MODE ENGAGE pic.twitter.com/9JcfgPXeuL— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 9, 2023
Unfortunately, Devin Sweet gave up the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth, but still: a good night for Bertos everywhere.
Compass points of interest:
- Manning center field tonight, Jarred Kelenic did everything he could to will the Mariners to a victory. After feeling rightfully annoyed about being punched out handily by Grove in the first, he came back in his next at-bat to work a walk, and if a walk could be taken angrily, that’s what he did. He then went on to steal second, because if you give a Kelenic a cookie, showing a nice jump and impressive top speed.
- Tom Murphy hit a ball very hard, and also struck out. Such is the duality of Tom Murphy. Unfortunately this unseasonable cold in Arizona meant the well-hit ball did not go over the fence, where it should have gone, and instead landed safely in an outfielder’s glove.
- Trevor Gott pitched in this game. He did fine.
- Penn Murfee also pitched in this game. He also did fine, although he was also helped out by this very nice running catch by Alberto Rodríguez, who had his hero hat on the entire time he was in the game:
- Taylor Dollard made his Cactus League debut and was the only pitcher to give up a run. The Dodgers were not at all tempted by his low-90s fastball and changeup, which is a little troubling because the Dodgers hitters in question were [checks notes] Hunter Feduccia, Jorbit Vivas, and Eddys Leonard. Not exactly the most frightening bunch, but we’ll give Dollard a pass since it was his first time in game action this spring.
- Riley O’Brien came in to tidy up after Dollard and promptly got Devin Mann to strike out swinging as he went chasing after 81 in the dirt. O’Brien has looked pretty sharp this spring.
Tomorrow’s game is a scrimmage against Team Canada. We’ll resume regular coverage on Friday.