PEORIA, Ariz. – Edwin Diaz facing Jean Segura to get the final out of Puerto Rico’s showdown with the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night was perhaps just the start of the fun. We could see many more Mariners showdowns, starting Wednesday night when Felix Hernandez and Drew Smyly take the opposite ends of the mound in a Round 2 matchup between Venezuela and USA.
Based on Twitter reaction, it is easy to tell there has been plenty of viewing interest among Mariners fans. There has also been interest in the clubhouse, manager’s office and the offices upstairs at the Peoria Sports Complex. So, just who do you root for when they will all be wearing the same jersey next week?
“We’re not rooting for one pitcher or the other,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said of the Felix-Smyly matchup. “It’s kind of like your kids – you love them all.”
With that, Dipoto texted a warning to Smyly on Tuesday morning.
“One thing I can virtually assure you is before the end of spring training there will be a morning meeting built around video from this game, somehow,” Dipoto said. “I don’t know how, but somehow.”
Dipoto is perhaps making the most out of what must be a nervous situation, seeing two-fifths of his pitching staff take the hill miles away. He will watch Wednesday night to see where these pitchers are in their preparation for the regular season.
“They are both in the great position of pitching a meaningful game for their countries, which is I think why they went,” Dipoto said. “When both left here, they left here in a really good place. We have not been able to see Drew throw in a week now and would really like to watch him resume where he was.”
While Dipoto will try to watch the matchup like he would a spring outing, there is no denying this one will have a little something extra.
“The most important thing for us is that they throw their pitches and continue to develop their innings load, but in this one I have a feeling it will have more of an internal edge because they know they will have to come back and look at each other in the face in the locker room in about a week,” he said.
It has been 10 days since the middle of the Mariners’ order left camp to go play for the Dominican Republic in the WBC. Shortly after, the closer and three other starters left. Mariners manager Scott Servais has been given the challenge of getting the team ready for a season with an important percentage of that squad missing for a significant amount of time.
“It’s a big part of our club,” Servais said. “I knew coming in this was going to be a different camp. It doesn’t do any good to complain about it or look at it negatively.”
And the matchup of Felix vs. Smyly?
“That will be interesting,” Servais said. “We will be watching.”