By Shannon Drayer
Full disclosure here: I am not in Peoria. I am home for a few days. On that note, where is all the rain everyone has been talking about? Good to be home regardless.
Spring training is long, but Mariners spring training is usually longer because they almost always open the season on the road. Being away until April 7 was just too long for me so I am here through Monday and will be back at it on Tuesday in Peoria. It is good to get away not only to get the break and see family and friends but also to take my eyes off the Mariners for a few days. When you are immersed in something seven days a week you need to step away every now and then to readjust your focus. So that is what I am doing.
I will have posts while I am home however. I have a piece for tomorrow, a little story for today, lineups, reactions if needed and if anything big happens I can always pick up a phone. And with that, the story.
While watching a minor-league intrasquad game on a lower field recently, the memory of a rather eventful simulated game on the adjacent field a few years ago popped into my head. The game took place in early March 2010 and was set up so Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee could get work without facing rivals they would see early in the season. A number of young Mariners from the minor league camp were brought in to face them. One of those minor leaguers was Kyle Seager, fresh out of the previous June’s draft.
“I remember Cliff Lee hitting me in the elbow, which was awesome,” he said with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “And I remember Felix’s ball moving a ton. I actually remember hitting a line drive which was close to Felix and I was afraid they were going to release me (laughs).”
Felix also recalls that at-bat.
“He hit a line drive up the middle and almost blew my head off,” remembered Felix, “and I was like, ‘This guy is going to be good,’ because it was a good pitch.”
It was a 3-2 change-up, according to Felix.
“It was a great change-up,” he said. “Any big leaguer would have swung and missed it, and he got it. I had never seen him. Never seen him before but I knew he was pretty good.”
The two would face off the next spring, this time in an intrasquad game on Field 1. Felix threw four innings that day and gave up 2 runs to a group that included Seager, Steven Baron, Mike Carp, Greg Halman, Michael Saunders and James Jones. While Baron appeared to be the star that day with two doubles, Felix wanted to talk about the hitter that got the single off of him. Once again Seager had caught his eye.
“What was that guy, Seager?” he asked that day. “I throw a good pitch that any big leaguer swing at and he takes it. 1-1 count and I say, ‘Boy, you are good man.’ “
It was the change-up that Seager laid off of.
“He knew the strike zone. I could tell that. I knew he was pretty good,” Felix said.
Four months later Seager would make his big league debut. The opportunity to face Felix as a minor leaguer is something he believes helped his development.
“It was really cool because obviously Felix is one of the best, if not the best, in the game, so you face a guy like him then you know that is as good as it gets,” Seager said. “Obviously you are not going to be comfortable, but you know that it doesn’t get any harder than that, so I think that was a big thing for me mentally.”
Yes, we have two today with the day game to be broadcast on 710 ESPN Seattle.
Mariners at the Giants in Scottsdale 12:05.
Mariners at the Dodgers in Glendale 6:05.
Plenty to note with these lineups. First of all, Cano misses a third straight day after the root canal. I feel for him. I gave you the heads up about DJ Peterson getting the start today. I didn’t know he would be hitting fifth. It will be interesting to see how he handles that. Sure, he has been a middle of the order bat his entire life, but does he try to do to much in his first start surrounded by a good number of big leaguers or is he able to reel that in? This is why I don’t take days off. A little thing I know but sorry I will miss it.
Michael Saunders is in right today, somewhere I think we will see him a lot this year. Hart is out of the field but in the lineup a day after playing in the field, so that is good. Morrison is making his second start in the field, which is also good.
Finally, keep an eye on Blake Beavan. Coming into camp I would say that he had a snowball’s chance in Peoria of making the team, but with injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, things just got chilly down there. Here’s the thing: if he is back to what he was a year ago, that is good enough to hold on until the others get back. When right, Beavan has the ability to keep his team in games more often than not. He looks right. Gone is the funky delivery with the strange hop that he showed up to camp with last spring. The key will be to keep him away from Oakland when possible, which won’t be easy in the first month with the Mariners facing the A’s seven days out of nine from April 3-13 (what the heck schedule makers?), but it is doable. Small sample and whatnot, but he has been decent against the Angels and Texas.
That’s it for now, I have a day off to enjoy. Keep your eye open for an interesting pitching post here tomorrow.