By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Good morning from a windy and somewhat chilly (77 degrees the forecasted high) Peoria. I think we will survive.
It has been interesting watching Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon around the cages. The hitting coach in him comes out, which has been great to see. It reminds me a lot of watching former Mariners manager Lou Piniella. If he sees something, he is quick to address it. Lots of conversations, lots of demonstrating. It is early, but it looks like he is building a good rapport with the hitters.
One thing he has been trying to change with a number of hitters is how they go about their batting practice.
“For me, hitting home runs in batting practice means nothing,” McClendon said. “I want to see the path, I want to see you staying inside the ball. A lot of times a good swing means the ball doesn’t leave the cage but the path was there. That’s what I am trying to get my guys to understand.”
Different players have different approaches to batting practice, approaches they have used for years. Coaches are sometimes hesitant to change a routine, but McClendon is not.
“If you don’t like what you see, tell them,” he said. “It’s part of the process we have got to change. It hasn’t been working. Like I told the players, it’s about wins, not about developing. You have got to change and you have got to make adjustments.”
McClendon encouraged by Montero
While Jesus Montero is all but buried in this camp, McClendon did say that he was encouraged by his work at first base and that his eyes are wide open with him.
“I am not closing any doors. I am not opening any doors. It is all up to him,” he said.
McClendon told Montero that he is at a crossroads and that it was time to put up or shut up. In his eyes, he has one job to do.
“Get better,” he said. “You get back to being the big-time prospect he was in New York. Part of that is getting himself in top physical condition, getting in touch with his mental side. He has got a lot of work to do. To his credit, he is putting the time in. We will see.”
• We will see something a little new Thursday as hitters are scheduled for the first live-arm batting practice and will face a group of pitchers that includes – among others – Tom Wihelmsen, Lucas Luetge, Dominic Leone and Nick Hill. In recent years, more and more hitters have taken swings as opposed to just tracking in their first live-arm batting practice, so there could be a little excitement.
• Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker are scheduled to throw Thursday but will not throw to hitters.
• Felix narrowly beat out Joey Votto to move on to the semifinals in the #FaceofMLB competition on MLB.com and the MLB network. His next opponent will be the winner of the David Wright-Clayton Kershaw matchup. Felix is following the competition and even did some lobbying himself, calling a couple of voters who voted for him Wednesday on Twitter.
• Baseball America’s Top 100 is out and three Mariners are on the list. Walker comes in at No. 11, DJ Peterson at 85 and James Paxton 99.