By Shannon Drayer
Already a busy morning in Peoria as Joe Saunders got his work in throwing six innings in a minor league intrasquad game on Field 3. This game was actually quite interesting as it was Taijuan Walker who faced him. A good number of prospects were in this game and there was a good crowd on hand. It was great to see so many fans get this experience, which you can get only at spring training.
Saunders threw 78 pitches over six innings, 53 for strikes. He allowed two runs on eight hits, walked two and struck out eight.
“My focus today was locating down in the zone, which I thought I did real well,” he said after the game. “Sinker was great, got some ground balls. I like where I am at right now.”
Jesus Montero caught him, and Saunders said he is developing a good relationship with him behind the plate.
“It’s a relationship that is a must in baseball,” he said. “They have to know what my strengths and weaknesses are, how I am feeling, what’s working that day. The more he catches me, the more he is going to get a feel for what I like to do in certain counts and situations. We were on the same page today. I didn’t shake him off once, he gives a good low target and I am excited to throw to him during the season.”
Montero not only caught Saunders but hit as well. He went 0-2 with a strikeout looking (right) against Walker who pitched three innings and gave up just one run, a blast down the left field line and out off the bat of Jabari Blash.
Coming up tonight, the Mariners host the Giants in Peoria. This is a big start for Brandon Maurer, who has yet to flinch in spring training, surrendering just one run in 10 innings. Maurer is without a doubt in the competition for the fourth or fifth rotation spots, but having not pitched above AA, he really does not have room to make mistakes or even present question marks. While Jack Zduriencik has said he would have no problem jumping a pitcher from AA to the bigs because four players with experience at the big league level are in the competition for the final spots, it would be easy to start Maurer in the minor leagues to get more experience if he gives them that opportunity. So far he hasn’t done that.
The game can be heard on 710 ESPN Seattle at 7:05 p.m.