Mariners notebook: Good news comes with strong outings by Dunn, Sheffield
It’s a bit of a good news, bad news situation as the Mariners’ starting pitching dominated yet another inadequate intersquad game with the Pilots taking the 1-0 win Thursday over the Steelheads.
Offensively, a group that included most regulars was only able to come up with the one run on eight hits as the hitters continue to try and get readjusted to live pitching. Kyle Seager, Tim Lopes, Tom Murphy (who was designated hitter and taking extra at-bats), Braden Bishop and Austin Nola were able to come up with hits, but the Mariners also struck out 19 times in the seven-inning game.
Perhaps it’s time to talk about the good news.
The pitching was strong. With such limited innings available to the starters to get ready for the start of the regular season, Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield each decided to use their three innings to get specific work in. For Dunn it was focusing on his breaking pitches.
“It was shaky last week,” Dunn said of his slider and curveball. “I wasn’t too happy about that. It’s something I take pride in being able to spin the ball when I want to. I was able to lock in the routine with Woody (pitching coach Pete Woodworth) and was able to work on both pitches and felt like I executed both pretty well today.”
Dunn was able to throw the curve for first-pitch strikes and put away a couple of hitters with the slider. He came away with five strikeouts in his three innings pitched, three of them coming in the second inning when he sent J.P. Crawford, Tim Lopes and Tom Murphy down in order, all swinging.
Sheffield continued to focus on the two-seam fastball he added right before the end of spring training in Arizona. It is a pitch that he is going to favor heavily once the season begins over the four-seamer he has traditionally thrown.
“I was looking to run my two-seam into the righties and front-hip them,” Sheffield said. “I was able to do that, I was happy to see I could put some guys away with that, which was a big focus after last week. I really needed to get in there and finish some hitters and I felt I did that.”
Sheffield likes the natural movement on the two-seamer, which is a better fit with his low spin rate, and said that he will reserve the four-seamer for when he needs to go up and in. He finished his outing with four strikeouts, allowing three hits and one run.
Both players will get one more start before the regular season begins and for both the focus will be fine-tuning.
“I’m ready to go,” said Dunn. “The big thing is just cutting out the little things. The two-out walk in the first inning, I can’t have that. Staying in the mindset of attack and not letting that at-bat get away, that can be the difference of staying in the game or coming out early. I like where I am at. I feel good physically, feel good mentally, just staying here.”
“I felt really good today, especially as I got going,” said Sheffield. “I felt like I was getting stronger. I feel I am pretty ready to get going as far as games. I am feeling pretty good about it.”
• After seeing a coach in left field in Wednesday’s game, I thought a fair question this morning would be who’s next on the list should they need extra help. Manager Scott Servais thought for awhile and then came up with Kris Negrón, who is a staff member who has been invited to camp. Good answer seeing that Negron played for the Mariners and Dodgers in 2019.
Turns out Negrón must have been busy because in left field for the Steelheads wearing No. 81 was traveling secretary Jack Mosimann, and as luck would have it, the ball found him when 2020 draft pick Kaden Polcovich launched one toward the line. Mosimann dove for the ball but was about a yard short and the ball fell in for a triple. Nobody was more surprised than starter Justus Sheffield who gave up the “hit.”
“That was funny, I had no clue he was even out there,” said Sheffield, who clearly had an appreciation for the moment. “I saw him in the dugout and I was wondering why he was in his uniform and I thought he was going to be the bat boy or something.
“That fly ball went out there and I’m thinking alright, he’s going to get to it and then I looked a little closer and who was that? It ended up being Jack. I couldn’t even do anything. I was like, oh my God, and then he dove for it which made it priceless.”
Sheffield believes that a “normal” outfielder would have gotten to the ball but didn’t appear to be too worried about giving up the hit. As for Mosimann, he was charged with an error later in the game as a grounder toward the line that he tried to catch up with that clanked off his glove.
Alls well that ended well for Mosimann, however, as unlike Louis Boyd yesterday, he was allowed to take an at-bat at the end of the game. In the short plate appearance against Joey Gerber, he saw 94 mph and managed to get a piece of a ball inside but ended up striking out.
• Friday will be an off day for the entire club.