Cactus League Report: Mariners pitching coach on Hisashi Iwakuma’s finger, Taijuan Walker’s repertoire
If you missed “The Cactus League Report” Monday night, you missed what may have been the most fun and informational show of the season. But as always, never fear; we have a podcast.
Hour 1 featured two segments with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., who broke down the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation as well as the behind-the-scenes work Nathan Karns has put in. He believes one of the reasons why we saw a good performance from Karns (six innings, two earned runs, 67 pitches) Monday was that with the competition over, he settled down and relaxed.
“He relaxed today, finally,” Stottlemyre said. “He was able to get in good counts and make pitches, and I think we saw the true Nate Karns.”
Stottlemyre also laid out the plan for the pitchers in the final days of spring training. Karns and Wade Miley will pitch full games in their last outings as they look to get their pitch counts up to aroud 95. Felix Hernandez is scheduled for just two innings against San Diego on Wednesday. Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled for just two innings that day in a minor-league game, and he may or may not throw his splitter.
“He didn’t throw his split last time out,” Stottlemyre said. “He’s had a little finger thing he has been dealing, so he actually threw some changeups and it was quite good.”
“The little finger thing” does not appear to be a concern. Iwakuma has developed blisters and built up the calluses in spring trainings past. He’s also pitched and pitched well with blisters before. What he is dealing with now is not expected to linger.
Stottlemyre also talked about what to expect Tuesday from Taijuan Walker.
“Tai is still working on things,” he said. “We actually implemented a slider, which I think is going to be very natural for him. With how his arm works, the curveball has been a little bit of a struggle with him trying to get some feel and shape to it and to be able to land it. And I thing that is going to be a big pitch for him, something he can he can throw and not think about.”
Walker has thrown the slider from time to time but not in a game in spring training this year. He will continue to throw the curve, but if all goes well with the new slider it should replace his cutter, which he has thrown less and less.
The show also included interviews with Miley, who has made himself comfortable in the Mariners’ clubhouse in record time; utility man Shawn O’Malley, who talks about his focus after getting sent down and how he used the technology available to them at the big-league level; and Joel Peralta, who could be an important part of the Mariners’ bullpen.
Former Mariners pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith joined the show as a guest and then helped host the last hour. We also had taped interviews with Robinson Cano and Hernandez.