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Mariners notebook: Justus Sheffield ‘really sharp’ with 8 Ks in final tune-up

Justus Sheffield struck out eight in four innings in an intrasquad game Wednesday. (Getty)

There’s only so much you can laud a pitcher for doing in an intrasquad game against a lineup made up mainly of younger players and backups, but the maximum amount of credit is due to Mariners left-hander Justus Sheffield after his showing in the final tune-up game of Summer Camp on Wednesday night.

Mariners lose catcher Tom Murphy to foot fracture days from opener

Sheffield had no problem in his start for the Pilots in a win over the Steelheads, striking out eight in a dominant four-inning outing in which he faced the minimum.

“Felt pretty good,” Sheffield said. “I knew that this was the last one so I tried to turn it up a little bit.”

His skipper was pleased with the showing.

“I thought Sheff was really sharp,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Certainly he wasn’t facing the Houston Astros, the lineup that was out there against him tonight, but it’s about executing pitches and making adjustments along the way.”

Like Tuesday’s standout pitcher Kendall Graveman, Servais said the key for Sheffield was getting out in front of hitters.

“He was ahead in the count – that’s probably the most exciting thing. You watch Graveman pitch last night – 0-2, 1-2 in 80% of the hitters he faced. Tonight, Sheff 0-2 and 1-2 in 75% of the hitters he faced. That’s what it’s going to take, trusting your stuff and just pounding the strike zone.”

A good sign is that Sheffield said he went out of his comfort zone Wednesday.

“I was doing some different stuff today, too. I was going left-on-left changeups, got some swing and misses on that. Felt like my slider was really good today, and my fastball, I could see the movement, especially getting the righties off the plate trying to go in.”

The 24-year-old Sheffield won’t make his season debut in the opening series in Houston that begins Friday, but expect him to be on the mound in Anaheim against the Angels early next week.

Mariners’ new backup catcher

With the news that Tom Murphy is headed to the injured list due to a broken bone in his left foot, the Mariners are having to move everyone on the depth chart at catcher up a spot. That means Austin Nola will be the starter and Joe Hudson moves into the backup role.

Hudson, 29, is a bit of a unknown commodity, having played in just nine MLB games since his debut in 2018. The offseason addition for Seattle missed time in spring training due to an oblique injury, but Servais, himself a former big league catcher, is confident in Hudson’s abilities after seeing more of him behind the plate in recent days.

“The thing that stood out from Joe tonight, the sequencing of pitches,” Servais said. “… His understanding of sequencing pitches is really good. He’s been around. He’s caught a lot at high levels. Really doesn’t take him long at all to get in sync with our starting pitchers and certainly our young guys, which they need the help. Quicker we can get him up to speed and get him comfortable in how we want to use our young guys’ stuff, the better off we’ll all be. So very confident both in his ability to make adjustments and get on board with our guys, and Austin Nola already has a feel for that.”

Big camp for rookies

The Mariners’ two highly-touted rookie hitters, outfielder Kyle Lewis and first baseman Evan White, continued to shine Wednesday. White doubled twice, giving him six extra base hits out of his nine total hits in Summer Camp, and he was brought home early in the game on a single by Lewis, who added another multi-hit game in a camp where he provided plenty of highlights with his bat.

“(Lewis) is in an awesome spot physically, mentally. I think he’s ready for whatever they throw at him,” Servais said. “Just talking with him and Evan, understand that there are going to be a few bumps in the road, but I really believe in those guys. They’re so mentally strong even though they don’t have a ton of experience at the major league level yet. When you’re that mentally strong and you’ve got that kind of ability, good things are coming your way – and our way. Those guys are going to be here for a long time.”

Both Lewis and White are expected to start an opening day game for the first time on Friday. It will be White’s MLB debut.

Mariners notables

• Daniel Vogelbach had three hits Wednesday, including a double down the left field line, in what Servais said he hopes will be a confidence-building game.

• Projected leadoff man Shed Long Jr. homered to the opposite field in the bottom of the first off of Justin Dunn.

• J.P. Crawford had an RBI double into the corner in the second inning off of Dunn that scored Vogelbach.

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