Mariners notebook: Nathan Karns trying to ‘herd’ his pitches

Mar 21, 2016, 11:29 AM | Updated: 12:02 pm
Mariners starter Nathan Karns compared getting his pitch repertoire together with herding sheep. (A...
Mariners starter Nathan Karns compared getting his pitch repertoire together with herding sheep. (AP)
(AP)

And then there were 40. I’ve been out for a few days, thank you Brent Stecker for the posts, and the clubhouse was noticeably emptier Monday morning after weekend cuts.

Much quieter also, partly because there are less people and perhaps partly because we are getting closer to that time in spring training when players begin to focus in more on what lies ahead. We don’t quite yet have game faces, but with every locker that gets cleared out it starts to feel a little bit more like the regular season pregame clubhouse.

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I stopped by the locker of Nathan Karns for a quick chat to see what I missed from him while I was gone. His last outing he was effective overall but not very efficient. Turns out he realized it was time to shift his mentality as well.

“I think I kind of just got too narrow minded on one little thing and other things started drifting on me,” he said, noting that the changeup had been his focus. “It’s kind of like herding the sheep in, just try to get it all crowded into one area.”

Herding sheep?

“All the things that you need to be on top of – fastball command, getting the good shape on your curveball, changeup speed – there’s a lot of different things. It’s hard to corral them all at once. I’m not a great sheep herder so that is probably my problem,” he said with a laugh.

At least he is not trying to herd cats.

Of course there was a pool game going on as the clubhouse tournament continues – an aside, Edgar Martinez is very good at pool, as I suspected. There was no matchup between Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino as we saw so many mornings earlier this month, though. Zunino is now on the minor league side of camp, so Luis Sardinas gave Seager a game Monday morning with Joaquin Benoit watching from his locker close by, looking ever the clubhouse veteran with his stainless steel beverage mug in hand.

“Coffee?” I asked.

“No, tea,” he replied.

You don’t see a ton of tea in clubhouses. I was curious about the blend and he reached into his locker and pulled out the box. “Positive Energy” it read. Not a bad way to start the day.

Glad I was able to catch a little of the clubhouse as the next couple of days will be different with the guys getting their first day off of the spring Tuesday, followed by a night game Wednesday.

As for Monday, it’s an interesting matchup at Camelback Ranch, with Hisashi Iwakuma getting the start for the Mariners and Kenta Maeda going for the Dodgers.

Lineup!

Ketel Marte, SS

Luis Sardinas, CF

Robinson Cano, 2B

Nelson Cruz, RF

Adam Lind, 1B

Stefen Romero, LF

Steve Clevenger, C

Chris Iannetta, DH

Shawn O’Malley, 3B

Hisashi Iwakuma, P

Iwakuma and Maeda are friends and worked out together in the offseason both in L.A. and Tokyo at Kuma’s new sports academy…The Mariners taking another look at Sardinas in center. While I think Nori Aoki would be the backup to Leonys Martin, it’s very interesting to see how far they go with Sardinas in center…Franklin Gutierrez was originally in the lineup but was scratched due to the flu. Iannetta takes his place as DH…Romero returns after missing four games with a stiff back.

Notes

• Monday’s game can be heard on 710 ESPN Seattle. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.

• Kuma is hoping for a five-fish outing Monday. Five fishes? Five strips of smoked salmon, to be exact. New pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. has taken Kuma out to dinner a couple of times to get to know him, and in the process learned that they both enjoy fishing. Kuma was very interested in the salmon that Stottlemyre caught and smoked this winter, so the two have a deal that for every zero that Kuma puts on the board, Stottlemyre will give him a strip of the prized salmon.

• As the starters get stretched out we are seeing less pitcher names on the lineup cards. Mike Montgomery, Dan Altavilla, Donn Roach and Tony Zych should get innings Monday.

• With the off day Tuesday, James Paxton will pitch in a minor league game against the White Sox to keep him on his regular schedule. The game will take place on one of the fields in Peoria at 1 p.m. I will post the field number on Twitter when we get that information.

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Mariners notebook: Nathan Karns trying to ‘herd’ his pitches