Drayer: Heart of Mariners’ order shows power, Justus Sheffield duels brother

Mar 4, 2021, 4:31 PM | Updated: 7:26 pm

There was plenty that Mariners pitcher Justus Sheffield wanted to see from himself in his first outing of the spring, but it was what came after that held the most interest. On the mound to start the fourth inning for the Rockies was his older brother, Jordan Sheffield.

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“That was awesome,” said Justus, who watched his brother from the rail in the Mariners dugout. “Honestly just truly blessed to share the field with him. I’m super excited for him with what he has going with the Rockies. The adrenaline was pumping a little bit just from that aspect.”

The two worked out together near their home in Tennessee during the offseason and have enjoyed the back and forth when their minor league teams have faced each other in the past. For now, it is Justus who holds the bragging rights, picking up a ‘W’ in a game where his Arkansas Travelers walked off against Jordan pitching for the Tulsa Drillers in 2019.

“I can always hold that over his head, getting that dub in the series,” he said.

Before he had the opportunity to watch his brother pitch, Sheffield got good work in, giving up two hits and striking out one in two innings. Now comfortable throwing the two-seamer he discovered in spring training last year and feeling good about his excellent slider, the focus in his first outing was using his No. 3 pitch, the changeup.

“I feel like now that I have found the consistent shape that I want and consistent speed, now it is just about executing it and throwing it late and early in counts,” Sheffield said. “It was good to see some swing and misses with it.”

Offensively, a lot to like early in what turned into a 9-9 tie in 8 1/2 innings.

For the second straight day, the Mariners hit three home runs in a game. This time they came all in a row, with Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager and Ty France going back-to-back-to-back in the third inning against Rockies reliever Phillip Diehl.

“I was really excited,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Haniger, he’s looked really good. his timing is getting better. Seager and France behind him, it’s exciting. When those guys swing the bat like they are capable of, our lineup is going to be just fine.”

Haniger, who the Mariners plan to build up slowly this spring, notched his third hit in as many days, this one a towering shot over the bullpen in left. It was a welcome sign after missing over a year of action.

“He’s got his strength back,” Servais said of Haniger. “He looks good physically in the box. All of the training he has done to get back in shape and get on the field, I think he has a really good understanding of where his body is at and understanding how his swing is working. I think his swing right now looks shorter than it ever has. He feels really good about it and it is great to see him get results because he’s put a ton of work in to get back out.”

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In addition to Haniger and Sheffield, Servais pointed to Seattle’s base running and an inning thrown by Kendall Graveman as highlights of the game. On the downside, the bullpen struggled. Rule 5 pickup Will Vest allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits and one walk, and Brady Lail, Paul Seawald and Keynan Middleton all surrendered runs as well.

The Mariners take on the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Ariz. on Friday, with Chris Flexen scheduled to make his first start. The game will air live on 710 ESPN Seattle beginning at noon, with first pitch set for 12:05 p.m.

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