SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners’ Logan Gilbert impresses vs Angels, while Marco Gonzales faces off with Ichiro

Mar 7, 2021, 3:38 PM | Updated: 6:14 pm
Mariners Logan Gilbert...
Logan Gilbert struck out Mike Trout looking in his two-inning outing Sunday. (Getty)
(Getty)

Plenty items of interest in the Mariners’ most interesting “split squad” Sunday in Arizona.

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In Peoria on Field 2, Marco Gonzales got his work in pitching to teammates and a couple of Mariners legends. Ichiro and Mike Cameron did indeed take at-bats against the Mariners’ No. 1 pitcher, and it was Gonzales coming out on top, getting both to fly out to left field.

While Gonzales tends to be all business on the mound regardless of what field he is on, you better believe pitching to Ichiro is different.

“It’s just very fulfilling to be around him because he’s such a pure baseball energy,” Gonzales said after. “When he stepped in the box I couldn’t help but smile. It’s probably the only time I will pitch with a smile on my face. I love the guy so much, it was a joy for me.”

And how does one attack the future Hall of Famer and owner of 4,367 hits between MLB and Japan’s NPB?

“All game planning went out the window,” said Gonzales. “I’m trying not to give up a hit right now and that’s probably the only time I get into that mindset.”

Gonzales appreciated the reaction he got from Ichiro on the first pitch he threw him, a fastball down the middle.

“I heard him be like (big exhale), like he hadn’t seen, and I don’t throw very hard, but he hadn’t even seen my speed and I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’ but it brings a smile to my face. Both those guys are such energy guys and they bring such happiness to the camp.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais, who put Ichiro and Cameron in the lineup, was happy to give them the opportunity to do a little bit more to do Sunday.

“It’s great,” he said. “Those are all-time Mariners greats really adding to our camp, working with our young players and having a little fun as well. Everyone took it seriously. Those guys as well – they just don’t have the bat speed they once had.”

In all, Gonzales faced 15 batters in the sim game, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts, and he did so with a defense behind him that included Ichiro in right, Cameron in center, player development coordinator Mat Snider at shortstop and Double-A hitting coach Joe Thurston at second base.

The offensive standout of the game was Evan White, who went 2 for 2 against Gonzales with a double and home run, and also doubled off Kendall Graveman, who retired four of the five batters he faced.

Meanwhil in Tempe, the draw on the Mariners’ side was Logan Gilbert making his first start of the spring. Gilbert threw two innings against the Angels’ ‘A’ squad, striking out Mike Trout, David Fletcher, Dexter Fowler and Taylor Ward.

Gilbert, working quickly in the first inning, froze Trout on a well-placed 3-2 fastball.

“That was pretty cool,” said Gilbert after coming out of the game. “Probably the best player in baseball, there’s not a better feeling. That’s probably the highlight of the day for sure.”

Gilbert sat 92-93 mph with his fastball but did not throw the changeup he worked on at the alternate site last year. He did however mix in the curve and slider, showing confidence in throwing them in any count.

“I was really excited for Logan Gilbert,” said Servais. “I though the composure was great, really calm. I thought he handled it really, really well. The life on the fastball is awesome. He’s going to sneak up on people who haven’t seen him before with the extension off the mound. That fastball is special, there’s no question about it.”

Had the pandemic not shortened the 2020 season, there is little question Gilbert would have seen the big leagues, perhaps in the first half of the year. As it was, he was confined to the alternate site where coaches and staff noted he went to work on improving his pitches and already great preparation. It’s hard to imagine he is not far from the big leagues today, although Servais has stressed from the start of spring training that coming off a season of no competitive games, Gilbert would be brought along slowly in camp with the intention of being able to pitch him through September.

“He’s pretty close,” Servais acknowledged. “Last year did him no favors in he wasn’t able to pitch in competitive games. Like all of our young players, probably needs a little seasoning. He didn’t throw any innings last year, we need to be really cautious.”

Games or no games last year, for two innings, Gilbert held his own against a formidable big league lineup for two innings Sunday in Tempe.

Also in Sunday’s game, Kyle Lewis made a nice catch on a near-homer off the bat of Shohei Ohtani.

At the plate, Ty France went 1 for 2 with a homer, but the Mariners’ streak of consecutive ties ended at four with a 6-2 loss (box score here).

On Monday, the Mariners are back at home hosting Cleveland in Peoria with Yusei Kikuchi set to make his second start of the spring. Rafael Montero, who will likely close for the Mariners this season, is also scheduled to make his first appearance in a game this spring.

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Mariners’ Logan Gilbert impresses vs Angels, while Marco Gonzales faces off with Ichiro