Mariners Observations: Kikuchi battles, Trammell and Elías shine again
While the battle with dry air and allergies was constant Monday afternoon in Goodyear, Ariz., the battle against himself was short-lived for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi.
After managing to emerge unscathed from the first inning Monday following two walks to start the game against Cleveland and loading the bases on a bloop single, a chat with Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth and catcher Tom Murphy helped get him back on track.
“Woody and I were both a little concerned in the first inning where he was at,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said about Kikuchi, noting that starters in Seattle’s six-man rotation are getting to pitch just once a week in spring training. “That once a week is your time to compete, it’s not the time to work on things. That’s what bullpens are for and Woody got that message across to him. He made some good adjustments, got his mind in a good spot and he was aggressive after that.”
Worth noting that Kikuchi, who was plagued by the big inning last year, did get himself out of trouble in the first inning of Seattle’s 10-0 loss (box score here). Following the conversation in the dugout were six groundouts and one solo home run by Cleveland third baseman Yu Chang off a splitter that didn’t dive. While the command of the fastball was spotty, it did sit 95-96 mph, with Kikuchi hitting 97 a few times.
“All my pitches feel great, and I was able to throw my splitter and was even able to throw one to a lefty, (Eddie) Rosario. It felt great,” Kikuchi said. “One hung up there and ended up being a home run. Other than that, really good.”
His only complaint on the day? The dry air, and not because of the way it can make the baseball feel in his hand.
“I feel very thirsty while pitching out there in this dry heat,” he said. “I try to breathe through my nose as much as I can but I do have allergies, so that makes it tough.”
Ah, to be in the damp, chilly air of an April night game at T-Mobile Park. Soon enough, but for now it’s so far so good for Kikuchi.
“Overall I’m just really happy how my fastball is feeling, how all of my pitches are feeling, especially after that second inning,” he said. “I just feel like I am in a really good spot especially after only my second outing.”
Kikuchi ultimately went three innings, allowing two hits and just the one run on the Chang homer.
• One offensive standout from the game was Taylor Trammell, who went the other way with two strikes for a double.
— Mariners Player Development (@MsPlayerDev) March 8, 2021
Trammell is 4 for 11 this spring with all four hits going for extra bases – three doubles and a home run.
• On the pitching side, Roenis Elías turned in his second scoreless outing, pitching a 1-2-3 fourth inning with strikeouts of Roberto Perez and Jake Bauers. Outside of that performance and a scoreless inning from Erik Swanson, the rest of the bullpen followed what has been an early trend, allowing all but one of the 10 Cleveland runs scored.
“We need to do a better job getting the ball in the strike zone early in counts and really dictating the tempo on the mound,” said Servais.
• Don’t get too excited just yet about this Tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 8, 2021
While conversations with the State of Washington and King County continue, the Mariners have not yet received approval to allow fans in the stands at T-Mobile Park.
• Monday’s game notes provided an injury surprise, listing not one but two pitchers down with oblique strains. The one suffered by Jamie Shultz in a game over the weekend was known. The one by Domingo Tapia, who has impressed early in camp, not so much. According to Servais, Tapia reported feeling tenderness in the area following his last outing, which if you recall ended on a triple play. An MRI confirmed a strained oblique on the right side and he is expected to be down for at least a few weeks.