Drayer: Mariners start Dominate the Zone pitching camp with notable prospects

Jan 10, 2022, 4:57 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm
Mariners Brandon Williamson...
Mariners prospect Brandon Williamson throws during summer workouts at T-Mobile Park in 2020. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Even though major leaguers remain locked out with little movement toward agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, there is activity for the Mariners in Peoria with their Dominate the Zone pitching camp getting underway Monday.

As a reminder, the minor leagues are not covered by the CBA between MLB and the MLB Players Association and not subject to the lockout, with the minor league spring training and regular seasons currently scheduled to start on time. Organizations are allowed to run their offseason programs with minor leaguers who are not on a 40-man roster. What this means for the Mariners is they get an opportunity to get good work in with a number of their top arms, including four from Baseball America’s organizational top 10 list and a few that could be of impact in 2022.

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“Every day is going to be filled with some sort of educational aspect to it; it’s not just on-field,” explained Emanuel Sifuentes, Mariners director of player development. “The second part of it is improving their player plan. Everybody is individualized. There are pitchers there working on velocity, there are pitchers there that are working on targeting the location. This is just a head start to accomplishing those goals coming up into the season.”

There are a number of names that jump out from the list, plus a couple names that fans might expect to see that are not present. Regarding two of the Mariners’ top prospects, Emerson Hancock and George Kirby, it is a good news/good news situation despite Kirby not being on the list.

“George is fully healthy, he’s doing a lot of great work back home,” said Sifuentes. “He has an amazing setup back home with a strength coach and resources – both people and technology. We fully have trust in what he is doing at home, (are) in constant contact with him, and quite frankly he just wants to spend a little bit more time at home. He participated in High Performance Camp in the fall, really can’t blame him.”

Sifuentes confirmed that Hancock, who was shut down before the end of the 2021 season, is healthy and a full-go for the current program.

“We are really excited for what we think he is going to do in ’22 and his potential,” Sifuentes said.

Another interesting name on the list: Juan Querecuto, who is converting from shortstop to pitcher.

“Juan has an awesome arm,” said Sifuentes. “For the last 2 1/2 months he’s been working on a throwing program and building up for the year. He is a little slower as we try to maintain safety and make sure his arm adapts well to the transition. We are really excited about it. He’s a great person, excellent makeup. Really excited to see what he can do on the mound.”

Not listed but also taking part in the camp are six to seven catchers. The camp gives them a valuable opportunity to get extra work with the pitchers as well as at-bats prior to spring training.

The camp runs Jan. 10 through Feb. 14, when minor league mini-camp is scheduled to begin. Pitching coordinator Max Weiner will run the camp with assistance from Mariners bullpen coach Trent Blank and other organizational pitching coaches who will come in for shorter stays.

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Drayer: Mariners start Dominate the Zone pitching camp with notable prospects