SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners’ Matt Brash, George Kirby don’t blink; Billy Hamilton makes case for roster

Apr 2, 2022, 10:00 AM | Updated: 7:52 pm

Mariners Billy Hamilton...

Mariners CF Billy Hamilton makes a play on a single hit by Milwaukee's Lorenzo Cain on March 26. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Update: The Mariners announced Saturday afternoon that rookie Matt Brash has made the opening day roster as the fifth member of the starting rotation, joining Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen. Read the story here.

Original story: George Kirby and Matt Brash, the Mariners’ top two pitching prospects, closed out their springs with solid outings Friday night, neither blinking as the competition for the fifth starter came to an end against the Rockies at Salt River Fields.

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“I thought our guys threw the ball outstanding,” manager Scott Servais said following the Mariners’ 2-1 loss (box score). “Matt Brash was not ahead in the count like we like him to get, but his stuff was so good he was able to make a few adjustments in the game. I thought he got better as it went on. I thought George threw the ball outstanding tonight. It was probably the most comfortable we have seen George in this camp.”

Brash, who started the game, found himself in many 2-0 counts. Although he fell behind a great number of hitters, the only damage was a Charlie Blackmon solo shot home run on a 97 mph shoulder-high fastball. He didn’t exactly struggle, but the outing was not as smooth as his first two times out.

“I had really good shapes and my pitches were moving a lot,” Brash said. “I didn’t have the best control throughout the game with some pitches. I was falling behind a lot, wasn’t throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes. I didn’t have my best stuff but I felt I battled out there.”

Kirby, on the other hand, had his sharpest outing of the spring, throwing three innings and allowing just one hit while striking out three.

Servais went out of his way to note that the Rockies ran their A-team lineup out against the Mariners.

“We have a lot to look forward to with these guys,” Servais said of Brash and Kirby. “We have got to make a tough decision here in the next few days and we will see where it takes us. They are gaining confidence, experience. We are going to need those guys at some point of the season.”

Offensively, the Mariners did not do much, managing just four hits. What they lacked in offensive highlights was made up for in one incredible web gem courtesy of center fielder Billy Hamilton.

“Off the bat I thought it was gone,” said Servais. “Billy made some kind of catch. There aren’t that many guys who can do that. It was some kind of play.”

How in the world did he make that catch?

“I asked myself the same question,” Hamilton answered with a laugh. “It’s just one of those plays you can’t practice that – it’s all instinct. Obviously I knew my job is to keep the ball in the park. I don’t know if it was a home run or not but save a run, that’s what I try to do. I made a play for our guys and that’s fun.”

There’s little question Hamilton would be a nice addition to the Mariners’ bench as a late innings defensive replacement or pinch runner, especially as a guy they could put on second to start extra innings. He’s the kind of player that could win the Mariners a ballgame in April, but he can only do that if he is on the roster and there could be challenges to get him there. Do the Mariners go with two extra relievers while the rosters are expanded before May? One extra arm and a third catcher? Or could they go for the extra speed and defense? Hamilton hopes it is the latter as he has enjoyed playing for the Mariners.

“I cherish every moment of it,” he said. “Whatever I can do to save these pitchers, man. These guys do a tremendous job. I’ve been watching them all spring. They throw a whole lot of strikes; you want to play behind guys like that. Guys who throw strikes and go after guys, it’s fun playing behind those guys and I am going to do what I can to keep runs out of home.”

Servais says these M’s are the “most complete team” he’s had

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