Mariners Notebook: Ty France refreshed after injuries hurt his hitting
A refreshing sight in the Mariners clubhouse this spring has been a well refreshed Ty France. The ravages of the previous baseball season appear to have been wiped out by a full offseason of rest, recovery, better eating and a 17-day trip to Europe.
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While he would not admit to the impact of two incidents in the field in last season – a June 23 collision at first base and diving stop July 25 – a dive into his second half numbers indicates something was certainly wrong.
Wednesday in Peoria, France finally opened up.
“I spent almost the whole second half in the training room trying to try to fix my elbow and my wrist,” he admitted.
France was enjoying a first half that earned him an All-Star appearance, slashing .316/.390/.476 for an .867 OPS prior to the first injury. He appeared to bounce back after a 14-day stay on the injured list, going 2 for 20 in his first five games back before hitting .400 with three doubles and three home runs over his next eight. In that eighth game, however, he jammed his wrist and hit .222/.276/.367 (.642 OPS) the rest of the way.
“I think it stemmed from that play in Oakland where (Sheldon) Neuse took my arm out. There was still some lingering to it,” France admitted. “And then I started manipulating my swing to try and avoid any pain or anything like that, so I just created bad habits and kind of got away from my swing. I think that was the biggest thing, and then I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted so it was chasing hits, swinging at bad pitches.”
Chasing hits is not something we have seen from France, who has been remarkably consistent at the plate since arriving at the big league level. With nothing structurally wrong with the wrist or elbow, he was dealing with a potential “play through” injury. Knowing the only option to get close to 100% again would be to shut it down for a couple of months, and with the team in position to make a postseason run, it was not an option he felt he could take. Eventually the elbow healed but then the wrist became more achy, barking on the majority of his swings.
While he understood how that contributed to his struggles at the plate, it was tough to keep the situation from snowballing.
“Especially when you’ve had the first half that I had,” he said. “I was getting a good bit of hits, so once you go from that to not getting any, you put some pressure on yourself. And it’s not easy to get that mindset, but it’s one of those things you just got to try to work through.”
Thankfully there is nothing to work through in camp and there was nothing to revamp in the offseason. Coming off an unfortunate second half of the season, this has been a “normal” camp for France.
“I worked a lot this offseason to try and get that feel of my old swing back, my first half swing,” he said. “Getting away from trying to manipulate the barrel, stuff like that. It’s more just getting your timing down.”
• It is not the snow many of you are seeing up in the Pacific Northwest, but the Mariners have been dealing with some weather of their own with intermittent rain and high winds Wednesday in Arizona. It has not impacted work or drills, however.
• There are a number of players in camp who could work with multiple position groups.
Evan White is among them, having played outfield in college. He will be limited to first base early on in Cactus League games as the Mariners want to get him comfortable again after missing the majority of the last two seasons with injuries.
Cooper Hummel, meanwhile, is a rare catcher/outfielder. He is taking all of his work with the catchers but doing extra shagging during batting practices. Once games start he expects to see time at both positions.
• The Mariners have put top prospect Harry Ford in the No. 1 catcher group along with Cal Raleigh, Tom Murphy and Brian O’Keefe. It is a great opportunity for the 20 year old to learn from the vets. There was a curious sight Tuesday morning, however, when he participated in the stretching and conditioning drills with the infielders. Turns out he just wanted the more intensive work the infielders do. Manager Scott Servais assured the media that despite a future projection a major publication made at third base for Ford, we will not see him in the infield.
• Matt Brash has been an early star of camp, the slider that Driveline’s director of pitching Chris Langin declared on Wyman and Bob could be the best pitch in MLB history on full display. White, Kolten Wong and J.P. Crawford all had the opportunity to face that pitch on Tuesday, and all came away shaking their heads.
“I didn’t know if he was throwing a fastball or a slider,” said Crawford. “You can’t even see the spin on it. He threw one on the outside corner, I thought it was going to hit me. That’s pretty good.”
On another, Crawford responded: “I didn’t even see it.”
Hitters walking away from Brash live BP shaking their heads. Crawford “I don’t even know what I just saw.” pic.twitter.com/7z33pWm3Qr
— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) February 21, 2023
• Tom Murphy appears to be a full go after shoulder surgery sidelined the veteran catcher for the majority of last season. The surgery was on his left shoulder, but the right shoulder has caused him problems in the past as well. At the Mariners’ pre-spring training media day, it was mentioned that they would need to see him throw and by all reports that has gone well.
More on the Mariners from Seattle Sports
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• What MLB insider Verducci learned about Jarred Kelenic and the M’s
• M’s Notebook: Top prospect Harry Ford in line for eventful spring
• M’s pitching coach Woodworth: Nearly every starter has a “new weapon”
• Stecker: The gap the Mariners are trying to close really isn’t all that big