Mariners Notebook: 1st game featured rule changes, Berroa impressing

Feb 24, 2023, 4:28 PM
Mariners Prelander BErroa...
Prelander Berroa of the Seattle Mariners warms up before pitching vs the Padres on Feb. 24, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

A 2:29 game in spring training is almost unheard of, but welcome to the new world of baseball as that is exactly what the Mariners and Padres got in their Cactus League opener.

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“There’s a difference,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais in his opening comment following the Mariners 3-2 win. “Everybody sees it, the pace of the game. There will be a little bit of an adjustment period for our guys, but that was pretty crisp first game.”

The Mariners had no incidents with the pitch clock but the Padres did just two batters in when Manny Machado, who was in the box but not set as required when the clock reached 8 seconds, was issued an auto strike.

“I can actually hear the umpire being like, ‘Hey, hurry up. Hurry up,'” said Robbie Ray, who was on the mound. “So it was pretty, pretty interesting.”

Interesting and historic as it was the first pitch clock violation in MLB.

“I’m going to be in the record books,” Machado told Padres media.

It’s not clear if Machado knew at the time of the comment that Baseball Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch was in attendance with the plan being all along to take the official scorecard from the game. Nice of Machado to oblige and provide the first violation.

Ray, who typically likes to work fast, said the pitch clock served as more of a gauge for him and that he only checked it a few times. Tom Murphy, who caught Ray, said he found himself actually having to slow him down from time to time. Murphy saw few problems with the pitching and defense, but believes it will take a little while for the hitters to get comfortable with the new rules.

“Just getting the feel from some of the hitters in the dugout, you are halfway through your routine and the umpire says, ‘Hey, you have to get ready’ and you have to rush through it. It will take a little bit of adjustment,” Murphy said.

Murphy, who has a rather deliberate routine at the plate that includes a deep squat, said he was looking to speed up rather than give up that routine. There will be plenty of time to make adjustments.

Ray threw two scoreless innings in what looked like a “get your feet wet,” first outing. While he threw a good number of sliders, he only threw the splitter – a pitch he hopes to be able to take out of spring training and into the season – one time.

“I’m not going say it’s like an amazing pitch, but it definitely feels good,” Ray said. “I’m just going to continue to tinker and work on it. I think it just gives me something that’s a different dynamic to my game. Everything’s kind of hard and goes to my (glove) side. Ideally, it’s something that’s a little bit softer and goes to my arm side.”

The highlight of the game was getting a first look at prospect Prelander Berroa, who was acquired in exchange for Donovan Walton last May. Berroa put up one of the highest strikeout rates in the minors after the trade.

In his Cactus League debut, scouts recorded Berroa at 98 and 99 mph with the fastball and he displayed a nasty slider. In his two innings of work, Berroa recorded three strikeouts, two of which came against Xander Bogaerts and Nelson Cruz.

Coming in for the third inning, Berros faced the top of the Padres order of Bogaerts, Machado, Juan Soto and Cruz, with Servais deliberately not giving him a soft landing.

“Yes, yes, I took that into consideration because I think players need to get over the hump,” Servais said. “And certainly young guys like that. And I said earlier, he knows who’s in the box, and it should be a big confidence boost for him going forward.”

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