Mariners Notebook: Flexen ‘looks really good,’ Hummel to play the field
An old, familiar spring training sight made its first appearance Friday as Mariners manager Scott Servais and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto could been seen having a long, quiet conversation next to Field 1 as morning drills were being run.
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Just what on earth could they be talking about? Midway through camp, there’s no doubt plenty to discuss.
Is there a move on the horizon? I would be surprised if we didn’t see something before the team broke camp. For now, the focus is on what will take place at Salt River Fields against the Rockies with Chris Flexen on the hill.
Flexen has enjoyed a good spring, making two Cactus League starts allowing no runs in five innings pitched.
“Flex is throwing the ball really well,” Servais said Saturday morning. “His stuff is up velo wise, the crispness of it. He’s throwing strikes. He’s been one of our better guys at dominating the zone. He just wasn’t as good last year as he was his first (year) with us in the strike zone and being in the right counts. That’s where his focus has been and he’s done a nice job with it. He looks really good.”
Flexen did see a falloff from what looked to be a breakout 2022 season with his velocity down a tick across the board with hard hit and barrel rates dramatically up. A slider he developed midseason that yielded just three hits (singles) in the 183 times he threw it did help in the second half.
“That pitch was huge to kind of carry him through the second half,” Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth said, noting the majority of Flexen’s numbers in 2022 were not far off those in 2021. “Flex was motivated to get after it, push the velo button a little bit, push the weight room a little. He’s at a place we haven’t seen from him in two years.”
Where he ends up remains to be seen. If the Mariners go into the season with six healthy starters, as the better fit (than Marco Gonzales), Flexen’s fate will likely be the same as it was when Luis Castillo was acquired.
“We’ll see how it breaks out,” said Servais. “It’s great that we have depth. As we are seeing around the league some teams have been hit by the injury bug a bit. It’s hurt our outfield depth, some teams, it’s hurt their pitching depth. I feel very fortunate we have the depth we do not just with Flex, but with some young guys behind them as well.”
So about that long conversation with the president of baseball operations?
• Servais confirmed that tests revealed an oblique strain for Cade Marlowe.
“Unfortunately, he was having a good spring gaining a lot of experience in these games but he will be out,” he said.
No word how long he will be shut down but Marlowe himself said the strain was mild. Prior to the game Saturday the team optioned Marlowe to Triple-A Tacoma.
• Taylor Trammell is making good progress in his return from hamate bone surgery. The hope is he will be able to pick up a bat in about 3 weeks.
• Cooper Hummel will be on the move. In the first couple of weeks of games, the Mariners wanted to get a good look at him behind the plate. Now, they will see what he can do in the field. Stuck behind a couple of strong catchers at the University of Portland, he took to the outfield to get his at-bats. He carries all the gloves and has played a good amount of the corner outfield positions and a bit of first base.
“Whatever gets me on the field,” he said. “I just love to hit. If I can find my way on the field, I will do it.”
• All eyes will be on the WBC tonight. Julio Rodríguez, Teoscar Hernández and Diego Castillo will be on the opposite side of the field as Eugenio Suárez as the Dominican Republic takes on Venezuela.
Team USA opens against Great Britain where Harry Ford will get to call pitches against a childhood favorite.
“For me, the craziest one is knowing Freddie Freeman is going to be there,” Ford said. “I was always a Braves fan growing up. The first time I went to spring training, I was eight years old and he was a rookie. He signed my ball and everything. It’s crazy because I’m literally like almost the same age, same spot as (he was) now and still going to be playing against him in the World Baseball Classic. It’s mind blowing.”
Mariners Notebook: Checking in on Seattle’s bats; WBC updates