Mariners notebook: A good day for two young pitchers
PEORIA, Ariz. – The countdown is on. The boxes are in the clubhouse, the truck is being packed. It is almost time to return to Seattle and get this thing going. The clubhouse has picked up again after slogging through the dog days of spring and the buzz is back. These guys are ready to play some meaningful baseball.
There was also a little buzz around the fact that there are 25 healthy players left in camp. While the roster has not yet been officially announced, Taijuan Walker and Tyler Olson are in. According to Austin Jackson, the limited battles in camp did perk things up.
“You see guys battling. They don’t want to go back down and eat some of that food you have to eat,” Jackson said with a smile. “They want to get some good steak dinners. It’s one of those things that you are working on hard for in the minor leagues and you just want to show what you are capable of at the next level.”
Jackson pointed out that every guy on the big-league club has been there and can appreciate the moment for those who are making their first Opening Day roster.
For Walker, it is mission accomplished. After a couple of false starts he has the look of a player who is ready to stay. He has showed what the Mariners wanted to see with his pitches and his pitching. Last September, manager Lloyd McClendon had what he called a one-way conversation with Walker with the message being that he can’t be the young guy anymore. There were tough words, but Walker took them to heart.
“It just made me realize that I have to step it up,” Walker said. “When he told me that I realized that, okay, well, I have got to step up. I know I am young but I have to act like I am a veteran and go out there and pitch like I am a veteran. Attack the hitters.”
Other than a few bumps where Walker tried to rely on the fastball a little too much in early camp, he has done just that. He believes he belongs out on that mound against any hitter. There is no hint of awe for where he is at and no pitching around anyone. When he takes the ball now it is his game. The strong performance has reinforced that feeling this spring and he will take that to the regular season.
As for Olson, he took a similar approach to camp that Walker did. This camp wouldn’t be about working on things, rather he would report ready to show what he could do. To that end he added workouts with his college team to his offseason plan once he learned he had been invited to camp. Pitching to hitters this winter at Gonzaga helped get him ready.
“He’s showed a lot of poise and the ability to get left-handers and right-handers out,” McClendon said. “He holds runners, works fast, throws strikes and fields his position. He’s done a great job.”
Not bad for a guy who was pitching out of the bullpen for the first time. Olson said he is still making the adjustment and will continue to learn about routine from his new big-league bullpen mates.
“I’ve been talking with other guys that have been in the role,” he said. “Seeing and hearing what they do. It’s a little different now because we have a pretty good idea when we are throwing. In the season it will be different because they are not going to tell us. It’s going to be based on situations. Just finding a routine everyday that you come in and do and stick to the whole season will be something I need to work on.”
First thing is first, however. While it is clear he is on the club it is not official yet and he has not been told. He is still in compete-for-a-job mode and the fact that he will be heading to Seattle and not Tacoma or Jackson on Saturday has not quite set in.
“It’s going to be a lot of emotions,” he answered when asked what the phone call home with the news will be like. “I have been hoping and working hard for this for a long time, so being able to call the parents and hopefully confirm that it is true and things are working out, it’s going to be a lot of emotion.”
Good day for a couple of Mariners pitchers.
Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS
Jesus Sucre, C
James Paxton, SP
• Felix Hernandez said he feels fine after suffering from weak legs in yesterday’s start against the Indians. Despite throwing just 47 pitches in the game, McClendon said that Felix has built up enough to throw 100 on Opening Day.
• Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ and Walker will throw a little less in their final outings down here. It is not out of the ordinary to hold back a little bit pitch-wise in final outings. No need to wear them out before the start of the regular season.
• Iwakuma will throw in a Triple-A game against the Padres on Thursday, which is an off day for the rest of the team. The game will be on one of San Diego’s back fields and start at 7 p.m.
• The last “Cactus League Report” will air from the Salty Senorita tonight from 6-7 on 710 ESPN Seattle. Jack Zduriencik, Logan Morrison and Dominic Leone are scheduled to stop by. If you are are in the area, join us!