Mariners win Cactus-League opener, lose prospect Ji-Man Choi
PEORIA, Ariz. – It was a sight you never want to see and certainly not in the first game of the spring. Ji-Man Choi leapt in the air to try to grab a high throw and came down awkwardly on his right leg. He did not get up. He was taken from the field on a cart with trainers stabilizing his leg and the preliminary diagnosis is a fractured fibula. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Tough news for a young player who should have seen a number of reps at first base early in the spring.
The Mariners went on to beat the Padres 4-3 in 10 innings with Patrick Kivlehan sending a laser single to right that was misplayed, allowing the winning run to score. It was the second hit of the day for Kivlehan, who entered the game at third base in the sixth inning and moved to first after Choi’s injury. Kivlehan put up three good at-bats, going to the opposite field in each.
D.J. Peterson also made a good first impression with the bat as he hit a home run in his first at-bat.
“I wasn’t trying to do that, it just kind of happened,” he said of the ball, which landed on the left-center field berm. “Just trying to hit a line drive and make good contact. It is so early. I’m not trying to do too much; get base hits, square it up and make good contact.”
That he did. Peterson was kicking himself for a ball he failed to catch at third. There was a good amount of that going around today, but manager Lloyd McClendon was not too worried about it.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of fortitude. A little sloppy, but that is to be expected. I thought our young players played extremely well,” he said before singling out Peterson, Jordy Lara, Kivlehan, John Hicks and Jesus Montero as having caught his eye.
Taijuan Walker also was the recipient of good words from the skipper. Walker threw 32 pitches in two scoreless innings. He stranded a runner at third in the first inning and allowed only one hit to a Padres lineup that featured mostly regulars. This was not an establish-your-fastball first outing for Walker. He threw his fastball, changeup and the slider he has been working on. Throwing bullpens before he arrived at camp this spring put him ahead of the game.
“I wanted to start early because I didn’t have a spring training last year,” he said in the clubhouse following his outing. “I thought if I started early, got a head start, that would help me. I feel strong, confident.”
As for the slider, there is still work to be done with the pitch but it is coming along.
“It felt good,” he said. “The movement is good but I have got to place it better, figure out where I want to start it so I do get a swing and miss or a called strike.”
Walker realizes every outing is important for him this spring.
“I am fighting for that fifth spot so I am going after them throwing everything,” he said. “I’m not working on anything. When it is game time, it’s game mode.”
Walker believes that the Mariners want to see him healthy and focused this spring. If he is to win the competition for the fifth spot, he understands it will not just be about the numbers.
“It’s about going out there and competing, not giving in to anyone, any big names, not looking at other teams’ names on the back,” he said. “You almost have to flip a switch and focus in on the catcher only. Don’t worry about who is in the box and just have the confidence, attack hitters, don’t try to mess around with them, don’t try to pick the corners, just attack them.
“It’s about going out there and competing and giving all that I have.”
One opportunity is behind him, and he made a good showing.
• “The Cactus League Report” will air tonight from 6-7 PST on 710 ESPN Seattle. Guest scheduled to appear include McClendon, Kyle Seager, Tom Wilhelmsen and Charlie Furbush. The show will be taped at the Salty Senorita from 6-7. Stop by if you are in the area.
• Good news for Dustin Ackley, whose wife and baby have joined him in Arizona. Parson Ackley made a surprise appearance as Dustin and his wife Justine drove from their home in Michigan to Peoria. Young Parson had to spend some time in an Oklahoma City hospital after arriving six weeks early but was discharged yesterday.
• Roenis Elias will get the start tomorrow against the Padres.