Mariners notebook: Full squad in Peoria and ready for work
PEORIA, Ariz. – Greetings from Peoria, where you will hear from me for the next six weeks. The first full-squad workout takes place this morning and all players have reported to camp.
We met with manager Lloyd McClendon a few minutes ago and that was a strange sight as his office was full. Four cameras from Seattle television stations and over a dozen media members crammed into the small office. Expectations and interest come hand in hand. McClendon welcomes the interest and looks to manage the expectations within the clubhouse walls.
“One thing I will tell my players: expectations are very high. That’s okay and I understand it, but we can’t get caught up in it and get ready for the grind of a 162-game schedule, and it starts today,” he said. “If you want to be a champion, it doesn’t start in April, it starts in February and I think they will be up for the task.”
McClendon was hesitant to share with the media his message for the team – which will be given before the first workout, I would imagine – that a big part of it will be about work. Work will most likely be the hallmark of this camp – any McClendon camp, for that matter. He is a believer.
“Everybody is hopeful this time of the year. Everybody is thinking of winning a World Championship,” he said. “I know this: it’s not always the most talented club, it’s the club that works the hardest and the club that stays the healthiest that has a chance to win a World Championship, and that’s what we want to set out to try to do.”
Those who were with the team last year, not just spring training but the season as well, are accustomed to this. The work didn’t stop in Peoria as there was early work most days during the season and not just for the younger players. Sometimes play dictated the work, but most of the time it was about getting better. That will continue.
It starts today as the team takes the field as a full squad for the first time.
• Just two pitchers, Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Hultzen, will throw bullpens today. This will be the second bullpen for Hultzen and the first for Wilhelmsen, who missed his first when he had to travel to Tampa for his arbitration hearing.
• The pitchers are scheduled to throw two bullpens and then two live batting-practice sessions with the first live BPs to take place tomorrow.
• McClendon insists that the thinking in bringing in Rickie Weeks wasn’t to push Dustin Ackley. That said, he believes Weeks will get most of his outfield at-bats in left field.
“I’m not trying to send a message (to Ackley). I don’t think that was it at all,” McClendon said. “We are trying to get better and Rickie Weeks is a guy that can help us win ballgames and I think a combination of both guys out there should produce a very productive left field. You have a combination of 20-25 home runs, 100 RBIs, now you got something.”
• It appears Justin Ruggiano will be the backup in center field. McClendon said it was important to get Austin Jackson days off during the season and Ruggiano would see time in center.
• Robinson Cano showed up to camp 13 pounds lighter than his reporting weight in 2014. This is the weight the Mariners would like to see him play at.
“We talked about it,” McClendon said. “He understands, he gets it as he starts to mature more, get older, more years on the backside of his career, he’s got to take care of himself a little bit. He has got to play a little lighter. He’s done a fine job of it.”
• I will have a number of observations and first impressions later in the day, but I leave you with this: once again, Felix Hernandez is riding a bike around camp. Gone is the pink cruiser with a bell. Today he was terrorizing those in the hall on a white and blue BMW bike.