Spring training underway as Mariners pitchers, catchers report

Feb 20, 2015, 6:43 AM | Updated: 9:59 am
Jesus Montero, pictured last year, will be a storyline during spring training after losing consider...
Jesus Montero, pictured last year, will be a storyline during spring training after losing considerable weight. (AP)

Congratulations. You made it through the offseason. The long, not-so-cold-if-you-are-in-the-Seattle-area winter is over as pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Ariz. today. The work begins tomorrow when they take the field and in less than two weeks there will be games to talk about. Baseball is back.

Full disclosure from me: I will not be in Peoria until next Tuesday. I report with the position players. I will give you links and summaries the next few days, however. Hopefully the first few days of this camp will not be as eventful as the first few days last year.

Three things to look for today:

First of all, Jesus Montero is scheduled to talk to the media. Greg Johns, Ryan Divish and Bob Dutton will no doubt ask good questions and get the story on his transformation. Divish has already Tweeted some pictures of Montero and he is hardly recognizable after losing nearly 40 pounds. If you are entertaining thoughts of Montero on the 25-man roster, I would encourage you to temper that enthusiasm. He is smaller. We don’t know what he is as a baseball player yet. We do know that he made a tremendous commitment and effort to getting into shape this winter and that says a lot about where his mind is. It is a great start and perhaps a giant first step back to perhaps living up to some of the potential many thought he had as a hitter. Even though I will be a little late, I will be very interested in both seeing and talking to Montero when I arrive at spring training.

The second thing to keep an eye on today will be Tom Wilhelmsen’s arbitration hearing. Today is the last day that the cases can be heard and in the next 24 hours Wilhelmsen should have a deal. Both sides will argue their cases before a three-person panel in Tampa, Fla. That panel will decide whether to give Wilhelmsen the $2.2 million he is asking for or the $1.4 million the Mariners are offering. There is no middle ground once the two sides reach arbitration. This will be the first time the Mariners have gone to arbitration in 12 years. It’s general manager Jack Zduriencik’s first arbitration hearing.

The last bit of news will come from the national front as MLB is expected to announce new pace-of-play rule changes. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports on Twitter, we will see three changes:

• Managers must challenge replays from dugout;

• Batters must keep one foot in box unless an established exception occurs;
• Play to resume promptly once broadcast returns from commercial break.

My understanding is time will be given for the managers to make a decision on whether or not to challenge, but it most likely won’t be as long as the slow, stall, walk out to the umpire, look back to the dugout to see if the bench coach has received a thumbs up or down from the video guy. Batters keeping the foot in the box will be the biggest adjustment, but spring training should be long enough for guys to change routines. I suspect we will hear about this quite a bit during spring training.

Which starts today. Pitchers and catchers will be in throughout the day to take their physicals. A good number of position players are there working out unofficially as well, which is always great to see. From conversations I have had with a number of players this winter, there is an incredible amount of excitement for this year. You will hear a lot of talk about expectations and the concern about what they could do to a young team. I think this group will embrace those expectations. They want what you want after all and the work begins tomorrow.

Date Starting Pitcher
Sunday, September 25 @ 11:10 am

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Spring training underway as Mariners pitchers, catchers report