M’s notebook: Leone’s quick rise to the big leagues
By Shannon Drayer
OAKLAND, Calif. – There was a new face in the Mariners clubhouse Friday afternoon, as Dominc Leone joined the club. He takes the place of Hector Noesi, who was DFA’d earlier in the day.
Leone and Carson Smith both impressed the coaches this spring, and it was little surprise that it was one of the two who got the call when Noesi was cut. Leone arrived in the clubhouse from Tacoma at about 4:30 p.m. and said that he would be available if needed tonight. He won’t be – the game was postponed due to field conditions.
Leone has an interesting story that I never got to during the spring. Drafted in the 16th round of the 2012 draft out of Clemson (where he was a teammate of Brad Miller), he came to the organization as a starter and was quickly converted to reliever. In the pen he saw his velocity take a dramatic jump. The fastball now clocks at 96-97 MPH and he possess a vicious cutter that has topped out at 94. Surprising velocity from a guy who is listed at 5-foot-11 and a generous 210 pounds.
Leone credits coaching and better mechanics with the increased velocity. As for the cutter, well, YouTube is responsible for that.
“After a few rough starts my junior year I thought I needed to change things up. I need to get these hitters off-balance,” he said. “I was watching YouTube and saw a couple of cutter videos, you know Mariano Rivera. I always knew it was a good pitch. I kept trying to develop it on my own and when I got to Everett it really took off.”
In two minor league seasons Leone has combined to go 4-3 with 21 saves and a 1.95 ERA. Last fall he led the Arizona Fall League with six saves, along with a 3.00 ERA, 15 strikeouts and one walk.
While he is replacing Noesi on the roster, he will not necessarily be assuming his role. Lloyd McClendon said he would not be afraid to use him in “impactful situations.”
• Hisashi Iwakuma threw from flat ground again today and should throw next on Sunday. He is still on schedule to throw his first bullpen sometime next week.
• Taijuan Walker gets his first rehab start tonight with High Desert.
• While the line for Stephen Pryor’s first appearance did not look good (0.2 IP, 2H, R, HR, BB, K), McClendon said reports were that he threw well with the fastball topping out at 95 MPH.