Mariners win spring opener as Ariel Miranda works on a new pitch
PEORIA, Ariz. – One down, 31 to go.
The Mariners won their Cactus League opener, beating the Padres 3-2 on a cool and windy Friday afternoon in Peoria. We saw offense from the veterans, including a Dee Gordon double in his first at-bat as a Mariner, a good inning of relief work from Dan Altavilla, an up-and-down day on the base paths and some nice defense from Ben Gamel in left field.
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We also saw what could be the beginning of the competition for a temporary spot in the rotation as Ariel Miranda and Andrew Moore pitched back to back. With Miranda giving up a run on two hits and two walks, it would appear the first round went to Moore, who pitched two scoreless innings.
“I thought Andrew Moore threw the ball very well,” said manager Scott Servais after the game. “He made a couple of adjustments over the winter trying to get more consistent. He threw the ball really well today.”
Miranda and Moore are working on different things while preparing for the season. For Moore, it is refining what he has and learning how to better use his stuff. Miranda, on the other hand, is working on a better secondary pitch to help him avoid predictability when he falls into hitters counts. The slider is his new pitch of choice and a pitch he says is committed to throwing.
“It’s progressing very well,” Miranda said. “In order for my fastball to work I really need to work on my slider. It’s very important.”
This isn’t a pitch he worked on over the offseason. Instead the idea to throw it came from a teammate while they were playing catch last week.
“We were playing catch and I said, ‘Dude, why don’t you throw a slider or something different than the changeup and split?'” Felix Hernandez said. “‘I think you need to throw a slider. You need it for the lefties and maybe even the righties.'”
When Miranda told Felix his slider was not good, Felix showed him the grip he uses and encouraged him to give it a go.
“‘Just try it. Try it,'” Felix said he told Miranda. “‘Nothing is going to happen if you try it.’ He started throwing it and it feels good.”
Edwin Diaz told me a similar story earlier this week of Felix sharing experience and offering encouragement to him as well. It’s leadership that is not always easy to see but certainly good to hear. Both the encouragement and the help with the slider could go a long way for Miranda, who survived a big league season last year but needs a more reliable weapon added in to his repertoire to eventually solidify a position on a big league roster.
Pitching depth will be used this year and whether they break camp with the Mariners or not, Moore and Miranda have the opportunity to get good work in this spring, as they did Friday against the Padres.