Notebook: Mariners building rapport in Monday morning clubhouse

Feb 26, 2018, 9:06 AM | Updated: 10:50 am
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Mariners DH Nelson Cruz turned his ankle in the dugout in Game 2 of their opening series. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – A good clubhouse scene Monday morning about an hour before the Mariners’ usual team meeting: the pool tournament was underway. Yes, the pool table is still in the middle of the clubhouse.

This year the tournament is a little different with regions named after players (Hernandez, Cano, Cruz and Leake), and coaches and staff not in the mix. Scratch that – one coach is in the mix. That would be hitting coach Edgar Martinez – although I am not sure how the winner of last year’s tournament earned the No. 15 seed in his bracket, but there you go.

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On the TVs hanging from the ceiling throughout the room, a highlight reel featuring the offense was being played. Dee Gordon sitting back in one of the leather sofas in the middle of the room was taking it all in, oohing and ahhing at the fireworks display by Nelson Cruz. Junior Lake, sitting at his locker, had a smile on his face that displayed clear appreciation for his fellow countryman on the screen.

A Guillermo Heredia highlight drew a Gordon yell of “G!” and a point in the direction of Heredia, who had just come through the room. Heredia responded in his best baritone “Dee and G,” to the tune of AC/DC’s “TNT.” A little improvising followed.

Mitch Haniger, sitting at his locker, displayed the uncanny recall that so many ballplayers have, calling out the hit the moment the opposing pitcher appeared on the screen. He was so good Kyle Seager questioned if he had seen the reel before but Haniger assured him he had not.

“Alright smart guy, what’s next?” I asked.

Haniger laughed and said he had to see something before he made the call. When pressed further, he made a call anyway. Nelson Cruz bomb to right off Andrew Cashner. Seconds later, there was Cashner on the screen. Haniger just missed going full Blowers however, as the player at the plate was actually him. Haniger home run off of Cashner. Not a bad consolation prize.

All eyes, veterans and new guys alike, were trained on the screens, and you could sense guys were getting excited for the season. Mike Zunino double, Ben Gamel homer, screamers out to the short porch Crawford Boxes in Houston, crazy shots deep into the right center gap at Safeco over the ROOT sign. Robinson Cano’s 300th to dead center and no doubter after no doubter from Cruz.

In the middle of all of this, Cruz himself walked into the room, workout gear on, bat under arm, sweat on his brow. While others were watching, he had been working. He took the scene in for a few minutes, turned around and headed back to the cage.

Lineup! at Cubs, 12:05 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle

Dee Gordon, CF
Andrew Romine, SS
Cameron Perkins, DH
Junior Lake, LF
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, RF
Taylor Motter, 3B
Matt Hague, 1B
David Freitas, C
Gordon Beckham, 2B

Felix Hernandez, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: Shawn Armstrong, Max Povse, Dan Altavilla, Ljay Newsome.


• Of course all eyes will be on Felix making his first start of the spring. It’s been interesting to see him go about his business this year and I don’t think we have seen quite everything. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. alluded last week to Felix doing some things away from the eyes of others. Manager Scott Servais did the same Monday morning. “He’s gotten after some things a little differently on the back fields in what he’s doing. I would love to see him get some payback, have some success,” Servais said. I think there has been a little bit of an attitude, an eagerness to prove that he is still Felix. There could be a new pitch as well as Jorge Ortiz of USA Today pointed out in his piece today. “He also tinkered with a cutter while working out in Miami with veteran pitcher Anibal Sanchez, a fellow native of Venezuela,” wrote Ortiz. “If effective, the pitch would give him another weapon in addition to his outstanding changeup and curveball, plus a slider he uses on occasion.” Something to watch for.

• Ryon Healy has been given the all clear to take ground balls on the field at first base. “It’s not going to hurt him to catch a ball with his left hand and put it in a bucket so let’s get out there and do it,” said Servais. Healy will have to wear a brace on his right hand to protect it, but he is appreciative for the opportunity to get back on the field. “I think what they are going to let me do and what I want to do is a little different but I told them whatever it takes to get me out there I will make it work,” he said.

• Daniel Vogelbach is making a quick recovery from the bruise he suffered after getting hit by a pitch Friday. The boot is off and he expected to be allowed to participate in drills Monday morning.

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Notebook: Mariners building rapport in Monday morning clubhouse