SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners fall to Royals, but 2 key veterans make progress with changes

Mar 1, 2018, 3:57 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager made strides in hitting the ball the other way Thursday. (AP)...
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager made strides in hitting the ball the other way Thursday. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – While the Mariners dropped a game 4-3 to the Royals on Thursday afternoon, good performances by two key veterans attempting to make changes in their games outweighed the loss of a game that doesn’t count.

While some pitchers are attempting to add a pitch, Mike Leake is attempting to change a pitch – his changeup – and he was pleased with the results in his three scoreless innings against Kansas City.

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“It was a good outing,” Leake said. “I liked the changeup today. It had some depth, was down at 82 (mph) consistently. I was down at 82 consistently. I was more 84ish, 85ish before. A little hard with it.”

In addition to the better separation from his 90 mph fastball that the slower changeup achieves, Leake believes it also had a little more sink to it.

Mariners manager Scott Servais appreciates that Leake showed up in camp with a game plan to better his already good game.

“That’s him,” Servais said. “He’s really a student of the game. Knows where he’s at and the adjustments he needs to make to continue to have good seasons. It will be an important pitch for him as he goes along.”

In addition to striking out four, Leake also got to put into play something of emphasis this spring when he got a runner on second and just one out in the 2nd inning: his pickoff.

“Great pickoff, said Servais. “It’s something that we have really worked on a ton this spring, our guys are aware of it and hopefully it will continue throughout the season.”

The other standout was third baseman Kyle Seager, who went 2 for 3 against the Royals and is 7 for 11 this spring. Hits of course are good, but even better is the location of Seager’s hits.

“He’s using the whole field,” said Servais. “His timing is outstanding and he’s made some adjustment driving the ball the other way, staying on top of the ball other way, so it’s going to be interesting to see if he continues that. Typically they shift against him; if he keeps doing that (hitting the ball to the opposite field) they are not going to be able to do that. If he uses the whole field he has a chance to have a really big year.”

Can Seager force teams out of the shift against him? Definitely something to keep an eye on as the spring progresses.

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