SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners’ Marco Gonzales, Ryon Healy take big steps in win over Angels

Mar 17, 2018, 5:01 PM | Updated: 6:12 pm
Mariners starter Marco Gonzales threw yet another scoreless outing Saturday. (AP)...
Mariners starter Marco Gonzales threw yet another scoreless outing Saturday. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – Despite a severe bruise at the base of Marco Gonzales’ right thumb, the Mariners lefty made his scheduled start against the Angels and didn’t miss a beat.

Gonzales, who took a comebacker off his non-pitching hand last Monday, allowed just one hit and no runs in the 5 2/3 innings he pitched in the Mariners’ 7-0 win, improving his spring ERA to 1.10 in five starts.

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“It was a weird week of throwing. It was probably the weirdest bullpen I have ever thrown,” Gonzales said in the clubhouse after, his right hand still wrapped. “I didn’t touch a baseball with my other hand all week and it was very strange, but I got through it and somehow found some consistency today.”

He focused on his sinker and changeup this week, and the ground balls that came off the bats of Angels hitters would indicate it was a successful week. It’s been a successful spring for that matter – minus the ball off this thumb.

Gonzales called his spring thus far confidence-building.

“I was confident in the work I put in this offseason, but coming here and able to stay in that and progress, that was huge,” he said. “In past spring trainings that hasn’t been the case, so to be able to recover from starts, to be able to throw a baseball the next day is huge.”

Gonzales was either dealing with on-and-off forearm and elbow issues or coming off surgery in his previous springs with the St. Louis Cardinals. So how does a now healthy Gonzales compare to the previous healthy version?

“Part of me kind of forgot what kind of pitcher I was before,” he said. “I have had to kind of rebuild everything that I have. It was kind of a mentality that I wanted to start fresh and build myself up, get back to being a pitch-maker and focus on my movement because that is the kind of pitcher I am. I am not going to blow anyone away. I’m not going to have wipe-out stuff. I’m going to compete and get ground balls and hopefully be consistent. For me to build that back up and to have confidence in that, it has been a huge boost this spring.”

Gonzales is now in a very different place than he was in the final months of the 2017 season. It’s not about getting over the hurdle of his first full year back with a surgically repaired elbow. He now has all of his pitches, confidence in his health and a mentality to attack the upcoming season rather than just get through it. The confidence can only help.

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Confidence this week has also been important for first baseman Ryon Healy, who made his spring debut against the Angels just six weeks after hand surgery.

“It’s something you mentally have to fight not knowing if you are ever going to play without pain again,” said Healy of his recovery and rehab. “The first day I hit without pain it was really emotional. I called everyone. It was something I was waiting to feel and was real excited.”

Healy wasted no time Saturday, swinging at the second pitch he saw. In his second at-bat he was rewarded with a double to left field. He will be in the lineup again Sunday, but the Mariners will be careful about the work they give him. They want to make sure Healy, who has just a year and a half at the big league level, builds up right.

“He hasn’t had spring training,” manager Scott Servais said Saturday morning. “It’s much different than (Nelson) Cruz or (Robinson) Cano (who are both recovering from leg strains). When Cruzy comes in and says, ‘Don’t worry about me skip,  my swing feels great, right now I’m ready to roll.’ Robbie we know. Those guys have had thousands of at-bats, much different than the young guy.

“He had a nice year last year but Ryon is still trying to establish himself and certainly with a new team he wants to get off to a nice start. It is a little different in how aggressive you are. You have got to be smart. The key is to make sure Ryon Healy is with us all year and you don’t have a setback with the hand.”

While Healy is eager to get going with his new team – he said he felt like a kid in a candy store getting to play – he understands there are no shortcuts when preparing for a full season.

“I know where I am trying to get,” Healy said. “For me the processes are important especially coming back from what I am coming back from. There is still a little bit a ways to go but I am excited to be finally taking this first step forward and it is a big deal to go out there and compete with these guys.”

So with just eight Cactus League games remaining, does he believe he can be ready for opening day?

“I think so,” he answered. “Time will tell but I think that I am set up for success with this coaching staff and the way that they have structured my plan. I feel there is time to be able to do this and I will wait and see.”

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