Wade LeBlanc: Mariners players don’t feel like team has taken a step back
The Seattle Mariners have made a lot of changes this offseason, resulting in players like Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz, Jean Segura and James Paxton taking up new residences on the East Coast. But while there’s been a lot of talk of the team taking a step back in 2019, pitcher Wade LeBlanc doesn’t see it that way – and doesn’t think any of his teammates will, either.
“I think if you ask any player in that clubhouse, there’s not a player in there that’s gonna feel like we’re taking a step back,” LeBlanc told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore. “We all feel like we have a good team. We all feel like we can compete. Do some things have to go right for us to be able to compete? Yes, but that goes for every team; that goes for all 30 teams out there.”
As one of just a few veterans returning to the Mariners from last season’s team, LeBlanc will be looked at to help along an influx of younger players. But he also knows how surprising youth movements can be.
“We know that we have talent in that clubhouse. We have some young guys, we have some veterans that can help them grow through the process, and you never know what can happen when you have young guys,” he said. “Those young guys bring energy that veterans sometimes lack. That’s something that can definitely spark a team and spark a clubhouse, and you never know. I think every guy in there, when the lights come on, is gonna be planning on winning a lot of games this year. Whether that happens or not, we have no idea, but the plan is definitely to go out there and be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win a lot of games.”
Here are a few more notes from the Mariners southpaw’s visit with Danny, Dave and Moore.
• LeBlanc finished his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama’s College of Human Environmental Sciences in 2018, marking the end of a 15-year journey. He explained why it was important to him to get his degree.
“Baseball is such a short career in terms of how your life hopefully ends up being, so with me being 34 and the game getting younger, I’m closer to the end of my career than the beginning. And nowadays in this country, if you don’t have that piece of paper (a college degree) it’s kinda tough to get a job. … Also I want our two boys – Jackson’s 5 and Eli’s 4 – I want them to know that this is something that means something, it’s something that they should look forward to and they should plan on doing for themselves and to make sure that they finish anything they start. That’s a big deal for me.”
• Earning a degree wasn’t the only big milestone for LeBlanc in 2018. He also signed a contract extension with the Mariners, which is a pretty big deal for a pitcher whose career has included stints with seven MLB teams, a stop in Japan in 2015 and has not been exclusive to either starting or relieving.
“It meant a lot. It definitely meant a lot to me and my family. … It’s not necessarily about the money. The money’s great and it definitely helps and it puts food on the table and keeps the lights turned on, but at the end of the day, as a baseball player I’ve never had the ability to go into an offseason and know where I’m gonna be the next year.”
• Oh, that aforementioned stop in Japan? LeBlanc played for the Saitama Seibu Lions, sharing a rotation with Yusei Kikuchi, who has been added to Seattle’s rotation this offseason. LeBlanc had high praise for the fellow lefty when asked for a scouting report.
“Explosive stuff,” LeBlanc said. “I would say he’s similar to Paxton in terms of life on his fastball and a slider that can play like a cutter sometimes or if he buries it, it can play like a slider. Both of those pitches and swing-and-miss pitches for him, from what I remember when I was with him in Japan. But man, his fastball has so much life. It was so impressive to watch him throw it through the catcher… because by the time it hit the mitt it seemed like it was still picking up speed. So that was really cool to see and I think that’s definitely something that’s going to play well for him in the States.”
You can find LeBlanc’s full interview in this podcast of Danny, Dave and Moore.