Notebook: Teammates talk Yusei Kikuchi as LHP prepares for Mariners debut
PEORIA, Ariz. – Another day, another debut for the Mariners as Yusei Kikuchi will take the hill in his first Cactus League start. The two innings he is likely to throw will be well documented; a huge contingent of Japanese media will be on hand. With Ichiro Suzuki and Kikuchi on the team and the season-opening series in Tokyo, the Mariners appear to be priority No. 1 with the Japanese media outlets this spring.
For his part, Kikuchi has been going about his routine in a very business-as-usual matter. Last week, he expressed appreciation that new pitching coach Paul Davis put it in his hands to get ready as he saw fit, to get what he needed in regard to throwing, which appears to be a little more than what we are accustomed to seeing from starters. The important thing early is the Mariners want to see him comfortable.
Behind the scenes, teammates have appreciated his presence in the clubhouse.
“He is trying to embrace the whole experience,” noted first baseman Ryon Healy. “He’s definitely one of the happier guys in the clubhouse and I think really enjoying what he is doing.”
Wade LeBlanc, who was teammates with Kikuchi on the Seibu Lions in Japan for a year, is especially excited to see his debut.
“It’s awesome to see him here,” said LeBlanc. “He was kind of a younger kid when I was over there in Japan with him but you could see his drive to come over here; he was already talking about it in 2015. He was already trying to talk to us without a translator, to kind of use English, work on and understand it. You knew his endgame goal was to be here and it’s really cool to be here when he gets over here. I can’t wait to watch him. I think Seattle is going to love him.”
As with the other starters in their first spring appearance, Kikuchi is scheduled to throw two innings on a pitch count in the 30-40 pitch range.
Shed Long, 3B
Tim Beckham, SS
Edwin Encarnación, DH
Omar Narváez, C
Domingo Santana, LF
Ryon Healy, 1B
Kyle Lewis, RF
Dom Thompson-Williams, CF
Kristopher Negron, 2B
Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
Encarnación makes his spring debut and most likely will go back-to-back out of the gates and play tomorrow as well. Kyle Lewis gets his first start after being sidelined with a dislocated pinkie.
Other available pitchers: Shawn Armstrong, Dan Altavilla, Tyler Danish, Jorgan Cavanerio, Nabil Crismatt, David McKay, Tayler Scott.
Minor league call-ups: Bryan Bonnell (P), Parker Markel (P), Matt Walker (P).
First look at Sheffield
Personal observation: I really enjoyed watching Justus Sheffield work his way through adversity on the hill Sunday after a catcher’s interference on an infield popup left him with runners on first and third with just one out. He got out of the jam by striking out Colorado veterans Ian Desmond and Chris Iannetta.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) February 24, 2019
Sheffield looked a little over-amped at the start of the inning but was able keep his composure and dial it down after a word on the mound from Dee Gordon. In the visitor’s clubhouse after, it was another pleasant surprise when the reporters talked to him about the outing. He was clearly fired up to be back out on the mound facing hitters. We have watched him throw bullpens and watched him in the clubhouse, but competition allowed him to show another side.
As for the stuff, it wasn’t bad. The fastball velocity was good and most importantly Sheffield was throwing the change-up, his third pitch. It’s a pitch he needs and a pitch he has been working on, and the results indicated he is taking a step in the right direction with it. Most importantly however, he wasn’t shy about throwing it. Overall, it was a very good first impression.
• Shed Long, who the Mariners plan to move around the field this spring, saw his first action in the outfield Sunday in Scottsdale playing left field. While he did not have a ball hit his way, there was a learning experience in the outfield for the 23 year old, according to manager Scott Servais. “He learned an important lesson yesterday as one of the coaches noticed that he was working on his swing out there,” he revealed. “If he wants to be a DH we can certainly make that happen for him. And I think he got the message – in a good way. We like Shed a lot, he’s off to a good start. It’s not just the results but the quality at-bats. He’s got an interesting career ahead.”
• An outfielder that would love to be able to get out on the field is Mallex Smith, who is probably a week away from being cleared to throw. Could he be ready for the opening series in Japan? “It would be a little bit of a stretch to think we would fire him out there with just a couple of games under his belt,” said Servais. “(The Japan games) are important, I don’t want to disregard that, but I don’t want to take a step back and then not have him ready when we get back home. You have to balance the risk versus the reward.” Mitch Haniger could slide over to play center if needed, and he or Gordon could bat leadoff. Servais plans to move the outfielders in camp around, having them play all three positions, to get an idea of what the newcomers can do and what he has available to him in the future.
• Edgar Martínez, who now serves in the role of organizational hitting coach, arrives in camp Tuesday.