Mariners notebook: Justus Sheffield shines again, Mitch Haniger gets back in batter’s box

Mar 7, 2019, 3:44 PM

Mariners RF Mitch Haniger (back) returned to facing live pitching Thursday. (AP)...

Mariners RF Mitch Haniger (back) returned to facing live pitching Thursday. (AP)


PEORIA, Ariz. – A number of Mariners pitchers and hitters got work in an intrasquad B-game Thursday morning at the team’s spring training complex.

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The game was originally put together to get the pitchers work, but as it turned out a few hitters decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see more live pitching.

The hitters only had to hit in the game, replaced by base runners from the minor league side if they reached base, and they were allowed to bat if they wished in each inning. Ichiro took full advantage and went 2 for 7 with two walks. Dee Gordon and Edwin Encarnación got extra at-bats as well, while Mitch Haniger made four plate appearances in his first “game” since tweaking his back in the weight room late last week, going 2 for 4 with a double.

Justus Sheffield started the game and pitched 3 2/3 “innings” (some innings allowed extra batters after three outs), allowing just two hits, no runs and striking out six of the 13 batters he faced – all big leaguers.

“He threw the ball really well,” manager Scott Servais said of Sheffield. “Working on a few things. All three pitches are working. A good slider to finish off some guys, four out of five of the first hitters he punched out. It was good. I really like where he is at.”

While the game wasn’t in the main stadium and Sheffield was facing teammates, he felt he got the better end of the deal, getting to do something most players don’t have the opportunity to do in spring training.

“It’s cool because when you are starting you want to face a lineup three times, and I got to do that within three innings,” he said.

While Servais mentioned the slider as a standout pitch, the more important pitch for Sheffield at this time is the changeup he is continuing to develop. As has been noted with his previous starts, he is committed to throwing it. The results?

“I don’t know if it is necessarily getting better but I know I’m throwing it with more confidence every time I go out there,” he said. “If I can throw each pitch with conviction, that’s my main goal. Getting out there and throwing each pitch with conviction, letting it do it’s thing. When you get out there and try and make it nasty, it ain’t going to do too much.”

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While Sheffield was all up for facing teammates, there was one that he was a little extra careful with: Ichiro.

“He got a nice rope off of me,” Sheffield exclaimed talking about Ichiro’s hard-hit single to right field. “That was a nice hit, but I told my catcher, ‘I don’t even want to think about going in.’ None of that. I don’t want to be the one to mess up my man.”

Last spring Ichiro was hit in the helmet in a B-game on the same field. Sheffield wasn’t going to let that happen on Thursday.

“That was cool. I looked up and thought, ‘I am pitching against Ichiro.’ That was awesome.”

Ichiro’s work for the day is not yet done as he is in the lineup for Thursday night’s game in Goodyear against the Reds.


Jake Fraley, CF
Kyle Lewis, RF
Omar Narváez, C
Ryon Healy, 1B
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Ichiro, LF
Tim Beckham, SS
Shed Long, 3B
Kristopher Negrón, 2B

Yusei Kikuchi, LHP

Game pitchers posted: Cory Gearrin, Shawn Armstrong, Gerson Bautista, Dan Altavilla, Zac Rosscup, David McKay.

Of note, we will have a rematch between Kikuchi and Joey Votto, who is in the Reds lineup batting second. This is what happened the last time they faced each other.


• Prior to the game against the Reds, the Mariners re-assigned pitchers Nabil Crismatt and Taylor Scott, catcher Cal Raleigh and outfielder Eric Filia to minor league camp. With a week before the team leaves for Japan, the Major League camp roster is at 57.

• Here is the list of upcoming starters for the Mariners:

Friday vs. Cubs: Marco Gonzales
Saturday at Dodgers: Erik Swanson
Sunday (split squad) at Angels: Mike Leake
Sunday (split squad) vs. Indians: Félix Hernández

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