Mariners notebook: Kikuchi’s changes evident at start of spring training
While Mariners pitchers and catchers won’t take the field for an official workout until Thursday, plenty of work could be seen at the spring training complex on reporting day.
Of interest, Yusei Kikuchi throwing a bullpen under the watch of new Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth and bullpen coach Brian DeLunas. Under contract for a minimum of three more seasons (assuming he picks up his player option in 2022), a turnaround from Kikuchi after a disappointing rookie campaign would be a most welcome sight for the the Mariners.
Woodward considered what he saw to be a step in the right direction.
“He’s in a good spot and is right in line with the development that we were hoping he would do,” Woodward said.
Kikuchi spent the majority of his offseason working in Arizona to get ready for the 2020 season. After posting a 5.46 ERA and allowing opposing batters a .295 average and .539 slugging percentage against, answers needed to be found.
“Every player is going to take a look in the mirror and see what kind of adjustments they can make,” said Woodworth. “We had our ideas, he had his and he immediately got to work. I don’t think he took but two weeks off and started attacking (the things) he needed to make that kind of adjustment.”
What should be noticeable is a simplification of his delivery. That was a welcome sight for Woodworth when he traveled to Arizona in December to watch Kikuchi throw.
“It was one of his first times getting off the mound but even then his arm action, the small adjustments he was making you could tell right away,” he said. “To see it two months later now, we’re very excited about that.”
Of course the key will be taking the changes into the regular season and sticking with them. Kikuchi made numerous changes throughout the season in 2019, sometimes from start to start. The Mariners would like to see more consistency of delivery from him in his second season. While results in spring training are most often not a good indicator of success heading into the season, his mechanics, pitch quality and approach to hitters in Arizona are worth watching for changes.
Mariners clubhouse update
Clubhouse questions from post 1 answered on day 1 of spring training:
• Dee Gordon has been assigned to Félix Hernández’s old locker.
• Kyle Seager and Daniel Vogelbach have taken up residence in the veteran’s corner.
• Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez have side-by-side lockers at the start of the end of the clubhouse section.
• Reliever Austin Adams, who is coming off ACL surgery, is not pitching yet but according to Woodworth has been throwing and doing weighted ball work. The Mariners placed him on the 60-day injured list Wednesday afternoon to make room on the roster for the recently-signed Taijuan Walker.
• For those not on Twitter, I ran into Franklin Gutierrez at the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Ariz., on Tuesday. He will be working with the outfielders throughout the system as part of the invited staff to spring training. In-season, it is expected he will take on a role similar to Mike Cameron’s in 2019 and travel through the minors to work with young players.
• After hearing about rule changes for 2020 since before the offseason began, MLB finally officially announced them Wednesday.
The official announcement of rule changes. Finally. https://t.co/5YE3nSbnTy
— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) February 12, 2020