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Mariners notebook: Pitching evolution, Mallex Smith’s reason for a haircut

Feb 14, 2020, 5:34 PM
Mariners CF Mallex Smith...
Mariners CF and MLB steals leader Mallex Smith had trouble keeping his helmet on in 2019. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – Day 2 of Mariners pitcher and catcher workouts is in the books with a second group of pitchers throwing bullpens.

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While it is interesting to get our first look at the pitchers, the bullpen itself has been a bit of the star of the show in the first few days. As you can see, the 6-pack just outside the door has some additions.

Rapsodo units and Edgertronic cameras can be seen in the tweet. The data they collect is flashed on the big screen and pitchers and coaches can get feedback on things like spin rates, velocity and spin axis immediately instead of having to look to iPads held by coaches, which was the case in the past.

“The game evolves, it changes,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You have opportunity to get immediate feedback, it’s an unbelievable teaching tool as long as the players understand what they are looking at.”

It’s data that most players are now familiar with, and for many the bullpens in Peoria now look like the performance centers they train at in the offseason. In-season, the data can have a major impact when it comes to working through problems as it shows things that are tough to impossible to see with the naked eye.

“One little adjustment can make a huge difference,” said Servais. “Instead of the coach saying, ‘Hey, get on top of this one the pitch,’ we have real data and information. You quickly look at the monitor, ‘OK, I got it’ – that quick. It might take guys six weeks, eight weeks, 2 1/2 months to figure it out, or they never figure it out. Not just on the pitching side, very similar stuff on the hitting side.”

The technology is being used throughout the league so it is not so much giving any one team or another an edge; rather, it’s being used as a teaching tool. As Servais said it gives the ability to diagnose problems quicker and be more precise in the fixes.

Keep your hat on

• Position players are scheduled to officially report Monday and take physicals with the first full squad workout coming on Tuesday. Many position players are already here, including Mallex Smith, who looked a little different. His hair was shorter, and for good reason.

“I couldn’t keep my batting helmet on,” he said.

Better late than never in making the change.

Notes

• Dee Gordon could be a couple of days late to spring training as he is awaiting the birth of his first child, who is due any day now.

• If you don’t follow me on Twitter (and you should @shannondrayer), you missed a fun sequence of videos of a new fielding drill Mariners pitchers ran Thursday. Luckily we’ve collected them here. I recommend turning on the sound. Pete Harnisch is the coach running the drill and the banter is good.

Taijuan Walker won the drill on Field 6 while Justus Sheffield was the last man standing over on Field 5, which led to Servais calling him one of the most athletic pitchers in camp.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

Drayer: Now a veteran, Taijuan Walker ready to give back in M’s reunion

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Mariners notebook: Pitching evolution, Mallex Smith’s reason for a haircut