Mariners notebook: Spring comes with valuable big-game experience
Monday morning brought the opportunity to revisit a quick comment made by Mariners manager Scott Servais following Seattle’s 7-3 loss to the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz.
“It was really important for Sam Delaplane to get in the game too against their ‘A’ lineup and get used to playing in these environments,” Servais threw in as he walked off the field.
It is just spring training, but a Cubs game in Mesa is a little different than most. The crowds are bigger and more raucous, and with the Cubs rolling out their everyday lineup, this was about as close to the big league experience a player who started 2019 at High-A Modesto can expect to get. This no doubt was important for Delaplane, a player who by the numbers possesses a pitch that could make a significant impact in a big league bullpen.
The results Sunday? It appears there were jitters, the kind that you don’t know will sneak up and get you. After getting an out on a tough catch by José Marmolejos in left on a ball hit hard by Kris Bryant, Delaplane walked the next three batters.
“Sam always throws strikes and all of a sudden now he’s not throwing strikes. Now why is that?” asked Servais.
Servais knew why, but his pitching coach – the same pitching coach that had Delaplane the year before in Double-A – was a bit more surprised.
“I’ve never seen Sam do this before,” Pete Woodworth said to Servais incredulously. “I need to make a trip.”
Woodworth went out to the mound to calm down Delaplane, who was equally surprised. He had, after all, walked just 23 batters last year while striking out 120.
“He got really quick, his delivery changed, everything sped up on him,” said Servais. “For me the exciting thing was he was able to work through it. He gets into the dugout after – ‘What just happened?’ You have to learn from it. He will be better from it.”
Delaplane was able to get out of the inning without giving up a run, but the bigger result of the outing will be what he was able to take from the experience of having things speed up on him when he didn’t expect them to. It wasn’t his first spring outing, but it was different. He was brought in to face the best of the Cubs in front of a full house, in a bigger stadium than most seen in spring training and Double-A. Perhaps it is something he will be able to look back on before his big league debut. Perhaps it is something we will talk to him about later this year.
Shed Long Jr., 2B
Evan White, 1B
Kyle Seager, 3B
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Kyle Lewis, LF
Carlos Gonzalez, RF
Jake Fraley, CF
Tom Murphy, C
Dee Gordon, SS
Justus Sheffield, LHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Zac Grotz, Erik Swanson (spring debut), Wei-Yin Chen, Joey Gerber and Aaron Fletcher.
White is back in the lineup after being held out five games because of groin tightness. Gordon is making his second start at shortstop this spring. Sheffield could go three innings or 50 pitches, whichever comes first.
• Taijuan Walker will pitch Wednesday, but it will not be in the ‘A’ game. Instead he will pitch a B/sim game that morning at the complex rather than travel to Tempe to start against the Angels. As we see often in spring training, he is being kept out of a game against a division rival as not to give them an extra look at him.
• Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto announced Monday morning that reliever Matt Festa, who was a non-roster invitee to camp after being outrighted to Triple-A earlier this winter, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday. Festa reported to camp, passed his physical and threw a bullpen that went well, but he didn’t feel right after. The Mariners had him checked out and it was determined he would need surgery. A tough break for Festa, who is expected to be out 12-16 months.
• Servais had a pleasant surprise later in Sunday’s game courtesy of catcher Brian O’Keefe, who the Mariners claimed off waivers from the Cardinals in December. When Servais turned to walk away from the mound after handing the ball to minor league call-up Dayeison Arias, who was brought in to try to get the final out of the inning after Yohan Ramirez walked the bases loaded, he heard his catcher continue the mound conversation with the young pitcher from the Dominican Republic – in Spanish.
“I was blown away,” said Servais. “O’Keefe is fluent in Spanish.”
O’Keefe, who is from Albany, N.Y., had made it his mission to learn the language while rooming with players from Latin America.
“Good for you, that’s awesome,” Servais said he told O’Keefe when he got back to the dugout. “I totally credit Arias striking out the next guy to O’Keefe calming him down because that wasn’t me.”
More from Shannon’s Get To Know Your Mariners series
• Dan Altavilla looking for healthy, productive 2020
• Cal Raleigh has been on the baseball path since Day 1
• OF Jake Fraley could be the gem of Zunino trade
• If anyone can relate to top Mariners prospects, it’s Taijuan Walker
• Julio Rodriguez looks the part of future superstar on and off the field