Mariners take a new approach to intrasquad play; controversy ensues

Feb 28, 2016, 3:45 PM | Updated: 3:54 pm
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Before he even got to Peoria, manager Scott Servais said he would run Mariners spring training camp a little different. We would see things we probably hadn’t seen before and fun would be worked into the process. We saw both Sunday.

Right now is about the time we usually see intrasquad games. Typically the team would split in half and you would see Mariners 1 play Mariners 2. Regular rules, pitchers would pitch, hitters would hit, innings would be three outs and score would be kept. Year after year we saw one or two intrasquad games leading into the Cactus League opener.

Related: Latest news, photos, video and more from Mariners spring training

We saw something different Sunday. The intrasquad game was replaced by a situational hitting game with Team 1 captained by Robinson Cano and Team 2 captained by Nelson Cruz.

Aside from the player captains, how was this different? Well for starters, the pitchers weren’t involved. Scott Servais threw to both teams from behind an L-screen. Also, this game was purely offensive. Minor leaguers were used as fielders.

There were no innings, buy rather two rounds of everyone getting to hit. Each round was a different situation, the first being a man on second with no outs, the second being runners on first and third with one out. Runs were not tallied, an instead points were given or subtracted according to what the hitter did in the situation presented. Advance a runner, get points. Advance a runner without making an out, more points. Fail to execute, lose points. Hit a home run? That one was tricky. This drill isn’t about hitting homers. It’s about hitting to the right side or getting that long fly when you need it. An opposite field home run was worth 8 points but a pull home run was -4.

What did we see? A lot of advancing. A lot of balls to the right side, both on the ground and in the air. Very few to the left side. We saw Mike Zunino with a triple and a double to right. We also saw an opposite-field double from Nori Aoki. Quite a few balls were put in the air from center to right, and only one went over the fence – much to Dario Pizzano’s dismay. In the end it was Team Cano holding an 85-73 edge over Team Cruz. Cruz will have an opportunity to catch up Monday as this is a two-day event.

“The culmination of the score from each day will determine the winner,” said Servais on Sunday morning. “The losers will be responsible for something. We haven’t quite determined that yet.”

There was plenty of playful banter going on throughout the half-hour game. That carried over into the clubhouse. Controversy ensued late in the game when Servais told Cruz to get a pinch runner for himself (evidence they are being very careful with Cruz’s legs) and Cruz sent the speedy Leonys Martin in to run.

Cano immediately objected.

“Put in (Adam) Lind,” he yelled from across the field. “Or (Seth) Smith. You can’t replace yourself with the fastest runner. (Jesus) Montero!”

“He was trying to cheat,” said Cruz in the clubhouse after. “Do you see an opposing manager trying to dictate what you do on your team? That’s what he tried to do with my team.”

“Who?” asked Cano.

“You!” countered an exasperated Cruz.

“Noooooo,” said Cano.

“We changed runners and he wanted to put in the runner he wants,” continued Cruz.

“During the season he has to stay on base. They got all lefties…” Cano responded.

“I believe in my team,” Cruz yelled as Cano waved him off and headed to the showers. “Second one. We are going to take a break, All-Star. Then tomorrow we come back strong.”

In the video above you see a little bit of another controversy between the two toward the end. This is very much a set-the-tone video, giving you a little slice of the picture down here as I am not a professional photographer and I was also very conscious of the fact that the ball could come my way at any moment. As you can see, fun was had.

Notes

• Team Cano was made up of the following players: Nori Aoki, Ketel Marte, Adam Lind, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino, Shawn O’Malley, Ed Lucas, Steve Clevenger, Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, Steven Baron, Tyler Smith and Dan Robertson. Team Cruz included: Leonys Martin, Luis Sardinas, Boog Powell, Mike Baxter, Dario Pizzano, Seth Smith, Chris Taylor, Marcus Littlewood, Dae-Ho Lee, Steve Lerud, Franklin Gutierrez, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Iannetta and Benji Gonzalez.

• James Paxton threw a live BP session Sunday and said everything went well. He worked in a couple of change-ups, a pitch we didn’t see very often from him in the past but one he put a lot of work into during fall ball when he was not allowed to throw breaking balls. As a result, he feels much more comfortable with the pitch. Paxton is scheduled to start the Cactus League opener on Wednesday.

• The expected rotation for the rest of the week is Nathan Karns on Thursday, Taijuan Walker on Friday, Wade Miley on Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday.

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