Spring Training Day 1: Bedard, Pineda lead the way

MarinersStretchPeoria.jpgMariners pitchers and catchers stretch out before taking the field for first time Monday in Peoria, Ariz. (Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP)

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13 days until first Spring Training game.

46 days until Opening Day in Oakland.

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It was a picture-perfect day in Peoria as the Mariners hit their practice diamonds for the first time under manager Eric Wedge. You can’t ask for much more than blue skies and 80 degrees in mid-February.

Plenty of optimism to go around as well on Day 1 as Erik Bedard and Michael Pineda — two pitchers who could play significant roles if the Mariners are to surprise people this season — were in the first group of five pitchers to throw bullpen sessions.

Pineda, all 6-foot-5, 250 pounds of him, looked massive on the mound. Long, powerful legs and an imposing 22-year-old throwing hard. He’s going to be interesting to watch for everybody.

“Oh, he’s big,” Wedge said of his first impression. “I remember J.R. Richard. He was a big guy. I’d met [Pineda] a few times and talked to him in street clothes, but he looked even bigger in uniform. Then he gets up on top of that mound and he looks like he can reach out and touch you. He looked good. I liked it.”

Bedard worked much slower, a veteran move for a guy coming off shoulder problems who knows he’s not going to win or lose his job in the first bullpen session of spring. But Bedard also threw well, including some nice curve balls, which is not something everyone unveils in their first session.

You can read my full story on Bedard’s return here.

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ALMOST A FULL DECK

The only pitcher missing among the 33 expected in camp was non-roster invitee Yusmeiro Petit, who had visa problems and is still in Venezula. He’s expected later this week.

Closer David Aardsma and setup man Shawn Kelley also sat out as expected. Aardsma remains on crutches, though he hopes to begin putting weight on his surgically-repaired hip on Wednesday. Kelley isn’t expected back until about June as he recovers from partial Tommy John surgery.

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THE WEDGE RULES

The new skipper informed the team of a couple expectations at their first team meeting Monday. No cell phones in the clubhouse, no earrings on the field, be on time.

And, no, the mustached-man doesn’t have a rule against facial hair.

“I don’t get caught up in how they look,” he said. “It’s more about how they play and act.”

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THE KING WEIGHS IN

Felix Hernandez throws his first bullpen on Tuesday and is eager to get started. The Cy Young winner seems very relaxed and ready this spring, taking on a visibly bigger leadership role in the clubhouse and in dealing with the media.

He talked with Bedard over the offseason about staying with Seattle and says the veteran lefty has become one of his best friends on the team.

“When he’s healthy, we’re going to be good. Me and him together and all those other guys, we can be good,” Hernandez said.

Felix is also thrilled that his older brother, Moises, is joining the team’s Minor League camp next month.

“He’s so happy because he didn’t play last year in the States,” Felix said. “He said he’s going to do the best he can just to get to Double-A or Triple-A. And he’s having a baby in about two weeks.”

Hernandez said he works out frequently with his brother, who missed last year with a shoulder injury, starting when they were youngsters growing up in Venezuela.

“We were 13-14 years old and we broke everything in my Mom’s house,” he said. “There were a lot of foul balls, a lot of lights knocked out …”

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That’s all from today. We’re off to a busy start. If you missed it earlier, I talked with Josh Lueke about his difficult past as he tries to keep moving forward. Lueke has an excellent chance to earn a bullpen spot this Spring. You can read that story here.

And if you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow me at GregJohnsMLB for all the latest.

 

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