Spring Training Day 2: Felix makes his entry
Mariners pitchers and catchers hit the field for their second day of work on Tuesday and again were greeted by gorgeous blue skies and 80-degree weather. Better yet? The first sight of Felix Hernandez on the mound.
Their reigning Cy Young Award winner was one of 14 pitchers to throw 10-minute bullpen sessions in front of new skipper Eric Wedge and his staff, as well as some interested onlookers.
How’d he look?
“Like Felix,’ Wedge said. “He’s a special pitcher with special ability. He looked good. The first couple times you just let them get their feet under them and let them get their work in. For me it’s a little different because this is the first time seeing most of these guys throw live. But I’m not quick to judge. Just give them time to get into it.”
The Mariners have split the pitching staff in two, with each group throwing bullpens on alternate days this week. Tuesday’s first group was Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Luke French, Jamey Wright and Brandon League.
They were followed by Justin Miller, Chris Ray, Cesar Jimenez and David Pauley. The final group consisted of Chris Smith, Royce Ring, Tom Wilhelmsen, Jose Flores and Chris Seddon.
Flores, the Rule 5 draft pick out of the Indians organization, is a solidly built 6-3, 215-pounder who throws hard. At 21, it’ll be interesting to see if he can make the jump from Class A to stick with the club this year.
Of the other newcomers who threw Tuesday, Ring jumped out … not because of his size at a generously listed 6-foot, but because of his extreme sidearm delivery. At 30, he’s bounced among four organizations in the past six years as a lefty specialist, something the Mariners didn’t really have last year.
NO GROUNDHOGS YET
While Spring Training drills are notoriously repetitive, Wedge said there should be no mistaking the importance of the Pitchers Fielding Practice drills and bullpen work being done early in camp.
“You just have to understand that repetition is necessary,” he said. “You practice something over and over and over to master it. And that’s what we’re going to do. It shouldn’t be tedious because you’re up there running through your PFP or whatever work you’re doing.
“It’s your job to get better and be the best you can be with it because ultimately it’s going to come into play in game time.”
VISA OR MASTERCARD?
Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, the one pitcher not in camp thus far, is expected to join the club on Wednesday after clearing his visa issue getting out of Venezuela.
Once he’s in, the Mariners will have 33 pitchers in camp, though only 31 are taking part in full workouts. Closer David Aardsma is still about two weeks from beginning to throw. Setup man Shawn Kelley, on the mend from partial Tommy John surgery, is already playing catch every other day and said he’ll soon be moving up to long toss as he proceeds toward an expected June return.
One man missing for the next two days will be GM Jack Zduriencik, who has flown back to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of life-long friend Chuck Tanner.
The story of the day, of course, was the announcement that Ken Griffey Jr. will be returning to the club as a special consultant. What exactly that details is still being ironed out, with the key thing being that Griffey wants to remain involved with the franchise going forward.
Team president Chuck Armstrong told me via e-mail tonight how important that is for everyone involved with the organization.
“It’s not an overstatement to say he helped save baseball in Seattle and made Safeco Field possible,” Armstrong said. “Having him back home in the Mariner family feels right. He started in our organization and had hsi best career seasons with us. This is where Ken belongs.”
You can also read my full story on Griffey Jr’s return here. I’ll also have a story on former Orioles closer Chris Ray and his bid to win a late-inning relief role later tonight on the website. And don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter at GregJohnsMLB.
Felix Hernandez photo above taken by Charlie Riedel/Associated Press.