February 2013

Pictures from Peoria: It was a Felix kind of day

Felix Hernandez, otherwise known now as the $175 million man, threw his first live batting practice today as he continued on his throwing program that will eventually lead to Opening Day in Oakland on April 1. I have a story on that you can read here.

But sometimes it’s fun to tell a story with pictures as well, so here’s some scenes from Felix’s day:

FelixWarm2The Mariners ace warmed up in the bullpen before taking to the field.

FelixPleased

Felix gets a kick out of pitching coach Carl Willis.

FelixTHrowBP

Once on the field, he threw 32 pitches in a 10-minute span to four Minor Leaguers and pronounced everything was good.

FelixBrassThe Mariners brass — Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge, Willis and hitting coach Dave Hansen — watched every pitch intently.

FelixWillisPat

Willis had a pat on the back for his prize pupil when all was done.

FelixGloveHat

After talking to the media, Felix stopped to sign autographs for a group of fans … all while wearing his glove on his head. Why not? He’s the King.

Thursday’s Game 7 recap: Mariners 4, Giants 3

Smoak-AlvinDavisPlayer of the Game: Justin Smoak (pictured above) continued his hot early spring with a 2-for-3 day that included an opposite-field RBI double in the third off the Giants’ Matt Cain. The Mariners wanted to see Smoak carry over his strong finish last season and he’s certainly done that, now batting .583 (7-for-12) with two home runs and five RBIs in four games. Smoak hit .378 last spring, but had no home runs and five RBIs in 15 games.

Stat of the Game: With two more home runs – by Nick Franklin and Franklin Gutierrez – the Mariners upped their total to 14 long balls in seven games. That’s more home runs than any of the 30 MLB teams in either the Cactus or Grapefruit leagues so far. The Mariners have now out-homered their opponents 14-5.

Storyline: The Mariners equaled their longest Cactus League win streak since 2004 with their sixth straight victory and this one came against a Giants team that played most of its regulars from last year’s World Series champion squad and started three-time All-Star Matt Cain for the first three innings

Worth noting: Smoak and Gutierrez, two returning players who could make a big difference this year if they stay healthy and contribute, continued their excellent early play. Smoak is hitting well, as noted, but Gutierrez continues to look strong in center field as well and homered in his second game in a row, this one a nice opposite-field shot. For all the talk about the new veteran additions, Smoak and Gutierrez could be as critical as anyone to the team’s improvement if they play well this year.

Quote of the Game: ““It just felt really good. To a certain extent, it felt normal. It felt like that’s where I belong and that’s where I should be. I’m very happy with it.” — Veteran starter Jon Garland after throwing a scoreless first inning in his first action since undergoing shoulder surgery midway through the 2011 season.

Next: Young southpaw James Paxton makes his first Cactus League start Friday when the Mariners host the Rangers in Peoria at 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m. PT). Paxton will throw two innings, followed by two more from another of the top prospects, right-hander Brandon Maurer. Randy Wells will start for Texas.

Here’s the link to today’s box score.

Here’s my feature story today on pitcher Anthony Vasquez, who has recovered from brain surgery and now is eager to start throwing in Minor League camp next week.

And here’s today’s notebook with all the news from camp, including the first live batting practice session by Felix Hernandez.

Another big day for Mariners pitching

GarlandJonPenWhile the Mariners lead all Major League teams so far this spring with 12 home runs and are looking good offensively, yesterday was largely about the young guns, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker, as they pitched four shutout innings as the Mariners won their fifth straight Cactus League game. I wrote all about that here.

Now comes a couple more pitching storylines today, with Felix Hernandez set to throw his first live batting practice this morning in Peoria about the same time much of the team boards a bus for Scottsdale to face the Giants for a 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m. PT) game.

And that contest will see veteran  Jon Garland (pictured above) making his Mariners debut as the former All-Star is slated to pitch the first inning. Garland could turn into a very good story this spring if he proves healthy. The lanky right-hander hasn’t pitched since undergoing rotator cuff surgery in his shoulder in mid-2011.

But he’s looked pretty good in bullpen and batting practice sessions this spring and if he can put it together, he might be a nice option for the back end of the rotation as a non-roster invite.

After Garland’s inning of work, Blake Beavan will take the mound and is slated to throw three innings if all goes well. Beavan has been working on a slightly altered throwing motion that has him bringing the ball up higher and then extending more in his delivery as he looks to get more of a downhill angle on his pitches.

So far, so good in that regard, but the Giants will provide a nice test today with a lineup that includes Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt.

In other words, the Mariners are seeing an ‘A’ lineup from the defending World Series champs, with Matt Cain starting on the mound as well.

After Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled to throw two innings and hard-throwing relievers Tom Wilhelmsen and Carter Capps are also on tap today. So should be some good stuff.

This one again won’t be broadcast live on television or radio, though the radio broadcast will be live streamed on Mariners.com for anyone who registers. It will also be carried on a delayed basis on 710 ESPN Seattle at 7 p.m. PT.

Live radio resumes Friday when the Mariners host the Rangers in Peoria with young prospects James Paxton getting the start and Brandon Maurer to follow.

The Saturday and Sunday games will be carried live as well. Hisashi Iwakuma and Jeremy Bonderman will be the first pitching options Saturday against the Dodgers, while we haven’t heard Sunday’s plans yet.

The first of six TV games this spring will be Monday afternoon against the Rockies.

Wednesday’s Game 6 recap: Mariners 5, Indians 1

Peguero_CarlosPlayer of the Game: Carlos Peguero (pictured) unloaded two home runs, an opposite-field beauty to left-center in the third and a towering shot out to right in the fourth as the big outfielder made his presence felt. Both homers were solo shots and Peguero finished 2-for-4, though he scorched a low liner right at the third baseman in the sixth that was ruled an error, but easily could have been a hit as well.

Stat of the Game: With two more home runs, the Mariners have now out-homered their opponents 12-4 through six games.

Storyline: The Mariners have now won five straight and they got some excellent pitching in this one, including four shutout innings out of the gate by top prospects Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen loaded the bases in the first with a pair of walks and a single, but got out of that and struck out four in his two innings. Walker, firing 96-97 mph fastballs and the occasional nasty off-speed counter, struck out two and walked one in two hitless frames.

Worth noting: While the Mariners continue playing long ball — and we’re talking some impressively deep home runs the past few days — none of that has come yet from Michael Morse or Kendrys Morales, the two new power additions. Peguero and Justin Smoak now have two bombs each and Franklin Gutierrez and Alex Liddi also hit monster shots this week. Morse didn’t play Wednesday, but Morales did pick up his first two hits with a pair of opposite-field singles.

Quote of the Game: “That’s another first right there. I wasn’t sure what was going on, like everybody else.” — Manager Eric Wedge after the game was delayed for five minutes midway through the top of the eighth when a fire alarm went off in Goodyear Ballpark and an automated announcement on the loudspeaker commanded fans to calmly leave the park. Some fans did leave and the umpires cleared the field before it was made clear the whole thing was a false alarm.

Next: Jon Garland gets his first start with the Mariners — and first since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2011 while with the Dodgers — when Seattle travels to Scottsdale to face the Giants at 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m. PT). Garland will get one inning of work. Blake Beavan is then scheduled to throw the next three, followed by two innings from Erasmo Ramirez.

Here’s the link to today’s box score.

Here’s my story on Hultzen and Walker and their thoughts on today’s outing.

And here’s my notebook with all today’s news from Mariners’ camp.

Mariners muscling up … plus today’s lineup

The Mariners take their murderer’s row show to Goodyear today, looking to see if they can keep mashing the ball after another impressive power display Tuesday.

It’s spring in Arizona and the ball always carries well here, but the Mariners have out-homered their opponents 10-4 in the first five games and hit some absolute shots the last couple days.

Franklin Gutierrez cleared the center field batter’s eye in Maryvale yesterday with what surely was at least a 450-foot blast, followed later  by an equally imposing bomb over the right-field berm by Justin Smoak.

Smoak’s home run is on the video above.

On Monday, Alex Liddi drove one of the longest home runs in recent memory at Peoria Stadium, clearing the berm in left field.

That all left Michael Saunders shaking his head as he recalled his own home run Tuesday that followed Gutierrez’s blow in the third inning against the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo.

“These guys were hitting moon balls, so I figured I’d mix in a wall scraper just to keep everyone on edge,” Saunders said with a laugh.

Saunders said what many people don’t realize is the 30-foot-high batter’s eye in Maryvale Stadium is about 20 feet beyond the 400-foot center field wall, so Guti’s home run was all the more imposing.

Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said few players ever clear the batter’s eye even in batting practice.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Gutierrez. “I just hit that ball good. That’s the best I can hit. That’s the longest homer of my life.”

Today could be more about pitching as young bucks Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker will throw the first four innings against the Indians starting at 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m .PT).

Hultzen is coming off a sizzling seven-pitch performance against the Padres when all he threw was strikes in one inning with two punchouts. He’ll go the first two innings today, followed by the 20-year-old Walker.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Dustin Ackley 2B
Casper Wells LF
Kyle Seager 3B
Kendrys Morales 1B
Raul Ibanez DH
MIchael Saunders CF
Ronny Paulino C
Carlos Peguero RF
Brendan Ryan SS

Danny Hultzen P

Beyond today, it’ll be Jon Garland getting his first start on Thursday in Scottsdale against the Giants with a one-inning stint, with Blake Beavan expected to follow with three innings and Erasmo Ramirez with two.

Then on Friday, James Paxton gets the call for two innings against the Rangers in Peoria, with Brandon Maurer also slated to throw two frames in that game.

Neither today or Thursday’s games are available on live radio, but will be streamed live for free on Mariners.com to anyone who registers. The games will be on 710 ESPN Seattle at 7 p.m. on a delayed basis.

The three weekend games — Friday through Sunday — will be carried live by 710 ESPN.

Tuesday’s Game 5 recap: Mariners 6, Brewers 5

SmoakJustinSwingPlayer of the Game: Justin Smoak continued his impressive start to the spring with a 2-for-4 day capped by a go-ahead two-run bomb in the eighth inning of Brewers closer John Axford. Smoak also singled and laced a hard opposite-field line drive that was caught by diving left fielder Ryan Braun.

Stat of the Game: Three home runs — by Smoak, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders — give the Mariners 10 long balls in five games this spring. They’ve outhomered their opponents 10-4 so far, which is a welcome sign for a club trying to improve its offense this year.

Storyline: The Mariners won their fourth straight and this time got it done against some pretty good pitching. They put up three runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings against Brewers’ No. 1 starter Yovani Gallardo, who is gearing up for WBC play. And they won the game with three runs in the eighth off Axford, the Brewers’ closer, not only with Smoak’s bomb, but a  nice opposite-field double by Carlos Peguero that tied the game up before Smoak settled the issue.

Worth noting: Joe Saunders gave up two runs on three doubles in the second in his first Mariners’ appearance, but the Brewers seemed to be taking advantage of Michael Morse in right field with several of those hits. Morse couldn’t quite reach two bloop doubles that fell in and then the third came when Juan Segura took an extra base on what appeared to be a single in the left-center gap. But Morse doesn’t figure to play right field very often. Manager Eric Wedge had Michael Saunders in left and Morse in right in this one and said he’d continue to bounce all his corner outfielders back and forth for now just to see different looks.

Quote of the Game: “Good, let’s get those out of the way now.” — Smoak after Braun robbed him of another base hit with a nice diving catch of a hard-hit line drive in the third.

Quote II of the Game: “You don’t see many.” — Braun, when asked how often balls get hit over the center-field batter’s eye in Maryvale, even in batting practice. Which is where Franklin Gutierrez smoked his third-inning home run.

Next: It’ll be a fun day to see the young guns Wednesday when Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker figure to pitch two innings apiece against the Indians in Goodyear. Hultzen wil start and Walker will follow in the 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m. PT) contest.

Here’s the link to today’s box score.

Here’s today’s feature story on right-handed prospect Brandon Maurer, who is opening a lot of eyes early in camp.

And here’s my notebook with all the news from camp today.

Felix’s pitching plans, plus lineup and more

HernandezFelixA little pitching news this morning while we get ready for the Mariners’ first road game of the spring, a 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 pm. PT) game at Maryvale against the Brewers.

Felix Hernandez will indeed throw his first live batting practice on Thursday morning at the Peoria complex against Mariners hitters as he steps up his spring routine. Hernandez has thrown three 10-minute bullpens, now he’ll go to live BP before pitching in  games.

Look for Hernandez to get his first Cactus League start on Thursday, March 7, when the Mariners have a split-squad day against the Royals and Athletics. That would put him in line for five Cactus League starts — with pitching coach Carl Willis looking to build him up to about 90-plus pitches — before Opening Day in Oakland on April 1.

Also, veteran right-hander Jon Garland will make his first start Thursday against the Giants in Scottsdale as he begins his comeback from shoulder surgery. Blake Beavan is slated to pitch second that day and throw three innings, followed by two innings by Erasmo Ramirez.

We’ve already reported that Danny Hultzen will start Wednesday against the Indians at Goodyear, followed by fellow prize prospect Taijuan Walker. Both are slated for two innings.

As for today? Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders, two guys who figure to slot in the rotation right behind Hernandez, will pitch one inning each against the Brewers.

Here’s the lineup:

Franklin Gutierrez CF
Michael Saunders LF
Michael Morse RF
Justin Smoak DH
Kelly Shoppach C
Mike Jacobs 1B
Robert Andino SS
Vinnie Catricala 3B
Carlos Triunfel 2B

Hisashi Iwakuma RHP

Also slated to pitch today: Saunders, Oliver Perez, Kameron Loe, Jonathan Arias, Carson Smith, Bobby LaFromboise and Danny Farquhar.

Pictures from Peoria: Latest from Mariners camp

BeavanBlake1Blake Beavan peers plateward while throwing in the bullpen.

SmoakJustinSwing

Justin Smoak has been swinging a big bat early, going 3-for-5 with a home run and double in his first two games.

RomeroStephen

Young prospect Stephen Romero works at third base.

FelixUp

Felix Hernandez either thinks he’s No. 1 or he’s telling the catcher how many more pitches he’s going to throw during his bullpen session.

WillisFelix

Pitching coach Carl Willis makes some suggestions to Felix after one of his throwing sessions.

Monday’s Game 4 recap: Mariners 9, Angels 8

MartinezFranciscoMugPlayer of the Game: Young center fielder Francisco Martinez (pictured) tripled in the bottom of the ninth and scored the game-winning run on a base hit by Julio Morban. Martinez, a 22-year-old acquired from the Tigers in the Doug Fister deal, went 2-for-2 with two runs scored.

Stat of the Game: Catcher John Hicks singled in his lone at-bat, which makes him 5-for-5 now in his Cactus League career. The 2011 fourth-round Draft pick out of Virginia is 3-for-3 this spring and was 2-for-2 with a home run in one game last year when he got brought up for one game as a Minor League addition.

Storyline: The Mariners reserves get credit for this one, scoring seven times in the final three frames to overcome a 7-2 deficit. Jeremy Bonderman gave up a three-run homer to Hank Conger in the first inning as he made his first start since 2010.

Worth noting: One thing the Mariners would love to see is Justin Smoak get off to a nice start and he’s on the right track following a 2-for-2 day with a double. Smoak is hitting a nice .600 in two spring games (3-for-5 with a home run and a double).

Quote of the Game:  “That’s the first I’ve seen of those, so I’m sure he’ll be rocking those a lot now since he led off with a homer.” — Dustin Ackley after Brendan Ryan came out wearing high blue socks with three white stripes.

Next: The Mariners play their first road game of the spring as they travel to Maryvale to face the Brewers on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. PT. Hisashi Iwakuma makes his first start and will be followed by Joe Saunders, who is also expected to be in the rotation this year after signing as a free agent.

Here’s the link to Monday’s box score.

Here’s a story I wrote on reliever Oliver Perez, who was one of baseball’s best comeback stories last year an has become increasingly comfortable in his relief role.

And here’s my notebook, with all the news from Mariners camp today.

Bonderman gets first test today

BondermanTattoosShould be an interesting day for the Mariners today as veteran right-hander Jeremy Bonderman gets his first test on the mound since last pitching for the Tigers in 2010.

Bonderman, 30, is making a bid for a rotation berth as a non-roster invitee and would be quite a story if he pulls it off. I wrote about his comeback efforts last week in this story and now we’ll get to see where he’s at when he works the first inning today against the Angels at 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m. PT).

He’ll be followed by young right-hander Brandon Maurer, the 22-year-old who forced his way into the “Big Three” conversation last year when he was named Southern League Pitcher of the Year after an outstanding season in Double-A Jackson.

This will also be the first chance to see Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan in action as they sat out the first three games as a precautionary measure as they return from offseason bone-spur surgeries. Both have been doing all the work in camp, but Eric Wedge didn’t want to push them too early in this long spring.

Here’s today’s full lineup:

Dustin Ackley 2B
Casper Wells CF
Jason Bay LF
Kendrys Morales DH
Jesus Montero C
Justin Smoak 1B
Eric Thames RF
Alex Liddi 3B
Brendan Ryan SS

Jeremy Bonderman P

Expected to pitch after Bonderman and Maurer are Andrew Carraway, Anthony Fernandez, D.J. Mitchell, Logan Bawcom, Chance Ruffin, Brian Moran and Danny Farquhar.

Garrett Richards gets the start for the Angels and Mike Trout is in the lineup, leading off in his first Cactus League game of the spring, though the Mariners won’t see Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton today.

Veteran Jon Garland, the other veteran non-roster guy trying to launch a comeback, will throw live batting practice this morning and is expected to draw his first Cactus League start later in the week.

This is the last of four games at Peoria Stadium to kick off the spring. The Mariners hit the road for three straight starting Tuesday at Maryvale against the Brewers. Hisashi Iwakuma will start that game, with Joe Saunders also slated for his first Cactus League action.

Then it’s young bucks Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker going on Wednesday against the Indians in Goodyear. Hultzen will get the start, followed by the 20-year-old Walker, with both expected to throw two innings in their second outings of spring.

Today’s game isn’t on radio or television. The next three games — Tuesday through Thursday — will be on 710 ESPN Seattle on a delayed basis at 7 p.m. PT, but will be streamed live on Mariners.com at 12:05 p.m. PT.

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