Two games into spring training (three if you count the charity game), and some interesting things have developed for the Seattle Mariners. Now, I know it’s early, but at this point in the game debates can be made as to whether the hitters are ahead of the pitchers or vice versa. So far, some very encouraging signs are appearing for the stagnant Mariners offense.
In the charity game, Hector Noesi proved once again that he’s little more than a human batting-practice pitcher by giving up five runs early. He still has a tendency to hit the middle of the plate, belt high, with pitches that even a high school student could put the bat on.
Casper Wells and Jason Bay are locked into a struggle for what many assume will be the last outfield position available when the team breaks camp. Wells made his statement by hitting a towering home run to give the Mariners a little bit of hope in an otherwise forgettable opener against the San Diego Padres that once again showed the bats going cold–a scenario the Mariner fans have come to know very well the last few years.
What a difference a day makes, as the next day, Jason Bay opened the scoring with a tee shot out of the park, followed by two walks. Justin Smoak also unloaded a deep home run and the Mariners racked up plenty of offense and coasted to a win. Even more impressive were Tajuan Walker and James Paxton, who had scoreless appearances during their time on the mound.
Sunday’s game gave fans a glimpse of the future when several of the Mariners youngsters, including Nick Franklin, had impressive days at the plate. Some of the old dogs showed up as well; veteran Raul Ibanez hit Freddy Garcia’s offering so hard and far that the veteran pitcher is now locked in an uphill climb to make the team.
I know that the nature of spring games as well as the Arizona weather has a tendency to make players appear much better offensively than they really are, but it was nice to see some offense. I remember Mariners announcer Ron Fairly observation about an issue that has plagued young players ever since he made his first appearance in the league decades ago. Fairly stated that although you often see players shine in the minor leagues, when they get in stadiums where there’s a second and third deck something in them changes. This is what many refer to as the 4A player, one who dominates the minor leagues but is unable to deliver in the majors.
This is what Seattle has to look at long and hard over the next few weeks: how many of their young players, in whom their future is hinged upon, are going to be able to contribute at the major-league level? How many of them will be little more than minor league players with the dreaded tag of “potential’ forever attached to them?
One thing is for sure, it’s certainly going to be an interesting spring.